Nine months ago, sometime in the summer, God gave us a child. For “baby,” we begged God first to sustain life and then to give life. The first kind of life for which we prayed was earthly health: Develop baby’s body, Lord. Kidneys cannot contour themselves. The second kind of life for which we prayed was eternal salvation: And then save baby’s soul. Apart from God, sinners are as hopeless as kidneys.
Four months ago, late in the fall, baby became “boy.” All the prayers we had prayed, we had been praying for a firstborn son. A couple hours after the baby-to-boy ultrasound, I found myself before God with new words for the same plea: Develop our son’s body, Lord, and then turn him into our brother.
God did not give us a boy that we ultimately might raise a son. God gave us a boy that, when all is said and done — diapers long gone, toddler clothes outgrown, growth spurts hit, teenage trophies boxed — we might have raised a brother.
Parents Turned Siblings
By this I do not mean, “God wants us to raise our boy to become a good older brother to his future siblings.” Of course God desires this, as do we, but there is a more profound brotherhood to which God calls his creatures.
Here is what I mean: Above being husband and wife, above being new parents, T. J. and I are brother and sister of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He is our perfect elder brother (Romans 8:29). No sweeter or higher relation exists in our lives. We love and need to fix our eyes upon the Son’s happy obedience to our Father, that we might live likewise.
How does the Father call us, as his children, to parent our son? In all our parenting, he commands us not to coerce our son into good behavior and proper manners — but to compel him unto faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our perfect elder brother. Only then will our son become our brother, a fellow child of God (John 1:12). And only then will our deepest parental longing be met, our most repeated prayer on behalf of our boy answered.
Powerless People Pray
How the longing needs to be prayed, the prayer repeated! It’s an impossible request, the business of turning sons into brothers. If Nicodemus were to overhear the entreaty, surely he would wonder, “How can a mother’s son be made into her brother? Can he enter into his grandmother’s womb?” (John 3:4, reworded). No, of course not — but he can be born again (John 3:5), adopted into the family of God (Galatians 4:5–7).
As with physical birth, neither believing parents nor unbelieving children have a lick of control over family-wide spiritual regeneration. (Though determined moms may like to think we can superintend both kinds of birth!) Only the saving work of a heavenly Father can turn parents’ biological son into their spiritual brother. “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). There is hope for powerless parents. We have the ear of a powerful God.
We had his ear during the first eight weeks of my pregnancy, praying and praying we would see a black-and-white heartbeat at our first prenatal appointment. We did. We had his ear during the next four weeks as we asked God to protect “baby” from the still-high risk of miscarriage. He did. We had his ear for still another eight weeks while pleading for fully-formed, rightly-placed organs and limbs. They were.
But the fact that our prayers have been answered so far does not prove we have his ear. God, in his word, proves it: “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer” (1 Peter 3:12). We know God has heard us because God has told us that he will always hear us. He is our perfect heavenly Father, ever-listening to the children whom he loves.
Every Child’s Greatest Need
Confident of our Father’s attentive love, my husband and I will not cease to lay bear our longings for our child. We will continue to pray for God to arrange his atoms aright — but what good is earthly health if he has not eternal life? What gain is there in raising a son for a lifetime if he is not our brother in eternity?
So far my “parenting experience” has been minimal — growing our son’s life in utero and readying our own lives for his arrival. But already I notice my prayers tend to terminate upon earthly circumstance: Mature his lungs, Lord, so that he may breathe easily when he comes. Please, let us take him home with us soon after his birth. Mostly I ask God for what will make me, a new and nervous caregiver, a less nervous caregiver. For I love our son. Already I hate the idea of him experiencing pain, already I would do anything — anything — to take away his hurt.
I believe these are loving prayers to pray and right feelings to feel. But I must ask myself: Do I feel the same concern for our son’s soul as I do his body? Do I hate nothing more than to know that our child is not only hurting but dead apart from Christ? Will I do everything — everything — I can to convince our child that Christ is our and his only hope in life and in death?
These questions have challenged me and my husband, who have yet to hold our son’s little body in our arms. We pray blood will pump through it, bones be grown within it, for not just the time he has left within my stomach but for many, many sweet years as a family. Yet more than this, we pray the blood of Jesus would make white our son’s scarlet sins (Isaiah 1:18). We pray that God would raise the dry, dead bones of his heart to God-exalting life (Ezekiel 37:1–5). In a word, we pray: Turn our son into our brother, Lord.