Over the summer I took portraits of a young couple and their adorable, 18-month-old son. On our drive to a nearby public garden the little guy fell asleep in the car so I decided first to take pictures of mom and dad while the boy's aunt remained with him in the car. Strolling through the tranquil garden we settled upon the perfect backdrop; a picturesque dock extending into a glass-calm lake. Geese gracefully floated by. Sunlight sparkled off the deep blue water. All in all, it took about five minutes to capture some stunning portraits of the couple.
Jokingly I said to them, "You two look so peaceful; just sit still. I'll go get your son, slip him on your laps, and we'll be done in no time." Of course we all knew better and shared a healthy chuckle at the idea of being able to simply "slip" a child into the scene without unsettling the existing composition. The point was adequately proven as it took four adults another hour and a half to obtain first-rate portraits of Mr. Adorable.
Like the presence of children, it seems to me that the Lord God's presence in our lives is often unsettling. We want the Lord to come into our lives, to sit nicely and quietly, not disturbing our pre-existing plans, ideals, and methods. In short, we want the Lord to behave. But the Lord God does not sit quietly. Like an 18-month-old child, the Lord is always on the move. Like handfuls of rocks thrown into glassy calm water the Lord often uses disturbing events to catch our attention and to stop us from being so self-contented. Even a quick read through the Beatitudes or the lives of people like Moses, the Old Testament prophets, St. Paul, and many of the saints reveals that the Lord almost seems to delight in paradoxical events that turn our worlds upside down.
I am especially in tune with the unanticipated things of life because we recently were surprised to find ourselves expecting Bratton Baby 6! Unlike the couple that was waiting on the dock, the gift of a sixth child was not at all what my husband or I were expecting at this time in our lives, and, speaking frankly, I've been angry with the Lord, struggling to understand this sudden curveball.
As the initial shock has passed, however, I've been thinking that it's really not Bratton Baby 6 who is unexpected, it's the Lord Who is, yet again, working in an unexpected way. Commenting on the Lord's unexpected methods author John Shea writes, "Martha (the biblical sister of Mary) welcomed Jesus into her home. Her home is not merely her house, her physical dwelling. It is her whole way of thinking and acting. In order to make Martha's home the Lord's dwelling, the Lord will have to correct the way Martha thinks and acts. But this correction is not unwanted criticism. She asked the Lord in; and although what follows will not be what she expects, it will be what she invited."
My husband and I invited the Lord into our married lives on our wedding day. Having heard a knock, we opened the door, welcomed Jesus in, and gave him permission to be the Lord of our joint life. Nonetheless, like Martha, we were not at all prepared for such a bold houseguest as Jesus has turned out to be. Twenty weeks of pregnancy have shown me, once again, just how I love my own will, worship my own plans, and adore being in control of my own destiny, but also just how badly the Lord God wants me to refocus, to love, worship, and adore only him.
For me, having Baby 6 is a dramatic, life-changing, re-focusing event. Being in tune with the unexpected, however, I've become more aware of the Lord's refocusing others' lives through unexpected, often more heartrending events. I spoke with a father of four whose wife died of cancer only eight months after being diagnosed, cried with the mother of three whose husband took on a mistress, sent an encouraging note to a father of eight who couldn't find a job, and e-mailed with a missionary who was forced to leave the mission field due to illness. It wasn't until this past Sunday at Mass, however, when I reached out during the Our Father to hold the hand of a young girl next to me, only to feel a smooth stump at the end of her wrist, that I suffered true shame at my questioning anger with the Lord over the unexpected nature of this pregnancy. For the first time my self-righteous heart was broken and I whispered, "Oh, dear Lord, who am I to question? Please, give me a new heart. Make it as graceful and as accepting of my life as the one you've given this beautiful young girl."
In one sense Bratton Baby 6 changes everything about the predictable portrait of life I had imagined and was expecting for my husband and me and our five children. In another sense it's not the baby at all, but the One I call Lord who has unexpectedly changed everything, and it is I who invited him to do it.