When I heard that small cry, I threw the bed sheets off and flew across the room. I couldn't sleep anyway. My body was hyper-aware of the little life laying just a few feet away. I wasn't used to having anyone dependent on me to meet all of their needs. That night, however, I was taking care of the baby born to a teenage girl I had met on a Chicago train just a couple months earlier.
I picked up that precious boy and held him close, rocking him back and forth and hoping he would fall back asleep so I could do the same. My thumb traced the tiny and perfectly designed features of his face and I got a lump in my throat. This little life, born to a 17-year old orphan, single mom, with no family, no money and no home. This little life, one month old, defenseless and vulnerable to the world around him. This little life, here in my arms for but a short time.
As his little hand clung to my finger and his crying calmed for a moment, I couldn’t help but think of Christ - God, who took on flesh and became a baby. A baby a lot like the one I held in my arms. A baby born into a poor family. A baby born to a teenage mother who had nothing figured out. A baby born a cultural outcast. A baby defenseless, dependent and vulnerable to the decisions of a young mom and her husband, and their world.
A baby whose cries were the sound of Love come down.
The cries of the one in my arms grew louder. I fed him his bottle filled with the off-brand formula his mom picked up at WIC and cringed at the sharp and potent smell. He deserved better. She deserved better. As the bottle emptied, his heavy eyelids began to close. So, I laid on the couch, placed him on my chest, and covered him with a blanket. His tiny little body finally relaxed and fell asleep. We laid there like that for hours. It was the only way he would stay asleep. So, I just rubbed his back and prayed over the baby in my arms.
“May the Lord bless you and keep you.
May the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord shine his countenance upon you and give you peace.”
I whispered that Numbers 6:24 blessing over and over again, committing the fatherless child to his heavenly Father.
Some time later, I awoke to the sound of his snoring - still in a deep sleep on my chest. The sun peeked through the snow-filled clouds and his little body rose and fell with the rhythm of my breathing. It was Sunday. The second Sunday of Advent and the day I would return him to his mother. I dreaded it and wished I could keep him in my arms forever.
We got dressed and went to church. Then it was time to drive the little boy, and a piece of my heart, to his temporary home. When we arrived, something felt off - she wasn’t as friendly or open as she had been the day before. So, we cautiously made our way into the empty apartment. A lonely couch and a pan full of chicken on the stove were the only indications the place was lived in.
I placed him back in the arms of his 17-year-old mother and heard shuffling coming from the bathroom. His mom glanced nervously at the bathroom door. Whoever they were staying with was hiding there. It was unsettling. I made sure she was safe and then it was clear that I needed to go. It tore me apart to leave this baby - vulnerable to whatever decisions his inexperienced, young mother and the people she associated herself with made.
I backed out of the driveway and my vision blurred as tears spilled down my face and burned my eyes. I had to slow down and collect myself so I could see the road in front of me. I realized that the ache I felt in my heart was longing; longing for Christ to return as King and fully redeem the brokenness of the world He came to save as a baby.
My Savior - a baby.
My Savior was born in a stable because there was no room for him anywhere else. He was rejected by the community he grew up in. And he was beaten and crucified by the very ones he served and made himself vulnerable to. Even today he continues to be rejected by the ones he laid down his life for. My Savior has been there. He can empathize with that small boy more than I ever could. He grieves the brokenness of this world and the boy’s situation more deeply than I ever could. My Savior empathizes with that child because he was like that child. My Savior grieves with me because he experienced the same brokenness that I was tasting. But my Savior died so that the broken souls living in this broken world might be mended and made whole.
He died so that we might be adopted into sonship.
The snow cleared up and so did my tears. With a sense of gratitude, I understood that though it was painful, turning my attention to the little, the vulnerable, the forgotten - the dented - in the season of advent would always be a gift. Because the greatest Gift came in the form of the little, the vulnerable and the forgotten, as a representation of beauty and hope and love in a dented world.
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