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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