May 8, July 9, March 11 — no doubt these dates are among the three best days of our entire lives. On each of them, we brought home a baby girl.
We embraced them as God’s gift to our home, a new member of the family. In each case, she didn’t ask for us; she just got us. We welcomed her, delighted in her, loved her. At first, the entire household reoriented around our new arrival. Her needs, real or imagined, could reset the family agenda and often did. Sometimes this was a pain. Often it brought inconvenience, but we almost always were glad to adjust.
Over time she became less the center of everything and more a participant in everything that made up our family life. Over time she picked up what it means to belong, how we live together, where the boundaries lie and what things are most central to our daily lives.
Over time, through observation and imitation, by sharing or not, sometimes joining in and sometimes standing apart, and through other means, the strong ties of belonging shaped how she lives, talks, thinks and feels — not in all ways on every matter, but still in many ways and on many matters. For the most part, we observed that, from one of these very best days, our welcoming of a little one lovingly and consistently led her from belonging to behaving and then to believing. Or perhaps it was from belonging to believing and then behaving. Or maybe it was both.
We are praying that, within the households of faith we call Free Methodist churches, there would be many comparable “best days” of our lives — when new “little ones” are birthed-to-belong. Yes, in many of these very best days, loving and belonging allow opportunity, space and grace to observe, to try and fail, to move closer and then farther and then closer still, to learn how to talk and to walk, to run and to fall and to get up again, to dream and aspire but fail and then achieve the “gold,” and finally to make us proud by showing that who we are and what we are about as a household turns out better than we ever thought.