A newborn baby found great comfort in her mother’s arms. She was a delight to hold, because her entire demeanor changed when she was picked up. Her face relaxed, her body responded to the warmth and movement of the person holding her by snuggling closer.
As much as she loved it, she also found great misery in the times where she was separated from human contact. The more she associated negative emotions with being set down, the more her parents responded by picking her up.
As time passed, the little one became more intense in expressing her need to be held. She developed a cry that startled others. It was so loud and so filled with pain, it made the listener wish to soothe it quickly just to end the sound. Her parents were concerned, and did lots of research, had long discussions together, and sought advice from several sources without finding a way out of their predicament. The baby’s doctor cautioned them that the problems would only intensify if they did not resolve it.
Her grandparents, aunts and uncles, and parent’s friends all responded to the baby’s cry with alarm as well. They had once offered advice, but had given up soon after. Although they could understand the solution probably involved allowing the baby to be separated, they themselves could not listen to her cry without responding immediately. One aunt explained that it was almost physically painful to listen to, for her cry was so intense and so immediate to being put down.
After another sleepless night due partly to an ear infection, the mother broke down in tears when describing the situation to the nurse. She was worn out by the needs of her baby, and she could not bear the looks of those around her if she set her baby down for an instant. The nurse counseled the woman on various tactics and methods, but could tell by the fearful response that this mother was not capable of trying these. After contemplating, the nurse offered a plan that might help. She spoke with the woman’s mother and sister, who agreed to help and be strong for just a week. The nurse cautioned that the baby must be tired as possible on the first evening.
The idea was simple, give the baby a few minutes to make the decision to sleep or to cry. A set amount of time she might cry was agreed on, for although the parents were receptive to the idea, they were afraid it was somehow cruel. The plan did not work exactly as it had been planned, for the mother found her emotions were too much. She wept and begged to take her baby and was unable to handle the separation either. Her mother had promised to be firm, and so she sent her daughter away from the home until they called. Not wanting to let everyone down who was trying to help, the mother left hesitantly.
The young one was determined, but also exhausted enough to drop off to sleep before the agreed upon time. After the second night, the aunt and baby’s father rotated the duty of standing nearby while the baby wailed. Although it was difficult, both were able to hear the cries through the closed door without rushing in. Her protests were not as long, and again she dropped into sleep. In a week the baby’s mother realized that her baby was more alert and responsive and did not appear to be emotionally damaged like she had feared. Guilt relaxed into acceptance and she was finally able to listen to her daughter, who cried for a time and then relaxed into a beautiful, peaceful sleep.
This story may bring about negative responses from some parents who find it cruel to let a baby cry. I accept that may happen, but submit that not every parent has the same child. Extreme cases aside, as parents we must do what is best for the child, not just for ourselves.
—————Thoughts that motivated this story—————
In this story I wanted to reflect on allowing someone loved very much to choose. Having just spent time with my little step-granddaughter over Christmas, this seemed an easy fit.
Then John consented.
In thinking further about the dialog in Matthew 3:15 I could probably spend a lot of time on just this verse. I worry that when I dig in too long on a verse I may tire out those who read or hear it. So, I will focus only on two parts of this profound verse. First, last week I noticed how humble Jesus was to agree to baptism. Now I want to reflect on the fact that John was given a choice to baptize Jesus. I had never really noticed this before, so I had to delve deeper into that part. John was not bullied into agreement, nor was he told to comply because he was merely an instrument and that his concerns didn’t matter.
It is contrary to our way of doing things to give choices. We want choices for ourselves, but if we are honest there is little we want from others that doesn’t involve getting our way. When I ask my son to make a decision, I am hoping that he will decide the way that works with my plans or my intentions as well. God doesn’t work in the ways we do. He doesn’t treat us as puppets, even if we wish for it. There is more freedom in following God than we give Him credit for. As an example, God pulls away from us at times and just like a parent giving a young toddler the room to walk on wobbly legs, or letting go when learning to ride a bike – we are given the chance to choose God’s way without the constant sense that we’re holding onto Him.
Sometimes it had seemed cruel to me that God withdraws. To let us make our own choices and do so without interference or HELP feels so much like abandoning a child, which we consider unthinkable today. Yet, I have to admit that for my son’s own good I have left him to think or cry over something and never thought that was cruel. My reason has asked if God loves me, why does He let me be in control of all the decisions, the direction of my life when it would be so much simpler if He would just guide me in everything? These thoughts are not unreasonable, nor is it bad to ask that God help us…that’s not the point I’m making. God’s will is not cruel, it is a will that understands more than we do. God is the love we always wanted. He is love strong enough to give us choices, just as John was.