Let me tell you a story about my daughter. Mind, this is not THE story about my daughter; there will be (Lord willing) many more (and more interesting) to come. But it is the first one, and since she is not able to tell it, that job falls to me.
This particular story starts a while ago– back in December. No… actually let’s start further back. I don’t want to make this all about me, but you need to understand from the start that I really, really wanted a little girl. Years ago, when Rachel and I were pregnent with our first, before we knew the sex of my son David, if you had asked me what I hoped for, my answer would have been a girl. I grew up with two sisters who were quite a bit younger than me, see, and I’ve always thought (and continue to think) they are the bee’s knees. Little girls were a known quantity; although I had of course been a little boy myself I wasn’t totally sure I knew how to raise one.
(For the record, once I found out I would have a son I was delighted with that prospect, and David is a constant source of pride and joy for me).
But anyway, when we found out we were pregnant again, I still wanted a girl. If you had asked me why, I couldn’t tell you. Not all desires are strictly rational.
Ok, so with that in mind, let’s return to early December. Rachel was 26 weeks pregnant with our daughter (joy of joys!) when we got some troubling news. Because of complications during her pregnancy with David (and his early birth), Rachel had been seeing a special doctor for high risk cases. On one visit, during a routine ultrasound, the doctor discovered that her cervix had shortened to one centimeter, when it had been four centimeters just four weeks before. She’d also begun having contractions. In short, without being too technical, she was very near to giving birth.
This would, of course, have been dangerously early. David had been tiny and had needed a brief NICU stay at one month early (delivered via emergency c-section)– The beginning of December was a solid four months before our due date. The doctor sent Rachel to the hospital immediately, where she was hooked up to IVs and machines that measured her contractions and the baby’s heart rate for signs of distress. She remained in the hospital for a week, then was sent home on strict bedrest.
She could sit on the couch or lie in bed, but for the foreseeable future her primary job was to cook that baby inside her. She wasn’t to be on her feet doing much of anything, as any activity could potentially trigger her body into delivery mode. This would of course prove very difficult with me at work and an active little boy to care for.
Here’s where one of the coolest parts of this story comes in– the love and support we received from family and friends. The bulk of the load was carried by ladies from our church who came into our home pretty much every day on a rotating schedule– to cook and clean and care for David, to provide comfort and company to Rachel, to drive her back and forth to doctors and midwives and chiropractors. Honestly, without their care, I’m not sure how we would have gotten through those months. This is one of the clearest times in my life that I’ve witnessed the local church acting as the hands and feet of Christ; the way the body came together for us, to pray but also to offer practical help, was fantastic.
Christmas came and went, as did New Years. January passed, then February. The baby continued to grow, as did Rachel’s belly. Our daughter stayed inside much longer and thrived in ways that exceeded all our expectations. She grew to double the size David had been when he was born. She remained in the womb so long and so well that the medical professionals, contrary to worrying about keeping her inside, began to talk about inducing labor.
Last Monday, at 5:55 AM, after a total of about four hours of labor and only about 25 minutes of hard pushing from Rachel, our daughter entered the world: No c-section (which would have been statistically more likely after the first one), no NICU stay, no severe complications. Only a healthy (tired, sore) woman and a healthy, 9 lb 12 oz 21 inch little girl.
Next month, just a couple days before Easter, the Jewish Passover begins. We are not Jewish by ethnicity, but without getting super-theological here, the Christian faith owes a huge debt to the Jewish tradition (cue Father Abraham song). I grew up celebrating the Passover Seder meal, and plan to continue the tradition with my own family when my kids are big enough to understand what’s going on. For those unfamiliar, the ceremonial Seder dinner uses special foods and a script (called a haggadah) to recall the story of how God freed the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. It also ties to the Christian celebration of Easter, as many of the elements of the meal can be seen as prophetic parallels to the death and resurrection of Jesus Himself (including His famous last supper assertion that the bread and wine were His own body and blood, and His command to “do this in remembrance of me.”)
There are four different important toasts (or cups) included in the meal, in which participants drink wine to remember and/or comment on different parts of the story. One of these is a song called Dayenu (pronounced die-ay-new), a Hebrew word that can be roughly translated to mean “It would have been enough.” The Dayenu toast is a means to reflect on God’s continual blessing upon His people, the simple fact that, being God, He doesn’t owe us anything but that He gives anyway– graciously, generously, abundantly. The way this appears in the Passover meal is basically a recitation of the things God did for His chosen people– after each step, the word Dayenu is repeated. It looks something like this:
If He had brought us out of Egypt, Dayenu
If He had executed justice upon the Egyptians, Dayenu
If He had executed justice upon their gods, Dayenu
If He had slain their first-born, Dayenu
If He had given to us their health and wealth, Dayenu
If He had split the sea for us, Dayenu
If He had led us through on dry land, Dayenu
If He had drowned our oppressors, Dayenu
If He had provided for our needs in the wilderness for 40 years, Dayenu
If He had fed us manna, Dayenu
If He had given us Shabbat, Dayenu
If He had led us to Mount Sinai, Dayenu
If He had given us the Torah, Dayenu
If He had brought us into the Land of Israel, Dayenu
If He built the Temple for us, Dayenu.
Applying this thinking to my own life leads me to a state of amazement about how good the Lord has been to me and my family. I can add more and more to my list, which includes, but is not limited to, the following:
If He had created this good world full of joy and mystery and wonder and fun, Dayenu
If He had provided my daily, physical needs, Dayenu
If He had given Himself in order to simultaneously satisfy justice and provide forgiveness for my sins, Dayenu
If He had given me Rachel, Dayenu
If He had surrounded me with good friends and a loving family, Dayenu
If He had led me to an fulfilling and interesting job that matches my interests and skills, Dayenu
If He had given me a son, Dayenu
If He had given me a daughter, Dayenu.
God is good, and when I look at my strong, healthy, beautiful little girl with a head of dark hair like her mother’s, I am struck to my very soul with once-again-fresh knowledge of His goodness. Her name is Dayenu, because even if God stopped blessing me and my family, here and now, it would be enough.
But of course, He won’t stop. He doesn’t. Not ever. In Romans 8:38-39, the apostle Paul writes, ““For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is, of course, the greatest gift of all, and even if all else were stripped away, it would be enough. Dayenu.
Blessed are you, oh Lord our God, King of the universe, who gives, and gives, and gives, even (and especially) when we don’t deserve it.