It’s 4:25 AM. I slept for 5 and a half hours before the soft cries of a child woke me up. She doesn’t usually wake up in the night, but my work schedule has recently changed–I think she misses me. Her call was half-hearted and unconvincing, and I knew she would probably fall back to sleep on her own…but I delight in her desire for me. I entered her room silently and stood next to her crib. Her tiny body writhed as her head turned from side to side, looking for something, but lost in the dark. I whispered her name. My nearness made her desire increase, evidenced by the intensity of her cry and the orientation of her face to me. I picked her up, and she stilled. I carried her to her changing table and laid her down for a clean diaper. She cried out again–not the need she wanted met at the moment. My timing is perfect, though–it would ruin everything to change her after I nurse her into a deep sleep. Of course, she didn’t understand that, so I reassured her softly throughout the process and finally held her close once again. We made our way to the happiest corner on earth and settled in under a blanket. She smiled, knowing from past experience what was to come. Her gaze locked onto mine as we connected, skin against skin. Her eyes flickered upward and then disappeared behind eyelids. Her suck was slow and intermittent–she needed me, not a meal.
As I hold her now I remember how much I wanted her to exist and how long I waited to have her safely growing inside of me. I remember how painful and perfect it was to give her life outside of me, and how we struggled together for her first days, trying to break out into freedom as if we were caught in the cumbersome crowd at the beginning of a race. I remember watching her fight for life during an early illness, my heart breaking because she didn’t understand her pain, and I couldn’t take it from her. I remember her first smile in our kitchen and her first laugh in this chair three nights ago. And then I look forward. I imagine her first steps and potty training and kindergarten. I think about her little friends at her birthday parties and her first car and her prom date, college roommate, and husband. I think about helping her plan her wedding and about her planning nurseries for my grandchildren. I think about my husband–my first love and my partner in all of these things. I think about the probability that she will plan funerals for us someday–that we will leave her life as naturally as we leave her room every night, and she will live on.
What more do I need than this? How is this not enough? How is this life without God in any way meaningless? I live to walk through life with my husband, and our lives interact with other lives in a complex and imperfect dance that we learn as we go. We live so that this child may live, carrying a part of us with her through her life after we’re gone. The cycle is brutal, but life goes on, possibly until the sun engulfs the earth, and possibly beyond that day. Who’s to say that mankind won’t find a way to survive? We’ve already come so far. I don’t need to have those answers to have hope and meaning. I need my baby’s breath on my skin. I need the warmth of my husband’s body next to mine as I go back to sleep for one more hour. I need the satisfaction of a day well-spent. I need the love and affection of others in a tangible way–exactly what I’ve offered to my daughter in these precious moments. Exactly what I’ve never known from a God whose love was inferred, assumed, imagined. I need to stop wasting my life living for a future paradise, and live instead for the one right in front of me.