Singing to your baby is a good thing – you know – to state the obvious. That sing-songy voice, the rhythm and rhyme of music, the repetition – all good for baby’s brain development.
At our house we sing. A lot. Sometimes classic lullabies. Sometimes ridiculous made-up songs. (I’m banking on Ruthie’s limited vocabulary comprehension right now. Because there’s a lot of upbeat singing about her stanky diapers and unwillingness to sleep.)
And then there’s Caspar Babypants – whom we looooove – around here. (“Stompy the Bear” is currently a house favorite.)
I also have found myself reaching back to my own childhood for songs. Songs that seem to come out of nowhere. Lyrics that have been tucked so deeply in my memory that they seem like a foreign language as they roll off my tongue. Words that speak to the tightly woven fabric of faith in which I was raised.
There was this great old record we had called “Kids of the Kingdom” that I cherished when I was little. My parents still have it, in fact. Check out this album cover. I loved it then, and I love it now!
And Psalty. There was lots of Psalty. One old song Ruthie hears me sing a lot these days is called “Welcome to the Family.” The song hadn’t crossed my mind in decades, friends. Decades. And then, one morning mid-diaper change, there it was. The lyrics have become my prayer recently:
Welcome to the family,
We are glad that you have come
To share your life with us,
As we grow in love,
And may we always be to you
What God would have us be,
A family always there,
To be strong and to lean on.
I love these words. They are full of grace. We are all growing in love. Not there yet. Still learning. We all make mistakes. As parents. As kids. As aunts and uncles. As grandparents. As friends.
The song is also an invitation to be present with each other. Amidst all the competition for our attention – school activities, work, iPhones, life – may we be there. May we be strong. Strong in faith and hope. Strong in love.
Of course, this song isn’t about our nuclear families. This song is a welcome to tiny ones into the family of God. The family of imperfect people covered by grace. The family that, frankly, fights a lot – about justice, theology, homosexuality, guns, and most anything. The family that most days seems pretty broken. The family that is so easy to be so cynical about.
This week I found myself singing this sweet welcome to Ruthie, all the while having these deeply mixed feelings about the church I am bringing her into. I wonder if my parents felt this way. I wonder if others feel this way. I wonder if this is the reality of getting a PhD in theology and then trying to raise a child in the faith.
But here’s the thing. I’m still here. I’m still in the church, despite the brokenness. I’m still in the church even though my doubt and cynicism are often swirling in my head as ancient hymns come out of my mouth. I still have faith that a beautiful Savior will heal us. Will bring justice. Will bring love.
And that is a lesson I want to teach Ruthie. We are a people whose hearts are filled with longing. This longing isn’t antithetical to faith. It is an integral part of faith.
It is so easy to temporary placate this longing with distractions, isn’t it? And oh my goodness, those distractions can be so subtle. So good-intentioned. So shiny.
At the same time, we can’t let this longing overwhelm us – so that we don’t work for love, freedom, and unity in the present. We can’t throw our hands in the air or bury our heads in the sand – although that’s tempting, too.
And so, I keep singing – even though it sometimes feels ordinary and insignificant. I keep singing to Ruthie like it’s my job. Because it is. Or more accurately, it’s a part of my vocation. A part of my calling right now is being a mother to this tiny one.
Amidst the laundry and diapers, the songs of my childhood fill our home. But now they have more verses. I sing to Ruthie about longing. And privilege, injustice, racism, and sexism. I welcome Ruthie into the family – all the while praying this family of God grows into what God intended us to be.