“I can’t do this!”
Those were the words I repeated over and over in that labor and delivery room. Days ago I had prepared for this moment, practicing with my husband all the positive mantras I would repeat when the labor pains would come upon me, but they were lost to my memory now. Sweating, panting, groaning, shaking, now all I could say was: “I can’t!”
“Yes, you can!” my husband assured me softly. “You already are doing this!” the midwife added gently.
Fast forward a couple hours and my tiny, wrinkly baby is lying in my arms. Forget my aching, bleeding body—my heart is surging more alive than ever with a new love, protectiveness and eagerness and tenderness and hopefulness all meshed together, a force strong enough to knock the breath out of me. I pull him close and gaze fixedly on his face. I feel his warm, soft skin. This is the one I carried inside me for months on end. The one I had dreamed about for so long. The extension of my very self, here in my arms, so small and helpless and fragile.
I feel suddenly afraid. Looking at him, I realize I am fragile, too.
Can I do this?
The love of God is greater far
Than tongue or pen can ever tell…
The hymn is playing softly from our little portable speaker. Now I turn it up.
Oh, love of God, how rich and pure!
How measureless and strong!
It shall forevermore endure—
The saints’ and angels’ song.
I hit the Repeat button. And I lay there, a long time, holding my newborn baby, listening to this song over and over.
Can I do this? I ask myself. Is my heart strong enough to love such a fragile bundle? Can I handle the worry, the hurting, the aching my heart would do for this boy, not just today but for the rest of my life?
The reality is—I can’t do this.
I can never shield this boy from all the sharp edges of this broken world. I can’t close his ears to mean things people will say, I can’t give him a life free of disappointment, I can’t keep him from pain. And walking with this boy, helping him grow up, my heart will break, little cracks certainly and big pieces perhaps, as I feel with and for him all of life.
Like Mary, I ponder these things in my heart.
And I listen to this song again and again, meditating and worshiping the God of love. I’m comforted to realize that what I can’t do, He has already done. I can’t provide for my son’s every need or satisfy his every desire, but God can. I can’t heal his heart from pain, but God can. I can’t always be there and I will fail him—but God’s love endures forever.
What a God! He is vigorously and relentlessly pursuing the good of His people in all power and for all eternity. And it is because I am covered head to toe in this divine love that I can love others, and pour myself out unreseveredly, and risk all heartbreak. If for love’s sake my heart breaks, it will fall a thousand pieces into His hands, those hands that were pierced for me, broken to make me whole. If for love’s sake my heart breaks, then I am only brought closer to the heart of God, only plunging deeper the depths of His love ocean. We, fragile beings, can love other fragile beings, because we are upheld by this greater, stronger, beyond-comprehension love.
I kiss my little son’s forehead. I gaze at my husband sprawled exhausted on the little hospital room couch. Faces of all those friends and family members so loved flood my mind and the kind lady coming in to take our trash smiles at me.
You can love.
For though we are fragile, He is strong. Sing of His love, His measureless love, again and again. And carry on.