In the Palm of His Hand

By the time you read this, the baby that lives within my womb will be about about six weeks from being born.

The sooner the better, says my nine-year old daughter, who would, Iím sure, gladly quit school to be a full-time nanny when the time comes.

The sooner the better, I say, for my own reasons, most of which are tied to being in this condition at the advanced age of forty.

The sooner the better, the baby seems to be saying, as he (we think) settles his feet into his favorite spot directly under the ribs on my right side for another session of poking, kicking and energetic prodding.

Let me out Ė he seems to be saying through his restless little jabs. Give me more room!

Welcome to life, little one.

When you take a look at human beings, we all seem to be engaged in that life-long quest that begins in the womb, the search for more room, a bigger space in which to stretch our bodies and souls, in a word, more freedom.

Much of the time, as we move through the passages of life, itís that hope for more freedom that motivates us more than anything. We want to drive, we want to move away from home, we want to start our own businesses so we can reach a point at which weíre not quite so beholden to the demands of others.

But, as you well remember, those hopes are struck down just as frequently as theyíre raised.

My son is a freshman in college. He is, at last, free of his motherís eagle eye and supersonic ears (most famous for, on one occasion, being able to deduce, simply from listening to his monosyllabic side of a telephone conversation, that he was semi-planning to skip school the next morning. He still canít get over that one). He can come and go as he pleases, and best of all, after only six months in college, has figured out the path he wants to take, and is already surprisingly successful at it.

But you know what? It all promises freedom of one sort or another, but, as my son is learning, this freedom for which we yearn is never what it seems . For, as weíve all found out, we may leave dependence behind, but just ahead lies something else Ė something called responsibility, and that can be hard to manage.

And so we ramble on, too, as a society, looking for more freedom, kicking obstacles out of the way as we search: traditional authority, absolute truth, morality, and even common-sense self-restraint.

Funny how it works, too. Look around. Weíve been kicking for a long time now, and still we chafe. Only now, itís not institutions that hold us under their thumbs. Itís advertisers, itís marketeers, itís a entire commercial culture binding us in ropes tightened by beautiful, trim men and women with perfect teeth and no credit limits, taunting us and demanding to know why weíre not more like them.

This is freedom?

Itís an interesting thing. If you want to find convincing words on what itís like to be really free, you donít look to the filthy rich or the very successful or the morally indifferent. You look at words spoken by those with a rich, authentic faith in God.

Consider St. Paul, Augustine, Theresa of Avila, Thomas Merton or Dorothy Day. Invariably, what youíll find, are people who discovered unbounded freedom, not in things and not even in ideas, but in God. More specifically, they found it in Godís merciful love, out of which, they all discover with shock and gratitude, they were created, sustained, forgiven and accepted, just as they were.

We have the most amazing ultrasound image of our child. Taken at about five and a half monthsí gestation, the face is clearer than Iíve ever seen in an ultrasound, eyes tightly closed, mouth slightly open.

But thereís more: When you turn the picture sideways, you are immediately struck by how the shadows of the womb fold and weave around the baby to make it look exactly Ė I mean exactly Ė like heís being held in the palm of a hand.

So he kicks against tight spaces and he struggles for just a bit more room, and all the time, the hand holds him safe. Just like He holds all of us, our whole lives long, giving us, in that paradoxical way He has, the greatest freedom we could imagine, nestled safely in the palm of His hand.



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