I remember visiting a woman in the hospital after the birth of her first child. The mother was cuddling her little daughter and the joy in the room was almost palpable. There was an aura of light around the mother and the infant.
We visited for a while. When it came time for me to offer a blessing the mother asked if I would like to hold the baby. As I felt the softness of the tiny new life snuggling gently against my arm, I was overcome by a multitude of thoughts and feelings. Who will she become as she grows in years? Will she be a teacher, a nurse, a firefighter, a police officer, a pilot, an artist, a musician, a judge or a senator? Who will be she be at 20, at 30, at 50, and 80 and 90? Will she be surrounded by children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren?
Will she be one of those few blessed ones who rise to true greatness – not a celebrity, not famous for being famous, but one through whom God makes a saving difference through the way she mothers her children and loves her friends and neighbors? Will she be one of those unsung heroes whose sacrificial, Jesus-like love transforms the world?
Babies are so powerful. It’s amazing how such small creatures can have such a big impact on our lives; the ripples go on for generations.
My wife, Jo, had a beauty shop in a local nursing home at the time we had our first baby. During the days she was at work I would sometimes bring Kati along as I visited parishioners who were residents there. If you ever want to cause a stir, walk into a nursing home carrying a 4-month-old infant.
There were smiles and oohs and aahs all up and down the halls. People in wheelchairs who rarely smiled or talked much lit up when they laid eyes on the baby. And when I put Kati in their arms they beamed and cooed. They became fully themselves again – the mothers and fathers and grandmas and grandpas they had been in another life before the infirmities of old age.
Babies always cause a stir during baptism Sundays in church. At the end of the ritual, and with the parent’s permission, I would carry the baby up the aisle so everyone could see. Then one Sunday at Trinity Church in Montello, Wisconsin – in my second year out of seminary – as I was presenting Angela Cartwright, I noticed her great-grandmother Mary leaning forward with that unmistakable “I just want to hold her” look. Without thinking I placed Angela in Mary’s waiting arms. And time stopped as the whole congregation soaked in the power of that holy moment.
After that, whenever possible, I would give the baptized child to someone to hold, more often than not someone with that unmistakable “I just want to hold ’em” look. But every once in a while I chose some big guy who was trying to hide behind a hymnal and who looked like he had never been near a baby in his life. He would light up like a Christmas tree the second that soft bundle snuggled in close. Babies are powerful!
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Someone once asked me how I decided whom to choose for that high honor.
I said, “Just slip me $5 before the service and sit on the end of a pew next to the aisle near the front, and you will get your turn.”
Nobody ever paid up. It was a Spirit-guided thing. I just knew, in the moment, who needed to hold a baby.
Babies affect us in ways that are impossible to express fully in words. They are a touch from heaven – a brief glimpse of the spectacular, wondrous, magnificent glory of God.
Babies remind us of the great mystery of our existence which, because of the business of our everyday lives, we tend to forget.
The story is told of a 4-year-old boy who, upon welcoming his baby brother home from the hospital, announced to their parents, “I want to talk to him alone.”
Now that surprised the parents, but they let the 4-year-old go into the nursery alone with the new baby. They then put their own ears to the door. They wanted to protect the infant from any harm that sibling rivalry might inflict, but they also wanted to hear what he was going to say.
The gist of what the 4-year-old reportedly said was, “Quick, tell me who made you. Tell me where you came from. I’m beginning to forget!”
This is an original article written for Agri-View, a Lee Enterprises agricultural publication based in Madison, Wisconsin. Visit AgriView.com for more information.
John Sumwalt is a retired pastor and the son of dairy farmers. the author of “Vision Stories” and “How to Preach the Miracles,” he's collecting more personal-vision stories for a future column. Email email@example.com or call 414-339-0676 to reach him.