Lessons from the Rocking Chair, Part One

I do not understand God’s infinite love. I accept it theologically, I understand it theoretically, and I am certainly grateful for it personally. But I do not understand it. I cannot wrap my head around it one bit.

Such were my thoughts the other night as I tried (futilely) to rock S. to sleep. His sleep and nap schedule had been off for a few days, and I’d expected him to be a little fussy when we tried to put him down for the night. But I wasn’t prepared for the kind of screaming-thrashing-wailing that we hadn’t seen for months, when he was sleeping poorly day and night. After a jolly bathtime with his dad and some quiet nursing with his mom, I figured the gentle sounds of his nighttime music would soothe him to dreamland as they did every night. But his eyes fluttered open suddenly, and his mouth screwed up, and he started to kick in every direction as he screamed. I shushed, I rocked, I sang. I cuddled, I rocked harder, sang louded, snuggled closer. The minutes ticked by and by on the clock, and after almost half an hour, he finally started to relax and drift back to sleep. “Yessssss,” I slyly congratulated myself. “I outlasted him.”

So I slowly eased myself out of the rocking chair, tiptoed over to his crib with all the stealthy silence of a trained hunter, and gently rolled him onto his mattress. I was done; dinner was waiting; the rest of the evening was mine. I turned to the door, when suddenly – WAHHHHHHHHHHH – and the sound of baby arching his back to roll over in angry protest. Did I turn back in love? Did I respond to obvious distress with greater compassion? Did I summon up the best of a mothering spirit and comfort my child?

No. I wrenched open the door, stomped down the hallway as his wails followed me, and hollered to the kitchen, “I NEED REINFORCEMENTS.” F. was already bounding up the stairs – “I got this one; no worries” – as my grumpy storm cloud and I skulked to the kitchen where I proceeded to polish off most of a bag of tortilla chips out of sheer frustration, waiting for him to join me as the dinner grew cold on the stove.

Not my best, gold-star parenting moment. Although, in hindsight, I did ask for help when I needed it (one of my own pieces of advice I’m trying to follow) and I recognized when I had hit my limits (another healthy insight). My own yelling and afore-mentioned pounding of the Tostitos probably didn’t help the situation, but that’s where F’s incredible patience and true partnership in this parenting venture came into play. (Belated thanks to you for that one.)

But back to the incomprehensibleness of God’s infinite love. So as I was sitting there earlier, rocking-rocking-rocking for the better part of a half hour, I started thinking about how S’s protests against the very things I knew were good for him – sleep, milk, a mother’s love – were much like my own protests against God’s desires for me. Just as S’s chubby baby arms pounded my chest, so too I had fought back against God more times than I can count – “I don’t want this; don’t ask me to do that; give me this instead; I want that.” And God, in God’s infinite wisdom, drew me even closer in love, didn’t relent one bit. Simply smiled and never lost patience. (Certainly never screamed for reinforcements for another person of the Trinity to step in and then went off sulking to binge on potato chips.)

This is what blows my mind open about God. There is never a let-down in God’s love for us, no matter how horribly we act or sin or protest or refuse God’s very self. There is only the quiet persistence of infinite love. It has always been and will always be, and even the worst person we can think of exists within God’s eternal and freely given offer of love. I do not understand this one iota and I’m not sure I ever will.

In my best moments, I can emulate this love. I can hug my child tighter through his screams or pick the toy up off the floor for the zillionth time despite my aching back or attend to the sudden cry in the night that wakes me from a delicious sleep. But I always fall short. I always have to try again, to start the next morning with the declaration that I Will Do Better Today. All of my best efforts combined make up only the faintest shadow of God’s love for me and for every other person on this earth.

And that, I can only wonder at, try to wrap my head around.

2 thoughts on “Lessons from the Rocking Chair, Part One

  1. Beautiful words. I don’t have a child so don’t have the direct correlation to make about rocking her to sleep. Nevertheless, I remember having to do the same with one of the children I babysat. We’d walk through the house with me singing “Amazing Grace,” “The Servant Song,” “You Are My Sunshine,” “Mystery” (from IG, of course). She’d cry, so tired and so resistant. And how beautiful the relief when finally she drifted off.

    You quote Psalm 131 in one of your earlier posts. It’s one of my favorites because it speaks precisely to this instinct we have. We thrash, we wail, we claw. This is our pride. But to be “calm and peaceful,” this is where God is calling us. Yes.

  2. Not that any of us can ever understand a love so endless and so effortless, but you are moving in the right direction. As is Sammy when he exercises lungs and limbs with such vigor.

    Love,

    Dad

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *