Our baby boy turned two last weekend – how did that happen?
These days are so precious. So often we wish we could put these smiles, these giggles, these slobbery kisses, these first clumsy sentences, these wide-eyed looks of wonder, these “firsts” in a little box for safe keeping. Our boy is so trusting, so cuddly, so affectionate, so dependent, so cute – so childlike. We’ve lost count of the number of times people have told us to “enjoy him” now before he grows up, because the time flies and they don’t stay tiny for very long.
Already he’s grown up so much, and there’s so much that we’ve forgotten. If it wasn’t for video clips, photos and blog posts of milestones then we would have forgotten even more. As we sort out his old clothes ready for baby number two, we think “how was he ever that small?” And as we watch him sleep in his cot, face crunched-up on the mattress and breathing deeply, we think “I don’t ever want you to grow up, I wish you could stay this small forever.”
But let’s face it, the days where our children can fit their entire body on our laps, or have dimples in their chubby hands, or squeal with excitement when they see us come through the front door are limited. It’s sad, but c’est la vie! The natural thing is for children to grow up into adulthood and to perhaps one day have babies of their own – and then we get the joy all over again! But this time with grandchildren.
But as Christians we can have even more of a consolation than just hoping for grandchildren one day. We believe that all people are immortal, that we have eternal souls, and that we all live forever – how mind boggling is that!
As C.S. Lewis once wisely said in his book, ‘The Weight of Glory’:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”
How extraordinary! Our little blonde toddler will not just hopefully one day be a man; able to structure nuanced arguments, develop a career and shepherd his own family – but little Reuben is immortal! Our consolation and our hope is that Reuben’s heavenly glory will exceed any worldly ambitions that we can have for him – for God willing, if he trusts in Jesus, one day he will be transformed into the very image of Christ.
“I declare to you, brothers and sisters, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.”
1 Corinthians 15:50-52
Wow – how that changes our perspective! It gives Reuben (and us all) immeasurable dignity and purpose. And it helps us to remember that as we go about life doing ordinary human things, we are either helping or hindering Reuben to get to his heavenly destination. What a responsibility, but what an amazing privilege too! It radically redefines our view of parenting. (Though let’s not forget – it’s all ultimately down to God’s grace, not us!)
But this gospel truth that we are eternal beings works deeply in our own hearts too. So, as we watch our little boy sleep in his cot, face crunched-up on the mattress and breathing deeply, we may be tempted to think “I don’t ever want you to grow up, I wish you could stay this small forever.” But then we remember that while this is a lovely stage, staying like this forever is not truly want we want for him. Thanks to Jesus, what is to come is immeasurably better.