Have you ever compared the capabilities of human babies to the young of any other animal species?
My kids are like little zoologists so we spend hours reading National Geographic animal books. The ways in which God created other animals compared to humans is totally astounding.
Did you know that baby dolphins can swim just minutes after they're born?
Did you know that baby impalas can jump nine feet high three days after they're born?
Did you know that baby zebras can run an hour after they're born?
Did you know that baby queleas fly out of their nest the day after they're born?
And Baby sea turtles? They climb out of their nest, no mother in sight, crawl into the ocean, and swim away with the tide. WHAT?
Are you kidding me??
You know what my babies could do the day after I brought them home from the hospital? Umm...poop, cry, spit-up, drink bottles, sleep on Daddy's chest, cuddle, melt Mama's heart.
Don't get me wrong...each one of those things is a straight-up miracle. The fact that God can create a working digestive tract in-utero so that my baby can poop...miracle. The fact that God can create tiny lungs that can breath and scream...miracle. What a tiny little baby does to the heart of a big strong Daddy or a tired exhausted post-partum mama...miracle.
But isn't it fascinating that humans - the height of creation, the most valuable of all creation, the one creature created in the very image of God - have such strikingly more dependence on their parents for decades than every other creature in creation?
The more I read about animals with my animal-obsessed children, the more intrigued I am.
My four-year-old falls out of his chair at supper every night because he can't sit still. My two year old has new bruises everyday because he falls down constantly. My eight-year old gets mad every day when I enforce family dress codes and my six-year-old gets ticked off when I do her hair.
Yet impalas that are three days old can jump over my Christmas tree and newborn sea turtles and dolphins can swim against the Pacific tide.
So I have a theory. It's clearly intentional on God's design.
(To be unnecessarily clear...I love my kids more than life and I am so glad that they don't swim away immediately upon birth. Just hang with me here for a minute.)
I think that God made baby humans, (and toddler humans, and pre-teen humans, and adolescent humans, and even adult humans), so dependent on their elders not for the sake of the young but for the sake of the parents and elders...and the entire village of adults that surround the child...to sculpt us into Christ's likeness. I don't think God is concerned if sea turtles or impalas are molded into His character. But He is deeply concerned that His people are molded into His character. And our children help us immensely in that journey.
Having my children completely dependent on me forces me to deny myself a thousand times over every single day. Since our little humans can't fly out of our nests at a day old or even a decade (or two) old, adults learn self-sacrifice. When we deny ourselves new socks or underwear because the kiddos need school clothes, we learn self-sacrifice. We learn to give of our sleep, health, strength, waistlines, time, money, everything. When we put our career dreams on the backburner for the sake of raising children, we learn self-sacrifice. It's hard and painful and my stubborn, selfish heart fights it every day...but the more I heed, the more I become like Jesus who gave Himself wholly for me.
Having my children completely dependent on me teaches me patience. Honestly, I'm terribly at it and not really learning this one at all. Many days my anxiety takes over and patience feels beyond my capability.
But when I'm at the end of my rope with attitudes and disobedience and squabbling and tattling, it forces me to turn to the God whose patience is infinitely bigger than mine...the God who is so patient that He even is patient with me as I fumble a million times as a mom.
Having my children completely dependent on me teaches me to depend on God. When the medical bills for these dependents include hip disorders and years of swimming therapy and pediatric ophthamology and urinary tract infections and planter's warts and tooth extractions because the two year old fell and broke his front tooth...it forces me to turn to the God whose resources are infinite and ask His mercy to cover what we cannot cover. He does, and we learn to trust.
Having my children completely dependent on me teaches me what faith really is. I get to see faith through their eyes...the profound, child-like trust in the power of God that Jesus commanded us all to have. This "faith like a child" is a miracle that I wouldn't get to experience everyday if they were like sea turtles who swam away from me. Their faith inspires my faith, and I need that.
Having my children completely dependent teaches me to love at a capacity that is more than I understand. They make my heart soar when I see them love one another well, or tell a great joke and laugh for each other. When I see the four-year-old boy share his trains or ninja turtle legos with the two-year-old boy, it makes my heart soar. When the six-year-old who just mastered reading sits down in our book nook and reads to her brothers, my heart soars.
If they were sea turtles that swam away, my heart wouldn't get to soar like that. I wouldn't get to experience the full capacity of love that God gave us...the Love in whose image we were designed in the first place. Seeing my kids love each other well teaches me to love better too, which then grows me more into the likeness of Jesus, whose love is deeper and higher and wider than we could ever conceive.
Having my children completely dependent on me teaches me humility. My kids are sinners, and so is their mother. And so is their father. We sin against each other all day long. And in that we learn to swallow our pride and forgive each other all day long. My children are away better at swallowing their pride than their parents are, so we learn humility from them.
I don't think there's a more humbling experience in my life, thus far, than telling a little child "I'm sorry I yelled at you (or screamed at you, or ignored you), will you forgive me?" and having them so lovingly hug me and say, "Yes, I forgive you, Mommy." It's so humbling. You'd think I'd learn, but no. Instead I have to repeat this request for forgiveness time after time.
It's such a painful lesson, maybe the most painful, but through it, we grow more like Jesus, who though the King of Kings, humbled himself unto death.
Having my children completely dependent on me teaches me about God's holy discipline.
My kids disobey me every day (some kids more than others). Sometimes it makes me want to scream. (Sometimes I do scream, unfortunately.) Yet it teaches me, albeit slowly, to handle my anger with patience like God does and train my children in righteousness. And it teaches me just how high God's bar of holiness really is, which in turn teaches me to honor and love God more. If I didn't have little children dependent on me all day everyday, I might forget to be amazed by God's holy discipline.
Having my children completely dependent on me teaches me joy...the joy that can fill my heart even though I'm a totally scatterbrained, disorganized, anxiety-ridden, over-budget and under-slept mother of four. The joy of a two-year-old bear hug; the joy of playing Mozart duets on the piano with my eight-year-old; the joy of the six-year-old performing songs for me; the joy of the T-Rex boy who is made for great and mighty things. The joy of raising children who genuinely love Jesus and tell their friends at school about Him and His love. The joy of being completely glued to my (really hot and wonderful) husband for life because we have four dependents together and we need each other. The joy of knowing that though the lessons of parenthood are harder than anyone could ever have told me, in parenthood I get to be caught up into adventures so much grander and bigger than myself...God's creation of four lives have been entrusted to me, and that's the greatest adventure I could ever dream of.
So yes, the day to day would be a whole lot easier if I were raising sea turtles who could swim against Pacific tides immediately upon birth. Of if I were raising zebras who didn't need me to carry them because they could run an hour after birth. But then we would miss out on the whole point and all the joy.
Raising humans is so not easy. It's actually so incredibly difficult.
But it's so much better than raising sea turtles.