Seated in the secure and sterile NICU, I cuddle my tiny grandson Asa. As he wrinkles up his forehead, his large, dark eyes take on a contemplative look.
His nurses call him soulful.
I ponder how these first few weeks of life have shaped him already. Born with most of his intestines outside of his body, he was immediately airlifted to a hospital where specialists were prepared to care for him. His introduction to life did not include being nestled in the arms of the one whose sounds he had grown accustomed to before his birth. Rather he was checked into NICU as a baby boy without a name, where he was placed flat on his back, connected to tubes and wires, while his intestines were squeezed – slowly over days – into his belly. I am profoundly grateful to his birth mom, who endured a pregnancy rather than choosing an abortion, and then tearfully handed him over at the hospital, not to abandon him but to actually give him life! Now at three weeks of age, he is held and comforted ALOT as he recovers from major surgery.
Already he has figured out that wailing will bring someone to pick him up. Already he knows that every three hours he will get milk- although only a minimal amount. I stroke his little head, and say a silent “thank you” for a PICC line that pumps vital nutrition into a vein in his head. I wondered how his difficult start in life will shape his emotions, personality and mind. He has certainly already endured hardship. Knit together in his birth mom’s womb, God allowed this medical condition to occur. It is not without purpose even though Asa won’t remember a moment of it. Still it shapes him. Certainly being born in this state was instrumental in bringing him to our family.
We are grateful.
In a few weeks, Asa will leave the sterile, safe environment of the NICU- the only world he knows- and begin the process of understanding the larger world around him. Just like we could not prevent the condition Asa was born with, we cannot change the fact that the world is a fallen place. It is the duty of our family now to train up Asa and guide him slowly and wisely over time from child- like innocence to a mature young man with a heart that is strong and pure. My deep desire as “Oma” is to see all my grandchildren learn how to stand against the schemes of the “god of this age, our adversary- the deceiver- the ruler of darkness – the father of lies – a roaring lion” – who purposes to manipulate the innocence of children and lure them away from light and into darkness.
I adore the innocence of a newborn, yet I know that this state of innocence, as beautiful as it seems, cannot be maintained. Innocence would leave Asa’s heart vulnerable and weak, easy to entice. Oswald Chambers said that “innocence in a chid’s life is a beautiful thing but men and women ought not to be innocent; they ought to be tested and tried. No man is born pure; purity is the outcome of conflict. The pure man is not the man who has never been tried, but the man who knows about evil and has overcome it.”
Tested and tried– certainly not something we enjoy when it happens to our children. Yet to overcome evil, our children need to know what evil is and learn to stand up against it. The only impenetrable safe guard is a heart that is genuinely changed by Jesus, a heart so in love with Him that evil cannot take hold. We can’t hate evil enough to make it go away. Instead we need to love God enough so that the influence of evil can’t trip us up. We teach our children to love God by first pursuing Him deeply ourselves.
Asa is already learning that being in the arms of his mommy and daddy is comforting and safe. Now with their arms around him, he will begin his own walk of maturity, moving ever so slowly from innocence to purity- learning in the end that the only arms that that truly keep him safe are those of Jesus!
NOTE: I will be expanding this very important topic in the next few blogs.