This baby lies across my back, milk-drunk. A sleepy smile, some automatic reflex, spreads across his crooked lips for an instant, followed by a scowl. His eyes dart around behind their lids. What must babies dream of? Giant breasts? Or in the case of Grayson, Avent bottles circling around him madly bidding him to feast the wonders of Similac formula?
I have learned that time passes quickly in the presence of an infant. Already I see miraculous changes in him. He is different than two weeks ago when he hardly opened his eyes. Now he watches, and his eyes cross and focus and refocus. Time passes quickly for mothers too, or at least for this mother. I begin to gaze at him as he lies asleep in my arms, and I look up and ten minutes has passed and I wonder if the clocks are wrong. I remain fixed on his face, amazed that I could love something so fiercely, so protectively.
Throughout my CPE experience (for those of you not in the chaplaincy business, CPE is the crucible which either kills or shapes you as a chaplain, it's the drill camp of hospital work, the grunt work whereby you are overworked and underpaid and taught that you will learn to love it), I was reminded that I did not completely fathom the love that God had for me, that I could not completely accept God's grace in my own life. Once, in my consultation interviews, the Spanish Inquisition/Therapy Session which brings you to the core of yourself, someone who had read my portfolio but didn't know me well said, "Christen, can you imagine God loving you as a loving parent cradles their newborn?" And I said, "I think so." But I was wrong, because the love I have for this helpless child stops me in my tracks. It makes me catch my breath. And I realize how impossible it has been for me to fathom God's love for me.
This is all so startlingly new. I am exhausted. I am exhilirated. I am not the same.