Last September, my husband and I brought home our baby girl after a long season of waiting to have a child.
Amidst the joy and sweetness our baby brought to our home, we also quickly found our daily routines turned upside down. In response, we found ourselves daily assessing her eating, sleeping, and overall behaviour as “good” or “bad.” Family, friends, or complete strangers in the grocery store also frequently asked, “Is she a good baby?” My responses were mixed: some days were good; some were bad.
The good days were ones where I got several consecutive hours of sleep, an uninterrupted nap, and accomplished several household chores. On these days, I felt content and happy to serve my family. The bad days were ones where the baby fussed, had no discernable eating or sleeping schedule, and generally inconvenienced my plans. On these days, I felt discontent and grumpy in serving my family.
On one of the bad days, as I was rehearsing in my mind all the things that hadn’t gone right, the Spirit brought a twofold conviction to my heart: firstly, that my baby (with all of her needs) is a perfect gift from the Lord and a reason to be thankful and content every day; and secondly, that joyfully laying my life down for her is exactly how God in Christ has loved me.
As I pondered this correction, I realized that the words I was using were inherently self-focused. Truthfully, my baby wasn’t any more “good” when she slept through the night than when she woke often and needed me. She wasn’t any more “bad’ when she wanted to be held instead of laid down. Calling her behaviour good or bad at this stage of her life revealed the selfishness of my heart more than it accurately described her behaviour. As she grows older, there will certainly be sinful (“bad”) behaviour to correct, but her newborn needs don’t yet fall into that category.
As the Lord convicted me of my sinful attitude, I was struck by the realization of how deeply this way of thinking permeates our culture. This is rather unsurprising in a time when many couples avoid marrying or having children altogether for the sake of career or financial independence. The idolatry of self often dictates family planning and also forms the foundation for calling our babies good or bad, depending on the degree to which they detract from our personal comforts and goals. While common, this perspective is profoundly anti-Christian.
The Way of Christ
The following words from the apostle Paul have served as the gospel antidote to my selfish attitude and speech:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:3-8)
Having the humble, servant-hearted mind of Christ as a parent of a newborn manifests itself in cheerful willingness to change many diapers, get out of bed for the fourth time in a night, or hold and rock a fussing infant. Surely, these unrelenting needs tax a parent’s patience and energy, but Paul tells us that the God-honoring mindset we need has already been given to us in Christ. Because of Christ, we are enabled to put off old, selfish ways of thinking that categorize another’s needs as “bad,” and put on new, servant-hearted ways of thinking that respond to needs with readiness and joy.
Parenting will always be physically and emotionally taxing but this biblical reminder can transform how we respond to each dirty diaper, whining complaint, and act of disobedience. It is Christlike humility that enables us to parent with joyful hearts, whether or not our children nap on schedule or we accomplish our to-do lists. We have a Savior who gladly laid down his life for us: how can we not lay our lives down for the children with whom the Lord has blessed us?
The truth is that for those who are in Christ, “good” days are those that give us opportunities to lay our lives down for the sake of others, including the ones who have no idea just how much they need us.