Our church held its semi-annual congregational meeting last week, and it was a time of celebration, challenge and commitment for the year to come. Since I’m mostly working from home these days, I was able to arrive a little early and help out. It was a busy evening for me compared to past meetings; I sang with the worship team, and I was accorded the honor once again of being nominated for the position of elder. But the moment in which I felt God speaking to my heart didn’t involve singing or the affirmation of my church family. No, that moment came in the form of a two-month old baby boy named Elijah David Palmer.
Elijah is the newborn son and first child of our arts pastor, Daniel Palmer, and his beautiful young bride, Caroline, a “first child” herself as the oldest of our pastor’s three daughters. I sent a note to Daniel letting him know I was available to help out if needed, and he wrote back asking if I minded watching Elijah while he and “CeCe” prepared for the meeting.
I leapt at the opportunity because I love babies. I don’t know what that says about me, but I am fond of these precious little ones, and they seem to be OK with me. When I caught up with Daniel and Caroline at the church, however, I wondered if I’d bitten off more than I could chew.
They were trying to settle down and eat a bite or two before they got started, and Elijah was having none of that. He was born with his father’s pipes, and he was working them out – angrily, I might add. I scooped him out of Daniel’s arms and into my own so Daniel could finish his food, and I walked Elijah around in the church lobby while he turned my left eardrum into silly putty.
I figured there was no way Daniel and Caroline could eat in peace with me holding their screaming son just a few feet away, so I took him into the “green room” where we gather before Sunday morning worship, and we sat down together on the couch.
He was still upset, but I held him close and whispered softly into his ear, telling him, “It’s all right. I’ve got you. Shhhh.” I rubbed his back and gently rocked him, and even while he was crying, I could see his eyes fluttering. He was fighting sleep, so I simply held him, spoke to him, and rocked him to calm him.
Caroline came in and gave him his pacifier, and smiled at him as only she can, and he began to settle down. He started drifting off to sleep in my arms, and she turned down the lights and left to get her work done.
As I’m sitting there holding this sleeping baby boy in my arms, this thought comes into my head: “Isn’t that so much like my children?”
I have always believed that only parents can understand the true nature of God’s relationship with us, because through their love for their own children, they can experience how God feels about us.
Parents hear their child scream, “I hate you!”, yet they still love them.
Parents are deeply disappointed when their children say or do the wrong thing, yet they still love them.
Parents watch their children stumble and struggle through life, and refuse to intervene because it’s only through adversity that they’ll learn and grow, yet they still love them.
In that moment with Elijah, that thought – “Isn’t that so much like my children? – revealed great wisdom for me.
How much are we like an angry newborn, frustrated with life and lashing out, yet there is God, our Father, offering us the comfort of His embrace and the tranquility of His still, small voice?
We may fight Him, but He patiently waits for us to reach that point where we are spent and have no other choice but to melt into His bosom and rest. What a wonderful moment that is – the peace, quiet and calm, the sound of His heartbeat, our breathing in concert with His – there is no better time or place.
Remember when your little one would fall asleep on your chest as you held them? It wasn’t long before you were softly snoring as well, and the two of you were the picture of tranquility.
I imagine that’s where God wants us to be - "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” When we surrender to Him, we are enveloped by the peace that passes all understanding, and there is no more conflict with Him, only harmony. “Be still, and know that I am God.”
That’s what little Elijah taught me while we sat together on the couch that Tuesday evening. It was such a special moment that I was almost disappointed to see his grandmother, Jean, show up to take over. Even so, it prepared me for a wonderful evening in God’s house.
I figure with a father and grandfather who are pastors, and a name like Elijah, he’s got preaching and teaching in his blood. Many years from now, if he ever reads this, he can claim me as one of his first students in faith.