For the past three weeks of my new daughter’s life I’ve had restless nights, rocking her in my arms in our glider, lulling her back to sleep. I’ve found that these moments are a kind of keeping vigil, watching and waiting patiently for her slumber to return. Yet I find myself so sleepy. It’s hard to keep my eyes open. I hear Jesus saying to me, his friend, to stay awake and keep alert, just as in the Garden. It’s a call to a kind of keen Ignatian attentiveness, to notice not just my baby but my feelings, my emotions, my state of heart. Part of me wishes to pass the time with a book or reading something on my phone. But when my eyes are adjusted to the semi-wakefulness I gaze down at my little baby as her eyes gently close and at her shifting facial expressions as she gets comfortable in my arms. I can’t look away. My father-in-law has sat with her a whole hour, just staring, no agenda. Just gazing with deep, deep love. And I wonder, is this how God gazes upon us? Does God keep vigil for us just as I am keeping vigil for my beloved daughter?
I remember my spiritual director once suggesting to me that I imagine how God feels when God looks at me. I now imagine God holding me in God’s arms while rocking me on a glider, gazing down upon me with a deep but gentle love. In the scriptures there is the tradition of the watchman who would watch protectingly over a city, keeping vigil. “Then the watchman cried, ‘On the watchtower, my Lord, I stand constantly by day; And I stay at my post through all the watches of the night.'” (Isaiah 21:8).
I am a watchman, standing at my fatherly post, watching, waiting patiently, being attentive of all the signs of God as I hold my baby daughter. As I keep this holy vigil I am aware of God in the stillness and the darkness, and even in the small whimpers I hear coming from my child. And as I sit here I recognise that I have become a manifestation of God for my daughter. I am teaching her the patient care and the loving gaze God has for all of us. And I am learning that this is the way of our loving God, who is with us in the bright of day, with us in the dark of night, and with us as we cry. I’ve been told many times that parenthood would change me. I knew that God’s love has always been paralleled to a parent’s love. I knew that there would be moments where I recognised that change, that newness. This was one of those privileged and graced moments. God has used my new vocation as a parent to open the eyes of my understanding wider. God has revealed the reality of God’s self to me just a little bit more.
What a blessed life it is.
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thank you for this. Utterly timely.
How beautiful was this
Beautiful words! Congratulations, Andy on your daughter?
I echo the previous comments about the beauty of your essay. I share your understanding that parents are a child’s first representation of God. My children are adults, and I still pursue that vocation. I seek greater awareness of that same calling for the wider human family to which I also belong.
She is beautiful, Andy. Those night vigils are some of the most precious times in life. Thanks for sharing yours and helping me remember.
Mary Ann Gessner
So beautifully written and such a lovely and simple reminder of God’s presence in all things and his love for each individual.
Beautiful. Thanks Andy for sharing that. May the Lord walk with you and your new young family. God bless you all.
I’ll bet Dorothy Day’s conversion after Tamar was born makes perfect sense to you now. 🙂 Keep this Ignatian mindfulness in your parenting role and you will find the ongoing conversion of faith is breath-taking! Thanks for sharing!
I am 61 years old. I lost my beloved dad 11 years ago. Because he manifested God’s unconditional love for me, my faith is more deeply rooted than most. I am able to give what I receive. The gift of a father in God to a daughter is, indeed, a grace. I learn that more daily as I am transformed, offering myself and all I have to God to do with as God pleases. Grace is unearned. I am so grateful for every grace. Your column today reminds me of the great grace of God manifested through God’s faithfulness servant, my father. Thank you. And thank you for doing the same for your daughter. She and you and your families are blessed in ways you will all be excited by and grateful for, always. God bless.