When we brought our daughter home from the hospital, it was a long, dark night. I remember thinking that I would probably never sleep again. I kept sitting up, trying not to use my recently caesareaned stomach muscles, to peer over the wicker sides of the bassinet. I worried about her breathing. I was worried that she was too cold. Mostly, I worried that no one would be watching her if I slept.
Finally, I picked up my tiny little girl and carried her into the hallway. I stood there, sniffling and feeling utterly helpless. My husband and my mom heard me and came out to see what was wrong, and I raggedly explained that I couldn’t go to sleep and leave her unguarded. What if she needed something? What if she stopped breathing?
I am so thankful for my mother. She took my daughter downstairs and held her so I could sleep. For hours, my mom stared at my sleeping daughter – her soft hair, her wideset eyes, her full cheeks. For hours, my mom held her in her arms, and in doing so, held me too.
Obviously, that wasn’t a long-term solution. I had to come to terms quickly with the fact that there would be times when an adult in our home would not be awake. That is when I learned to pray for my child. Every night, I would pray and mentally place my daughter into God’s arms, trusting him to watch her while we slept.
This week, we will go to church on Ash Wednesday. Someone will dip their finger in a bowl of ashes and rub it on my forehead. It’s a humbling experience. They’re dirty. They itch after awhile. And the message given is, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Even with our church’s lovely addition of “…always in the arms of Jesus,” it is a sobering message.
After my daughter was born, I realized that having a new baby on Ash Wednesday changes everything. I wondered if they would put ashes on babies’ heads, too. I decided that I would decline if they offered. As a new parent, humility was already my friend – any grand ideas of self quickly dissipate in those first few months. But to hold my sweet little pink-hued baby, so fresh and life-filled, and to have her marked with a reminder of death – to remember that someday she would return to dust – was more than I could bear.
At the same time… I love Jesus more now that I’m a parent. I know this whole season points to Easter. As much as I love that Jesus died for my sins, I love him even more for dying for my daughter’s sins – even now, when they stretch ahead of her, guilt and pain and suffering lined up like hitchhikers on the road she has just begun to travel. Christ died for that. For her. No amount of dust or dirt or sin will separate her from God. I love knowing that through even the darkest night, she continues to be always in the arms of Jesus.