My son was born on Sunday afternoon, November 14, 2021. Jeremiah clocked in at 8 lbs, 8 oz (3,855.5 grams for those of you not in the United States) and 21 inches long (53.3 cm) at 3:07 pm.
I can’t even begin to describe how nervous i was to be a father prior to his arrival, but after his arrival everything just clicked. It felt right. It still feels right. It doesn’t mean it’s not hard, but it seems only natural. My sentiments are pretty much the same as that of Nicholas Vintner, a main character from my not-yet-published novel, Switched, upon holding his firstborn for the first time: “You’re the most precious being in the universe. I’ll never let anything happen to you.”
It’s one of the reasons why Switched will be dedicated to Jeremiah, but the fact of the matter is that my reflections on fatherhood have been raised heavenward as the days go by. I’ll share three of them.
Infants are almost entirely helpless
Even though one of the nurses at the hospital told us that a newborn would find its way to its mother’s breast to feed if not brought there by its mother, newborns are essentially helpless. They can’t speak to explain their needs. They can’t really solve any of their needs on their own. They can’t really do anything besides poop, pee, cry, eat, and sleep (oh, and look absolutely adorable).
Think about it. Infants are utterly helpless. But how did God decide to save humanity?
By coming to earth as a baby.
This is why we celebrate Christmas. But the magnitude of this message can easily be lost on us–especially those of us like me who had never before interacted with a newborn. Jesus–the God of this world who created the world with a Word–entered into His creation as an utterly helpless newborn.
That is mind-boggling. When you can literally speak and the world comes into existence, why would you ever condescend to enter said world as the most helpless of all creatures?
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son,” sending Him as an infant (cf. John 3:16).
As Gregory of Nazianzus said, “that which He has not assumed He has not healed.”1 In order to heal the whole of our life, Jesus had to experience every aspect of our life, including our most vulnerable, earliest years.
For the God of the universe, powerful enough to create everything with a word, to enter our creation as a helpless, newborn baby, is an act of incomprehensible love. I’m not even that great, but i am so very glad that the infant stage is behind me and i never have to be that utterly helpless again. God Himself–Greatness Himself; the Almighty–humbled Himself by becoming a man, but by starting His fleshly journey as an infant.
He deserves all the praise we can give Him–and more! This is where my mind goes when i look at Jeremiah.
(Until I copied the quote from Switched, this was my only reflection for this post.)
Infants can easily become idols
Babies are cute. I honestly didn’t realize the level to which this is the case until Jeremiah arrived. I was worried that my son would be less than pleasant to look at, but in reality i can’t get enough of his cute little face. (In fact, i should probably be holding him right now instead of writing this.)
It’s amazing to me how many things have just lost their sense of urgency as a result of his arrival. My NaNoWriMo novel has come to a screeching halt. School work and the reading therein has almost become a drudgery (I am now at peace with the idea of finishing classes with a C average this semester). The theological treatise (book) i’d been researching for doesn’t seem as important or urgent or necessary anymore (even though the topic–not to mention the souls at stake–is critical).
I bring all this up to point out the fact that in the midst of the craziness, in the midst of the joy, i need an anchor that is more solid than a helpless human being. We all do. Jesus is this anchor (cf. Hebrews 6:19-20).
And remember, Jesus came to earth as a helpless newborn baby. According to every Christmas pageant and Nativity scene we will see over the next two months, He was a baby worth dropping everything for to worship (cf. Matthew 2:2). When i’m tempted to think Jeremiah is “the most precious being in the universe,” i need to turn my gaze to the One who was once an infant, and who truly is the most precious being in the universe. He alone deserves my worship and adoration.
This by no means implies that i neglect my son, but it means that i turn the innate desire to worship him toward Jesus. And besides, i can point him to Jesus at the same time. He is just as in need of obeying 1 John 5:21 as he grows up as i am:
“Little children, guard yourselves from idols.”
Infants force us to live by faith
Ever since i was young, i’ve struggled with faith. I suffered a stroke at age two. I prayed for healing–saw none, but read in the Bible that Jesus heals–so i gave up on prayer by age twelve. I declared myself an atheist by age eighteen because of the “dilemma” of theodicy (if God is all good and all-powerful, why do bad things happen?). I was dramatically saved at a summer camp a few months later, at which point i fell in love with the Word of God and couldn’t get enough of it. But then, over the past ten years, the more i strove to live according to the Bible, the more drama i experienced. Girls dumped me. Churches got upset with me. Sin tried to suffocate me. Depression wanted to end me.
But at the end of it all, one thing has kept me going. Faith.
It might be weak, or it might be strong, but faith has kept me afloat over the past ten years. If not for being raised in the church from day one–God alone knows where i might be right now. I shudder to even think about it.
But having a newborn reminds me again that faith is essential. My daily prayer must be, “Lord, increase my faith!” (cf. Mark 9:24).
I can try my hardest and do everything right when it comes to Jeremiah, but at the end of the day, eventually i need sleep. While i’m asleep, i can’t make sure Jeremiah is still breathing. We use a baby monitor when he is in a different room–out of our line of vision–but a baby monitor does nothing while i am asleep.
As such, it is essential to trust God. I think of Mary’s fears after Jesus was born. “What if I mess this up? What if I forget to feed Him? What if He stops breathing?”
However, there is a fun theological word called perichoresis. It means that the “Father, Son, and Spirit mutually indwell or interpenetrate one another.”2 Similarly, there is another term: inseparable operations, which means that “since the persons of the Trinity are indivisible in essence, they are also indivisible in their external operations. Having the one, simple will in common, they perform a singular act in any external operation.”3
Therefore, Jesus was not alone as an infant. And neither was Mary. The whole Trinity was there, every step of the way. This is because God must be omnipresent. He cannot be contained to any specific locale (cf. 1 Kings 8:27). God the Father and God the Holy Spirit–to say nothing of God the Son–was sovereignly running the whole of the universe, even as Jesus grew up in Nazareth. This is amazing to contemplate. Mary need not fear because God was with her.
In much the same way, God is with us as we raise our children. Granted, my son need not grow up so he can die on the cross for the sins of the world, though i do hope to raise him to love sacrificially (cf. 1 John 3:16; Ephesians 5:25), but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a special, purposeful plan for his life. I must leave this with God, trusting God to give me the strength to raise Jeremiah successfully, keeping him safe even when i am unable to make sure he’s safe. God is more than capable of this.
The infancy of Jesus is proof.
Lord, increase my faith!
Allow me to briefly tie this back to the prior reflection. When i try to do it all on my own, apart from faith in God, it betrays that i have an idol. I must give it all to God (cf. 1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6-7). The more i trust God, the more faith i have; the more faith i have, the smaller my idols become; the smaller my idols become, the better my life reflects the Gospel. And the Gospel is what i hope Jeremiah grows up to live and breathe.
I’ve officially been a dad just over 4 days now. As such, these are a few of my earliest theological thoughts on fatherhood. I hope they’ve blessed you, encouraged you, and challenged you. I know they have for me. Check back regularly, as i’m sure i’ll have more posts like this before too long.
In this with you.
Soli Deo Gloria
Thanks for reading.
- Gregory of Nazianzus, “To Cledonius the Priest Against Apollinarius (Ep. CI),” in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers 2.7, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1894), 440.
- Matthew Barrett, Simply Trinity (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books), 323.
- Ibid., 321.