My sweet daughter recently turned two, and for any parent of babies or toddlers, this is a significant milestone. For me, it’s triggered a re-emergence into some spheres of my life that I’d withdrawn from or, due to necessity, put to one side (but that’s a whole other blog post).
This small person and I were scrolling through the Photos library the other day looking back at her ‘baby’ photos. It’s something I’ve only done a handful of times with her, and hardly at all while we were alone. She loves it, by the way, but each time I’ve looked back at that period in my life, I get this weird physical sensation, a slight feeling of queasiness and unease. Almost like the way you felt that one time walking home from school when you found yourself obsessing over the idea that someone was following you in a car. A bizarre comparison to make I suppose – memories of my baby daughter equating on some level to stranger danger? Well, I think what I was feeling for most of that time was fear. And it comes creeping back all too easily into my heart, even when I look at a photograph. Sometimes they say that you stop taking photographs of your life when you’re going through a stressful or tough time. The exception to this would be baby snaps. Every moment – the beautiful, exquisite moments of raising a child, every difficult ‘I-have-no-clue-what-I’m-doing’ phase, are captured in full colour to be re-lived a little further down the track.
Fear and babies is not an uncommon pairing, but surely not for me? I had done this all before. Almost eight fun-filled, challenging years of parenting our son. So why all the fear this time round? My husband and I were blessed with a healthy, relatively easy second baby – sure she cried, needed a bit of baby-chiro, only accepted a bottle when you stood on one leg and sang a ridiculous made-up song but, apart from that, she was a textbook baby. So why, when I look at these photos of her first weeks and months, do I start up with a nervous sweat? It’s all about the fear. Fear of being not enough. Fear of being needed and fear of not being able to meet everyone’s needs. Fear of failing, of having to change, of not being able to continue in my much-loved habits and routines for a time.
It’s true; I’m not the most spontaneous, go-with-the-flow kind of person. So much so that my word for the year of my daughter’s birth was ‘flexibility’. How did that all work out? It didn’t. I was the least flexible I’ve ever been in my life and also the most fearful. You see, I’d done pretty okay as a mother of one for several years. I’d never really stretched that far beyond my human ability to feel like I wasn’t up for the task. I had this gig all worked out. Until my wonderful beauty of a daughter showed up, and then all of a sudden, I didn’t. All of a sudden, I could not rely on my self-sufficiency.
But God met me in that place of fear, inadequacy and weakness like only a father can. With compassion. You might not be in the midst of making that jump from being a parent of one, to a parent of two, and you might be pretty good at bending and moving with change and new things. But if there is something in your circumstances that is causing you fear, remember that God is all compassion and all kindness.
Psalm 103 was essential for me during that time.
“As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.*
He knows our frame, the unique way that he has put each one of us together.
God had not forgotten my frailty. He wasn’t expecting me to be everything or to have it all together. Nor will he ever expect that of me or any of us in the future. Otherwise, why would I ever have need of Jesus? Of a Saviour? Instead, it is in the place of my greatest weakness, in my case my fear, that his power is made perfect and his grace is enough, as Paul says in his second letter to the Corinthians .(2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV)
God in Christ Jesus, pours out compassion on us when we feel like we are just so inadequate to face the path laid out before us and he compensates with his strength, his power and his total adequacy.
As I’m writing this, I’m reminding myself of these truths again. My fear didn’t leave me the moment I read Psalm 103. But it certainly anchored me in what was true and the truth of who my Heavenly Father is – a truth I would visit over and over again in the passing months. Even now, two years on, when the memories behind a photograph try their best to trick me, lie to me and tell me that I failed during that time or that, or that I’m failing at something right now, I know that He knows my frame.