Regardless of whether one counts the day’s beginning at midnight, or as sometime in the early hours of the previous morning, it’s been a long day and that principally for one reason. At around 0222 this morning, my partner and I welcomed into the world our beautiful son and Sinéad’s brother, Samuel Jamieson.
At various times throughout the day – i.e., when I wasn’t feeling totally freaked out by the fact that the girl’s names that we had spent so long debating were now literally immaterial, and, relatedly, that this wee one so tightly cocooned in soft blankets and a stylish teddy-bear jumpsuit has bits underneath that I simply wasn’t expecting to see – I meditated on the words from Lamentations 3.22: ‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end’, and I silently recalled Walter de la Mare’s wee poem written for his daughter Florence. The poem is titled ‘The Birthnight: To F.’, and reads:
Dearest, it was a night
That in its darkness racked Orion’s stars;
A sighing wind ran faintly white
Along the willows, and the cedar boughs
Laid their wide hands in stealthy peace across
The starry silence of their antique moss:
No sound save rushing air
Cold, yet all sweet with Spring,
And in thy mother’s arms, couched weeping there,
Thou, lovely thing.
Samuel, this seven pound two ounce wonder, represents, no less than other children, what Jürgen Moltmann once named ‘metaphors of God’s hope for us’, that with every child, a new life – original, unique, incomparable – begins. And that while we typically ask, who does this or that child look like (apparently because we seem to think we can only understand the new in the comparison with what is already known or similar), we also encounter the entirely different, the entirely dissimilar and unique in each child. It is, Moltmann suggests, precisely these differences that we need to respect if we want to love life and allow an open future. Moltmann also recalls that with every beginning of a new life, the hope for the reign of peace and justice is given a new chance. It is important – and I feel the weight of the challenge here – to see Samuel in his own transcendent perspective and so to resist forming him according to the stale images of our world. Every new life is also a new beginning of hope for a homeland in this world which is-and-is-being redeemed. If it were not, we would have no reason to expect anything new from a beginning. Samuel will be baptised on 14 November at Highgate Presbyterian Church in Dunedin.
A final thing: Mother and Samuel are both doing very well. Dad and sister are glowing. Even the dog seems unusually excited. It is yet to be seen if our adorable chickens start laying eggs again, inspired by the events of recent days.