Hoping against hope, [Abraham] believed that he would become "the father of many nations," according to what was said, "So numerous shall your descendants be." He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah's womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
My oldest daughter took her first college tour while she was home for Spring Break. She is a junior in high school, so things are starting to feel awfully real when it comes to college, and I try to follow her lead on the frequency and intensity with which we discuss her various options. My tendency toward optimism stresses her out for some reason, so I back off whenever possible. For instance, I agreed to forfeit my place on the tour and let her go solo. I did, however, insist on walking with her to the admissions office.
The receptionist checked her in for the tour and then nodded politely as I introduced myself and explained our change of plans. She looked at her screen (ostensibly at the reservation that included my information) and then back up at me, over at my daughter, back to me, and blinked. I knew what was coming before it left her mouth.
"I'm sorry, I was confused. You don't look old enough to be her mother!"
My daughter and I laughed it off, and I said, "We get that all the time. I assure you I am plenty old enough to be her mother, but thank you for making me feel younger than I am!"
I looked adoringly at my girl, and she fake-smiled back with the slightly widened eyes that mean, "Get lost, lady!" I told her to call me when she was done, and I walked out into a beautiful spring afternoon, thinking about my little girl who is not little at all anymore.
I was young when I had her, though I bristle when people tell me I don't look old enough to be her mother. I got married at 21, and she was born nine months after our first anniversary. Lest you think some fumble with birth control contributed to her existence, I swear by the informative articles on conception featured on Babycenter.com that she absolutely was not a surprise.
Well . . . she might not have been a surprise to us, but when her father and I made our phone calls after the plus sign showed up on each of the five pregnancy tests I took, let's just say we got a lot of "WHAT?! YOU ARE?!? THAT'S . . . GREAT!" Nothing could have dampened my enthusiasm, but in hindsight I do have more understanding for the people who expressed some reservations. (Which, as an aside, if anyone ever tells you they're pregnant, just say you're happy for them; the horse is already out of the barn, asking them if they're really ready for parenthood comes across as a little tone deaf at that point.) We drove hand-me-down cars and lived in a one-bedroom apartment. Less than six months before we decided to have a baby, I worked two jobs so my ex-husband could take the summer classes he needed to finish his finance degree. We earned enough to pay our bills, but we definitely lived month-to-month. People also had their doubts about the lasting power of the marriage, and as it turned out, they were right to be worried. In that moment, though, we were crazy kids in love with each other and hopeful enough about our future to want a child to share it with us.
After she was born, I remember cradling my daughter in my arms and walking up the sidewalk to the apartment one afternoon when a thought struck me with such force it literally knocked me backwards: being a mother is the reason I was born. I knew she had changed every single thing about the life I thought I would lead--and I also knew that the new path was far better for us than anything I could ever dream up on my own. I realized then how I had floundered my way through the stages leading up to that moment, always trying to please and/or impress people with a list of accomplishments and ambitions, and it finally registered that not one bit of it mattered to me in the same way as that chubby hand curled around my little finger while she nursed; or the grin that released streams of drool down her chin when she learned to stand by pulling up on the back of our sleeping basset hound; the blue eyes so different from my brown; the bedtime stories and homemade baby food and hours in the Baby Bjorn because I couldn't bear to put her down. As she grew, I grew with her. Not through her, mind you, but with her. Every step of the way.
Since they were too old to have children, Abraham and Sarah faced the opposite common sense challenge to their conviction that they would bring forth innumerable descendants, but I think we could have commiserated about people's reactions to us having babies. Can you even have a baby? Is it really a good idea? Are you sure you can handle this? It's such a huge responsibility when you're so young/old. Do you really need to have a baby now? And the unspoken question underlying all the others: ARE YOU NUTS?!
But faith is funny like that. If I had listened to those voices, I would have a much different life right now. I'm sure it would be a good one, too, with other joys. But it wouldn't be this one, with these three faces that delight and amaze and frustrate the hell out of me every day. At age 40, I have almost two decades of experience in knowing exactly what it means to put someone else's needs before my own. I have almost two decades of working to know and love another human being for who they are at this moment as well as holding space for who they might become. I have almost two decades of experience with fevers that won't break and homework that brings everyone to tears and forgotten snacks and field trip forms and all the minutiae that comes with raising children. I am so glad we took the risk of having children when we did. It might seem crazy to onlookers, but it made (and still makes) complete sense to me.
Having children isn't the bold step of faith everyone is called to take, but the same analysis applies to other convictions which seem to fly in the face of reasonable expectations. Holding yourself back from taking a risk on something you feel called to do is a mistake, even if other people pat you on the back and say, "I'm glad you came to your senses." Other people might (and probably will) dismiss certain things as crazy, but sometimes that's your best clue that it's exactly what you need to be doing. Be honest and diligent in doing the work of discernment, and then be bold. Even if other people think you're nuts.
(I'm not the first person to think of this, either.)
After the tour, we stopped at the bookstore, and I waited as my daughter debated the respective merits of the sweatshirt, the long-sleeved t-shirt, or the running shorts. We walked to the parking lot past a building where I took her for music class the summer before she turned two (which was where I learned the chirpy "Good Morning!" song I use to annoy my son into motion most days). I see how far she has come--how far we've both come--and I look forward to seeing where she goes next. God's promises are there for her just like they are there for me, just like they were there for Abraham and Sarah, just like they are there for you. May we all have faith to claim them, even when it seems nuts to do so.
Mother, photographer, writer. Expert in making things up as she goes and figuring things out along the way.