An embrace, a memory, and the promise of a future
By Oliver L. Jacques
Here you are,” says the young mother as she places six pounds of wriggling humanity on my lap. “Would you like to hold her? Her name is Yvonne.” In sharing her treasure, Elizabeth knows how I feel about babies. Years ago she had heard me speak of the sacred miracle of human reproduction at a church where I served as pastor. Now, Elizabeth is a physician with firsthand knowledge about such things. She gave birth three days ago.
At her invitation, her parents, sister, and two lively nephews are gathered in her home to welcome Yvonne into a wonderful family. My wife, Fredonia, and I are happy to join the clan. A big dinner is planned. Grandma has brought the entrée and cake.
Yvonne, smartly dressed in pink pajamas, is in my hands! Legs, arms, fingers, all functioning. I size her up. She’s so little! Her face is a bit wrinkled, and her head seems a little squeezed; or am I imagining things? She’s new, so new! But now she’s agitated, about to cry. “Don’t you like me?”
I whisper, enclosing her little body firmly in my hands and holding her close. She relaxes and falls asleep. “She’s used to close quarters,” I say to Grandpa, who, from across the room, smiles with a suggestion of envy. He’s a physician. “Wasn’t he at her birth? He’s had his turn!” I say to myself.
Conversation. Good conversation! So much to talk about! I express astonishment that so soon after giving birth, Elizabeth appears to enjoy being host! Fine, smart, warmhearted family! But the little princess is squirming—puckering up! Tenderly I increase my hold on this precious bit of humanity, my hands completely around her as I press her to my chest. Can she hear my heart—feel me breathe? Does my voice, resonating through her tiny frame, bring assurance and comfort? She relaxes. Something within me moves. “It’s good for her to hear a man’s voice.” I say to the new father. He’s busy arranging chairs. “Children need to hear their dad’s voice. Wouldn’t you agree?” He smiles indulgently.
Now my little friend is awake. Her eyes open. She yawns, works arms and legs. I place my pinky in her wee hand. She grips it and holds on! I clear my throat and sniff with emotion. “—and those eyes!” I exclaim, “incredible TV cameras coordinated by a foolproof computer right here!” I gently touch the back of her head. “She’ll get her eyes focused soon.” Again she’s restless, insecure. Carefully, I press her to my heart. We both feel better.
“What are you thinking about? Are you in a trance or something?” It’s Fredonia. “Just thinking,” I reply.
Holding a baby is, for me, an act of worship. My heart overflows with thoughts and feelings about God. “I’m an old man—older than the pope,” I sometimes say to clerks at the supermarket as they help me load the groceries. My legs don’t work well; my back aches. My fingers, bent with arthritis, hit the wrong keys on the computer. The knees are bad. My heart, with its mechanical valve, needs strengthening. I’m overdue for a cataract job. I could use a new hearing aid. When I preach, I need help getting off the platform! Don’t laugh! It’s not funny! Besides, times are scary. Sometimes I feel insecure, sort of shaky.
"Does my voice, resonating through her tiny frame, bring assurance and comfort?"
My inner soul needs to resonate to God’s voice. I need to feel Him breathe, need to be close to His heart of love. Yes, I need Him to hold my gnarled hand. And—I’d like to know how He feels about His restless, helpless children; the ones created to look and be like Him! Familiar words from Scripture wash through my mind, bringing peace, assurance, and understanding. I remember His words; “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you” (Isa. 66:13). I think of the Good Shepherd who carries the lambs in His bosom. And then there is His promise: “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).
Here’s a very old man. He’s in the Temple in Jerusalem, “waiting for the Consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25). What’s that in his arms? A tiny, newly born peasant babe from Nazareth! Did His mother’s five-day ride on a donkey hasten the time of His birth? As the aging Simeon holds Baby Jesus to his yearning heart, he knows that this “seed” of Eve will, as our flesh and blood brother, overcome evil and bring salvation to both Jews and Gentiles. But look at the baby! His eyes, His hands! Can I share the old man’s epiphany as I hold little Yvonne?
I recall reading about Theodore Roosevelt. He’s retired, body wracked with pain and malaria. A tough man, he once led the famous “Rough Riders.”* Remember, the fearless U.S. president with the “big stick”? Well, one day he’s standing in the parlor with a new grandchild in his arms. He’s not talking; not laughing. The old man’s crying. Yes—weeping—tears running down his cheeks! It’s the wonder of it all, I guess. “It’s all right, Mr. President. We understand. It’s all right!”
Well, Yvonne is growing. She’s now a bright-eyed schoolgirl with a beguiling smile. Actually she studies at home—her mom’s wisely giving her the very best education. Thank you, Elizabeth—yes, and you, too, Dad and Grandpa and Grandma, for a transcendent, unforgettable visit!
A big hug for you, Yvonne. One day soon, if faithful, you and I will get acquainted, really get to know each other! Do you know what I’d like to do? I’d love to take a walk with you, maybe even run with you along the river of life. You know, the one that flows from the throne of God—in a better, safer world!
* The “Rough Riders” was a name given to the 1st United States Volunteer Cavalry, which was raised in 1898 during the Spanish-American War.
Oliver L. Jacques served as pastor, teacher, missionary, and administrator. He passed away in September 2012.