originally posted at The Gadfly
Every newborn is a lesson in dying. If our children are to truly live, we must die, and this ultimately means dying to ourselves. This does not mean our children take center stage in our homes or lives. As elated as I am with our daughter, I am still more elated with my bride, and even more so with the Triune God. And these are the relationships that will carry the home. Even still, Lauren and I must die to ourselves, in the same way Christ has been calling us to die all along, but now related to a new neighbor. New ways of dying are given by a creative God who knows that resurrection follows death. We are to more deeply die to our sin, our expectations, our plans, and our ungodly hopes, the ones that put us at the center of things. Likewise, as I once read somewhere from an ancient sage, our children are our death ticket. They are our invitation to die, really, to pass this life to the next generation. I thought 28 was still too young to die. Looks like it’s not.
Every newborn is my neighbor. This means all the ‘lateral parts’ of the Decalogue apply here as much as they do anywhere else. All ways we can sin against our grown-up neighbor are ways we can sin against our immature neighbor, even those two days old. 1) Lauren and I honor our fathers and mothers by passing on the good things we received from them, and teaching our child to respect, distinguish, and honor her grandparents. This means talking bad about in-laws, as if I had any reason to, is out. Similarly, to honor my child’s mother means to honor my wife, and to honor my child’s father means to honor myself, in the biblical sense. 2) We shall not murder means we shall not murder, even if it would make our lives more comfortable, ridding ourselves of this unplanned or unwanted character in our story. Abortion is out. 3) Every grown-up was once a baby, and sins committed against a person is a sin against the whole person’s being, including their earliest memory. This means that to commit adultery is not just to affect this part of the person’s life, but likewise affect the entirety of their life. Likewise, a husband who commits adultery does not just sin against his wife; He sins against her whole body, which clearly includes the fruit of her loins, the children that must likewise bear the weight and consequences of sin, of a broken home and broken marriage. 4) We can steal from our children as our neighbor, perhaps more cunningly and more boldly than we steal from anyone else, particularly because we are placed in an authoritative role in their lives. This can happen particularly by not planning for their future or even planning for our children’s children. “A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children's children: and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.” (Prov. 13:22) We can likewise steal from them by not allowing them to grow up properly, as overbearing and hypercritical fathers do to sons, taking from them what God has rightly given them: peace in Christ and a hope of things to come. Thus, to not steal from our children, we must give them a good education, formally and informally. 5) We ought not to bear false witness against our children, which means hypocrisy is as detrimental as ever, and juggling our child’s trust in and reliance upon us as providers and caretakers is nothing more than creating a hundred unfocused and overlapped lenses to their vision of everything. If marriage is the first bond of society, and it is, then children are the fruit of that bond. Fruit can go bad because of bad husbandry. 6) As our children grow up, they tend to accumulate things, as we all did. Even in their earliest days they have accumulated what God has given to their person. Therefore, we shall not covet our neighbor’s belongings, our neighbor’s gifts. Parent/child rivalry is out, in every stage of life and in all areas of life (wit, looks, athletics, wealth, health, houses, college degrees, ad infinitum).
Every newborn is a gift. If all good things are gifts (and they are), and all babies are a good thing (and they are), then all babies are gifts - a unique kind. In this life, we serve a God who spoils us, a God who gives freely with the rising of each new sun. And when he gives, he doesn’t just give toyish things, he gives people. He gives living, breathing, bleeding, thinking, crying, laughing people. To Adam he gave Eve. To Sarah he gave Isaac. To Israel he gave Moses, Jacob, David, and Solomon. To us he gave Himself. And then he gives us spouses. “Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.” (Prov. 18:22) Together with those spouses we are given little people in our likeness to teach and mature into His ways, the way they should go, so that they would not depart from it. Babies, with all their cuteness, confusion, coos, and cries, are pure gift.
Every newborn is medicine for mom’s recovery. As babies nurse, mom’s body responds with a contracting uterus, aiding in mom’s recovery from pregnancy and delivery. Likewise, as babies nurses, an important bond is made between mom and baby, adding emotionally, spiritually, and pyhysically to mom’s recovery.
Every newborn is a reminder that even one hour of sleep is a gift. No explanation needed.
Every newborn is a reminder that “man shall not live by bread alone…” (Matthew 4:4) Part of dying to ourselves as parents, and loving our babies as neighbors, means loving our babies as we love ourselves, moreso even, knowing they depend on us for everything. This means I look to fill their belly before I fill mine. So, as my stomach grumbles as I rock them to sleep, I can be thankful for the nourishment from God’s word, which sustains me more than food. The rest of the verse above states, “…but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” This likewise means that as I die to meal-times, I rise to understanding and enjoying the sweetness of God’s promises and truth presented in His Word.
Every newborn is a reminder that man should not rest on sleep alone. Rest is a hot commodity on earth and sleep is an even hotter commodity with a newborn. As new parents, as our sleep decreases, other things should increase, without losing what peace and rest truly are. That is to say, as sleep fades from our daily routine, a heightened reliance upon the Lord to multiply what little sleep we receive is important. It is likewise important to realize this life is meant to be spent, and true rest from our toils, which is more than sleep, is a gift from the Lord. Jesus is our true Sabbath.
Every newborn is the child of a billion parents. Assuming every mom has a mom, and in every century four generations of moms are born (i.e. Lauren, her mom, her mom’s mom, and her mom’s mom’s mom), and also assuming that the earth is no more than six thousand years old, Emery is preceded by something like 240 direct mothers of her mother, directly following Lauren’s side alone and only following mothers of mothers (excluding, for example, the mother of Lauren’s grandfather). The number gets exponentially greater when we consider not only mothers of Emery’s mothers, but mothers of Emery’s fathers; Emery has 64 great great great great grandparents (male and female). This means that in following the tree back only two-hundred years, Emery has 510 parents directly related to her birth; 255 procreative acts had to produce a child in direct bloodline to her, including the procreative act which made her. The other 254 children from procreative acts (including me and Lauren) had to grow up, find someone, and have a child, following the tree back up this way until we get to Emery. Continue back down the tree to Eve, calculations and all, and you get the idea. Looking back in our child’s life and what it took for this little one to be here is quite astonishing, not to mention the odds of the single procreative act that made this child, which we will visit a bit later. We are all children of a billion individual parents. We ought to take life a bit more seriously sometimes, which really just means we ought to tirelessly play amidst the artistry of it all.
Every newborn is one of a thousand generations. With the caveat that ‘baby’ here speaks strictly to those born in Christian households, we look forward in our children’s lives and likewise connect it with what has come: the Lord promised his covenant to Abraham “to a thousand generations”. (Deut. 7:9, 1Chr. 16:15, Ps. 105:8) This means that I can likewise trace Emery’s Christian family back just as far as her biological one, again making each Christian the child of perhaps a trillion or so spiritual parents, especially as we consider that a greater number of people contribute to our ‘theological DNA’ than to our physical DNA. That is to say, I can think of twenty or thirty direct ‘theological fathers’ for myself, while I can think of only one biological father. Trusting in God’s promises, Emery follows in the Kingly line of David, and yet here she is born to two teachers in South Louisiana. There is no humdrum in Christendom.
Every newborn is a catalyst for community. I was recently thinking back on the first few weeks of our firstborn and the delight that a newborn brings to a community, a kind of excited frenzy to care, congratulate, and rejoice, even for those with no professed religious affiliation. We have been showered with friends and family showering us with gifts and love. People, notable strangers even, seem to come from the woodworks when ‘new baby’ enters the conversation. And as hard as nurses work, the vast majority that I have met love babies and those who have them more than they love the work itself or the pay. As technical as the medical field can be, pediatric nurses tend to have a particular interest in their patient and this is a delight for parents, grandparents, and the baby. Nurses aside, babies are a catalyst for already existing communities, such as schools, churches, and families. To a community, babies speak all that is encompassed in the word birth. And each time birth is used as a literary element, we must consider anew the delight of such an event and the communal bonds it creates.
Every newborn is a catalyst for crooks. Crooks, like snakes, strike where and when most seemingly vulnerable. This is why babies are likewise a catalyst for crooks, for those whose intentions are not to love, care, and rejoice but to steal and extort. This goes for immediate family members as much as it goes for a limited liability corporation. If tugging at a heart string gets what one wants to the detriment of community, then the heart string of children in general, and newborns in particular, is perhaps the most tugged. But this should not surprise us. Just as by the grace of God man uses gifts to build healthy communities, so by the depravity of man, man will use gifts to tear down healthy communities. Hence, for those on the right side, we must be vigilant to discern sheep from wolves, noticing even the most obscure stitch in a crafty wolf’s sheep cardigan.
Every newborn is the winner of an impossible lottery. Getting back to the odds of it all, N.D. Wilson wrote in his Notes From the Tilt-A-Whirl, and it is worth quoting at length, “Assume the ultimate overseer of this reality is someone named Chance (with highlighted hair and poor management skills), and assume that everything in existence happens randomly (thanks to him), without any consideration for the artistry of it. Let us explore the likelihood of anything ever happening, ever. Rumor has it that most normal men send at least eight million ‘forward swimming’ sperm looking for an egg every sexual act. Don’t even bother adding in egg variation, or the total number or sperm that may have had a fighting chance during your mother’s days of fertility when you were conceived (or the possibility that she might have taken her friends’ advice and shunned your father). Keep it simple and wildly conservative. Your chances of being here were about one out of eight million. Funny. Those were my odds too. The chances of us both being here? One out of sixty-four trillion. The chances of us both being on the same round planet, leaning far enough away from the sun that our nostrils freeze shut but we don’t die? The chances of us both begin on the same planet buzzing around the same star, with six billion other very particular people all simultaneously in existence? It makes me tired, like the cold. And I don’t know what numbers bigger than a googolplex are called, especially since googol is supposed to be bigger than the number of elementary particles in the ‘observable universe’ (whatever that means), and a googolplex is a one with that many zeros after it. I’ve been told that the whole concept was invented by a nine-year-old named Milton. But I am not letting it rest. Not yet. One more round of odds. Start with your grandparents. What were the odds of all four of them blinking, crying, and discovering that they existed? Assuming that surviving, finding each other, and getting married was a sure thing (and keeping the variables limited to a single procreative act), what were the odds of both your parents being conceived? Assuming that finding each other and getting to work on you was also a sure thing, what were the odds that you would be the result? One out of 2.097512….wait…I think I just screwed that up. Duodecillion? No. That only has thirty-nine zeros. Should we just go with umpteen? You get the point, don’t you? You basically have no chance of being here and you should quite trying already. Getting your hopes up will only make it hurt more when you don’t happen. We are a world of lottery winners. For every one of us here right now, in every begetting, there were at least 7,999,999 losers. They don’t even know how almost they were. ‘I wish I’d never been born,’ the adolescent moans. ‘Shut up, Randy. There are eight million other kids who would be wishing they could be here right now if only they were here to wish.’” 
Every newborn is a molecular jigsaw puzzle. Continuing on with N.D. Wilson: he once observed that because molecules don’t really cease to exist, only changing form over and over again, it is neither irrational nor impossible that the water I just drank from the faucet once resided in Christ’s bloody side or Aristotle’s oracular spit. All things are at least six-thousand years old, even this computer. As he states, “On that day, sitting on my long in the early stirrings of spring, the stream overwhelmed me. I sat, staring trying to comprehend its sheer massiveness. Yes, its massiveness. I could have jumped over it (maybe) and yet it was beyond comprehension. I wanted to know how many molecules were sliding past me per minute. I wanted to know where they had spent their lives, lives that stretched back to the beginning of the world. Most of them had probably been snow, recently delicate, now reveling in the rough and tumble world of a fast mountain stream. Before the snow, where had they been? Steam coming off a cow’s back? Evaporation from a kiddie pool? Most were probably oceanic. Formerly waves. But before then? How many times had each of these molecules fallen from the sky, contributing some little corner to a snowflake? How many times divorced into lonely hydrogen and oxygen, how many times remarried? These things travelled, no doubt. These things had even been around when Moses did his business with the Red Sea. Had they been there? Had they heard about it from friends? There is water somewhere in the world that ran down the body of the Word himself as John, His cousin, baptized Him. No doubt it is water still, uncherished by man, known only by the Author of this story. Drops were chosen to serve as His tears beside Jerusalem, more were chosen to wait in His side for the tip of a Roman spear. They burst forth and completed their poetic calling, a flourish in the story, a picture within a picture.” Wilson’s observations are powerful. They are convicting. This world is complex. It is uncontained. It is, and just when we think we have contained the story, the Author places pen to hand. This is so with our children. As we all are, my child is a molecular jigsaw puzzle, stitched and pieced by trillions of molecules, all now formed to make her body, one of the most important things about her. Her umbilical cord fell off the other day. Where had those molecules previously been? They now reside in a Baton Rouge landfill, next to your milk carton and unwanted New York Times, all of which were once something else. Every hair follicle, eye-booger, drool drop, and poopie diaper was once something else, in another generation. Each spit up towel perhaps holds a few molecules from Shakespeare’s pen or the old Library at Alexandria. Go figure. A cow was killed by a rickshaw in India; Virgil sneezed at a dinner with Octavian. Voila. We have Emery.
Every newborn is in the whole man. Hear Alexis de Tocqueville, again and again: “After the birth of a human being, his early years are obscurely spent in the toils or pleasures of childhood. As he grows up, the world receives him, when his manhood begins, and he enters into contact with his fellows. He is then studied for the first time, and it is imagined that the germ of the vices and the virtues of his mature years is then formed. This, if I am not mistaken, is a great error. We must begin higher up; we must watch the infant in his mother’s arms; we must see the first images which the external world casts upon the dark mirror of his mind, the first occurrences which he witnesses; we must hear the first words which awaken the sleeping powers of thought, and stand by his earliest efforts, - if we would understand the prejudices, the habits, and the passions which will rule his life. The entire man is, so to speak, to be seen in the cradle of the child…they all bear some marks of their origin. The circumstances which accompanied their birth and contributed to their development affect the whole term of their being.”
Every newborn is a character on God’s stage. As God writes this love story, of Him recovering His bride, which is really all this world is, we must realize as Christians that it is unlike any story we will ever read. The best stories will resemble it, but the life in the lived body will always surmount any fictional character or plot written by man’s hands, as important a realization it is that all fictional characters and plots are written by God’s realistic characters within God’s realistic plot. In God’s theater, every baby has been given a name, a wardrobe, and an ongoing script. Its lines, though sketchy and unrefined, are quite present, effectual even. They are necessary for this part of the play and it is here, these subplots in this act at this setting, where they enter. In so being a character, they take on the form of all human characters as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve: fallen, broken, conceived and born in sin. Unlike all human characters, babies in the church are in the church, and this matters significantly to how we raise them and what we teach them. This baby, Emery, born into a Christian home and recently baptized into Christ, will not be raised with skeptical parents awaiting a specific age of accountability or moment of belief. We hope for faith, sure, but believe even now she is accountable, as we are, to the good gifts God has given her, Christ and His Spirit being the paramount. In God’s redeemed economy, babies in the church have no need for a faithless day, a day when our God is not also her God.
Every newborn is an unaborted fetus. The Nation Center for Health Statistics puts the annual abortion rate in America somewhere between 1.21 and 1.06 million. Squibble over technicalities and let’s just say 1 million, as if that helps the argument. Justice, like an overwhelming tide, a force stronger than global warming and with greater vigor than ASPCA at a Seaworld convention, will burst forth into this land, though certainly not enacted by Yale alum gavel gangers; If not in my newborn’s lifetime, then certainly in another’s. Oaths, Hippocratic or otherwise, mean little to men and women who haven’t a clue what a newborn really is.
 Wilson, N.D. Notes from the Tilt-a-whirl. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, Inc. 2009) 40-41.
 Ibid. 45-46
 de Tocqueville, Alexis. Democracy in America. Translated by Gerald E. Bevan. Penguin Classics edition. 2003. Page 37.