I didn’t believe in Jesus until I had my first baby.
I thought I did, and in fact, others thought I did too. But what I believed in was intellectual knowledge of Jesus. I knew the Bible. I knew the tenants of my church. But I didn’t know Him.
The phrase “personal relationship with Jesus” often makes me cringe because I fear it puts off some who are interested in securing that very life-giving thing. It is, however, an apt phrase. After all, you can have a lot of theoretical knowledge about a person and love what you know, but you can become very disillusioned after meeting face to face. Head knowledge and heart knowledge are not the same things. Before I was a parent, I had head knowledge of Jesus. When I became a parent, my heart discovered Jesus.
God, in his omnipotent brilliance, designed us to be parents so we can be reflections of him. As parents, we can get a glimpse of who he really is, and how much he truly loves us.
When I had my first baby, Clara, I was crazy in love. I forgot about everything but her. Aided by my post-partum surging hormones, I would fight sleep simply to watch her sleep. I’d smell her, brush her non-existent hair, and bite off her little fingernails with my teeth so she wouldn’t scratch herself. I simply could not cope with the bottomless love I had for her — I had never felt anything like it before.
When Clara was about a week old, I was in her nursery, rocking her and reveling in her very nearness. I remember bending down to kiss her little downy head, thinking: “I can’t believe I have this beautiful little girl, and she’s mine, all mine!”
That’s when God set me straight. I don’t often hear God’s voice audibly — often his voice seems muffled and distant. But there have been a handful of times that I’ve heard His voice as clearly as if he were sitting beside me, and this was the first of those times. God said to me, “No, Clara is mine. She belongs to me. I made her, and she’s mine.”
I remember kneeling down to the floor with the baby in my arms, bowing my head. For the first time in 28 years, I honestly embraced Jesus as my living Lord, not just an abstract idea. I finally understood that if I really believed in him, nothing was my own — everything I had, including my precious baby, belonged to him. I realized that my love for Clara was simply a drop of what God, as our Father, feels about us. And it rocked me to my core.
One of the hardest things about being a parent is surrendering your children to Jesus. Twenty-one years and two more children later, I still struggle with it. I am constantly reminding myself that I am not in charge. That’s God’s job.
I used to worry about crib death, bathtub drownings, and parking lot accidents. Now I worry about sexual purity, eating disorders, and drugs. Parenting is scary, but Christians are uniquely qualified to be parents because our Father God is a parent Himself. He understands the rejoicing and the mourning enmeshed in parenthood as much as any of us. He’s not asking anything of parents that he hasn’t already endured. If you think about it, His son has been slandered and bullied for thousands of years now. We’re usually called (if we’re lucky) to about 40-50 years of the joyous disaster of parenthood; God will experience it for an eternity.
We are not alone as parents. We have the greatest example of parenthood in the God we worship.
Parenthood has given me joy beyond measure, but the greatest thing it’s given me is a real, personal relationship with the Lord. Before I had Clara, I had never dropped to my knees to offer God my greatest treasure. After I became a parent, I realized what love is. And since love is the definition of God, I finally realized who He is as well.