Monday, February 10, 2014

The Old Man and the Baby

Last night I was awoken by the sound of my 17 month old crying.  She would simply not go to sleep.  Star had already been up three times to calm Sheena down.  Now it was my turn.  It was 2:30AM, after a day of preaching four sermons.  As I rocked my daughter, her sucking down a soy milk bottle, me sucking down my lack of sleep, I said to myself, "I'm just getting too old for this stuff!"  I mumbled to my heart, "Why does a 41 year old man have a tiny brand new baby?"  "Brand new babies are the purview of 20 and 30 year olds, not 40 year olds!" (Clearly I am not my most optimistic or cheery self in the middle of the night...)

But then a thought occurred to me.  What would it be like to rock a brand new baby if you were not 41, but if you were 100?  The Bible tells us that Abraham was the father of a brand new baby (Isaac) at the age of 100.  Suddenly, the image of a kind old wrinkled man, weathered from the ravages of time, and rough, wild, desert living - juxtaposed with a tiny brand new baby with perfect, soft-skin entered my mind.  Abraham must have even wondered what to do with such a living creature, resting in his arms.  At first, having a baby when he was 99, and then 100, was a cosmic joke, a preternatural punchline, a salvific stand-up comedy routine.  But then, when little Isaac woke up in the middle of the night needing to be fed, and crying for hours on end, it must not have been that funny anymore.  "I'm just getting too old for this stuff!" Abraham would have had a right to say.

One of Earnest Hemmingway's greatest pieces of writing was, "The Old Man And the Sea."  If you have read the short story, you know it is about a lone aging man, in a small row boat, in the middle of the ocean.  The book is about how one person battled the natural elements of creation, and worked with them, to survive by himself in the middle of the sea.  It must have felt to Abraham like he was up against something akin to an ocean, and ocean of promise and youth and neo-natal beauty, as he was holding Isaac.

And forget about Abraham!?!?  How male-centric of me not to also think of Sarah.  Sarah who was 90, and must have been well beyond the start of menopause (although we don't know that for sure) as she nurtured a brand new baby, must have been dumbfounded.  The first time Sarah began to nurse (and it was the first time, this was Sarah's first baby in her life), as she brought the baby close to her wrinkled but beautiful breasts, it must have seemed like such a foreign, out of body experience.  For Sarah too, the laughter must have turned into a question mark which resided in her soul, to be answered fully only when she arrived in heaven, some 20 or 30 years later.  "Why would God bring me a baby?"  "What is this about?"  "I'm just getting too old for this stuff!"

There is an order and rhythm to the universe.  Famers plant in the Spring and harvest in the Fall.  Babies are born, and old people die.  Young men have visions, and old men dream dreams.  When this rhythm gets upset, it throws off our natural human circadian order.  Several years ago, my grandma, who is now 94, lost her oldest son, who was only in his 60's, to cancer.  For grandma, it was a double whammy of grief and shock.  To have a family member die of cancer, a family member who was otherwise so healthy (never smoked, never drank much, always healthy), was a shock.  But then, what was worse, was the strange "out of ordered-ness" about the loss.  "It's just not supposed to be this way," she said.  "Mothers are not supposed to lose sons to death."  "I am the one who is supposed to go first." "I'm just getting too old for this stuff!"

God's continual promise to us is that He will, every now and then, upset the natural, eternal, elemental order of the universe.  He did it with Sarah and Abraham, giving them a baby in their nanogenarian twighlight years.  God did it with Elizabeth and Zechariah in bringing them a baby named John.  Mostly He did it by bringing another baby into the world, who would be God.

But that is another story, altogether, of an even greater and older Father (Yahweh) holding an even more precious brand new baby (Jesus Christ), in his eternal arms.

All For Now,

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