A few days ago my sweet nephew entered the world, three months premature and weighing just under two pounds. To say that his arrival threw our whole family into a tailspin wouldn’t begin to describe it. With my own children arriving at 40 and 42 weeks, I’m a stranger to preemie births; none of my friends have delivered much before 38 weeks. So I personally have no experience in this realm- to say nothing of my dear sister-in-law (and brother), this being her first pregnancy. In five years of mothering, I’ve experienced nothing remotely close to just the first hour of her child’s life – the medicalization, the fear, the surrender, the complete lack of control. The desperation for the health of that tiny child.
Thankfully the sweet babe is stable and faring okay, though of course he’s at the start of a very long road. He’s bathed in prayers from scores and scores of devoted family members and friends. In my sister-in-law’s words, “God’s faithfulness is great, and we rest in the fact that Sam is in Jesus’ arms. What better place to be as he continues to be knit together.”
When I pray for Sam I often see the image of the Holy Spirit in dove form, hovering over his incubator… And I believe that’s what happening in the unseen realm. Counselor, Guide, Protector – keeping watch there over him. It brings me great comfort as I ponder his tiny body. Thirteen inches long and so delicate – to judge from the photo – you’d think he might break during a diaper change. A picture of fragility.
The thing I’ve been pondering though, is that I’m really just as fragile as little Sam. We all are; according to the Bible, we’re all a vapor. “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” And yet this truth is so far from the American psyche, so far from my own mindset. The great lie of our culture is that life is within our own control – that we can plan and organize and have things the way we want them (at least to some degree). A manageable, long, and comfortable life is expected, even assumed. And our enemy is in the business of propagating this worldview. His goal is to keep the true fragility of our situation as far from our minds as possible.
My nephew’s fragility is, in a sense, also my own; mine is just less obvious. For what do I have that I did not receive? My every breath is a gift from the Lord, Samuel’s Maker and my own. God’s as much my Sustainer as Samuel’s, and in His hands are life and death – for all of us. My failing to live in this posture, failing to humbly and thankfully accept each day as a gift from God, is ingratitude and arrogance.
But then, actually accepting the fragility of my own life and embracing my utter dependence upon God – what comes of that? What should the result be? In my mind it comes full circle back to sweet Samuel – the picture my nephew has etched in my mind of the defenseless, the truly vulnerable. God gives us means and capacity (those of us who have it) so we can fight for those who have none. So that we can be the defender of the weak, the provider for orphans and widows, those who bring tangible help to the needy. If our frail lives are to count, they will do so only as we serve and live to the full glory of our compassionate Lord. Our fragility becomes, in God’s hands, the strength to pour ourselves out for the fragile of this world.
For does the Holy Spirit above Samuel’s incubator not hover over the premature baby born in a mud hut in a third world country? Does He hover any less tangibly over the toddler stuck in the foster care system, moving weekly from home to home? Of course not! Our God is emphatically for the “poor in spirit,” the meek,” those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness;” He’s a God who loves the little children and blesses those who serve them in His name. Pondering Samuels’ situation – his parents’ undying devotion to him, the tireless efforts of the NICU staff, the positive long-term prognosis – reminds me of the millions of young children who today lack this attention and care. And surely this breaks the heart of the Father.
So as I pray hourly for Samuel’s health and development, I also pray that God remind me of my own fragility and dependence on Him. That He would continue to break my heart (and the hearts of all who pray for him) for all those in the world who- like Samuel – are needy and defenseless. May the hands of our God, the great Physician, heal our sweet Samuel – and may He likewise strengthen our hands to care for all who are like him.