Marriage is an incredible blessing. It’s one of those mysterious, life-altering realities that is so massively significant that it’s tough to really know what’s happening until it’s happening. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t prepare (and prepare really thoroughly) for marriage. In fact, my brother and sister-in-law write really great stuff on that topic, which everyone should read at A Home Firmly Planted.
It’s just that no level of preparation can mentally get you to a place where you can even comprehend loving someone so deeply – until you’re there. And no level of preparation can emotionally prepare you for the sacrifices and the joys that you’ll experience because of, with, and for your spouse – until you’re there.
And then there is this other, equally incredible relationship between parent and child. It is just as much a gift and just as difficult to truly prepare for. We can – and should – have the necessary knowledge and items needed to take care of an infant. But having those things doesn’t make us worthy of being caretakers of a precious life. Only God’s grace and his good gifts allow that. And taking a parenting class just won’t quite capture that overwhelming sense of gratitude and awe that ruptures from your heart the moment you first hold your tiny, slimy, precious newborn baby in your arms….or first lay eyes on that child who you know is yours already, aside from the official signing of adoption papers.
I’ve been thinking a lot about these two relationships recently. When you have a husband like the one I have, you find yourself frequently reminded of just how much of a blessing marriage truly is. And when you’re as pregnant as I am right now (41 weeks), you find yourself constantly pondering when you might get to finally meet this child you’ve been carrying for what feels like an eternity.
God did a neat thing with his design in these relationships.
With marriage, we actually start as separate individuals with our own identities, priorities, and so on. Then there’s this ring – it’s a promise of something to come. It represents a covenant that should be forever. And then there is the marriage…in a moment, the coming together of two people to become one – emotionally, physically, and in every possible way. And in a lifetime, the growing together of those two people in continually deeper unity. What the visible symbol anticipated, the actual relationship makes real. The promise of love, chosen.
With parenthood, the two (mother and baby) start as one. They coexist inside the same skin, sharing organs and vital functions in the most critical stages of the child’s development. There is not much that is visible (except a growing belly), but there is a very real, very physical, very emotional connection that is natural from the start. Then there is childbirth…in a moment, the coming apart of the two people – the establishment of the very first level of independence. And for a lifetime, the opportunity to nurture that independent individual in love, in discipline, in growth, in grace. What the invisible reality anticipated, the actual baby – on the outside – fullfills. The promise of love, given.
There is so much to say as well about the beauty of adoption and how it hybrids these two scenarios. How incredible that the parent-child connection can also take the form of love chosen. That will have to be its own post for another day!