Because I am the youngest of eight, my parents and siblings have referred to me as the baby ever since I can remember.
I have ten kids. I have changed thousands of diapers, spent over a hundred hours in labor and been pregnant for approximately seven years of my life. But no matter what I do, to them I will always be the baby. I have never understood it. Until Hope came along.
It could be because I had her when I was closer to 50 than 40. Or maybe it's that the whole family dotes on her. (She's everybody's baby, I often say.) Or it might even be because she is probably my last one. But there is just something about that baby that makes me want to keep her, well, a baby.
At her 15 month check up back in March I sheepishly explained to the pediatrician why she is not yet walking: Because she has so many people who carry her around, I said, we don't put her down long enough for her to learn how to walk. And my friend who is a physical therapist confirmed it during an impromptu evaluation. Hope just needs to get her balance, she said.
Then I felt compelled to defend why she is still drinking a bottle. I have two trips planned during the month of April, you see, and the bottle sure keeps her quiet. (People on airplanes like quiet babies.) As soon May comes, I will get her off that bottle.
It was true. I took her to Vermont when I spoke at a women's breakfast. Then just two weeks later we went to Memphis to see my family. That's when it hit me: Hope is not a baby.
The first day we were in Memphis, she was content to sit in my lap and drink her bottle. (That's the way I like it.) But she soon had to be part of the action. By the next day her second cousin Henry, just six months older, showed her how to climb and push little trucks across the window sill.
And since we've been home, her siblings agree she is older, more mature, less like a baby. Sigh. I guess it's time.
I have stretched Hope's infancy out as far as it will go. But now I have to let her, help her, equip her, to move on.
The Christian life is like that. Content to sit and watch, we resist growth, change, or anything that stretches our faith. But, unlike the way I have babied Hope, the Heavenly Father won't let us remain as infants. He will do what He has to do to help us grow, move on and find our balance.
And when He does, just like Hope, maturity is certain.
For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil.
Hebrews 5: 13-14