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Seeking Purpose as New Parents: A Letter to My Children

Teresa Langness | Mar 31, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Teresa Langness | Mar 31, 2016

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Your newborn whimpers. You stand on cue, cradling the child before it opens its eyes to the new day. The baby slips into a pleasant dream of thrumming heartbeats, comforted by the rhythmic stroke of a warm hand. You slump onto the couch in contemplation, watching the sun rise.

The bleached blue sky has forgotten the canopy that set the scene for the midnight feeding, when just a few hours ago, a gem show of stars and planets pierced that moonless sheath of black. The naked eye could see only the lights within the Milky Way Galaxy, its embroidery tucked into the hem of the constellations, but far beyond, we know other galaxies secreted away their burning hot stars in the same way we know that an embryo harbors countless cells we cannot see.

We sense the delicate balance of life on this, our own planet, created when “high-tech” referred to the sculpting process of tectonic plates shoveling molten lava into mountain peaks and burping out the proper gases and liquids for thirsty, oxygen-breathing creatures to emerge and thrive. The more we know, the more we feel a frantic rush to redirect the balance on this cosmic orb, to ensure the safety of each miraculous being welcomed into its maze of exhilarating chances and challenges. You especially want to shelter this baby now heaving a puff of a sigh against your ragged shoulder.

Acts of good can deepen the meaning of life even when they seem, at times, insignificant juxtaposed against a showcase of telescopic light. You reflect on our own life so far. You have done all you can to uplift others. Some of those who cross your path will feel the impact in long-lasting ways and some only for a fleeting but memorable moment. Every pure-intentioned thought and resulting impulse either meets with resistance or falls on parched ground and seeps into welcome soil to replenish a person or a planet in its formative phase. Now you wonder, by cuddling this bundle on your shoulder, are you merely following your instincts or carrying forward something larger than “self” to a waiting civilization?

Many a parent comes to believe that the mysteries of the universe lie hidden in the miracle of birth. The thought settles in at the first touch of new skin. Here, at last, some primordial connection seals the living sinew of the past, present and unborn generations in a renewed cycle of hope, discovery and innate love. As the warmth of that little body settles into the crook of your elbow and a freshly-minted soul relinquishes fear and offers up its trust, you blink away sleep and feel reverence for the new life unfolding. You realize the extent to which you will yield up your own desires to this young one as you nurture, teach, protect, embrace, celebrate, forgive, and toil over this soul in the years to come. You will strive to forge the “molten lava” of a new human being into a source of strength for the next generation.

newborn-baby

The child, in turn, will commit acts of kindness just as you did, adapted to its own unique talents and destiny. Children can do so when parents teach them to respond to the needs of their times with strong hearts and minds—and with souls shaped by compassion more than mere stardust. You will see. In time, as the child seeks to heal even one heart, in so doing, he will work to sustain this species hovering under the umbrella of a vast, relentless gem show.

Standing in a meadow on some night in a few short years, as you gaze together at a starlit sky, you will share the mysteries you once found magical—the same ones you breathlessly awaited as we rode out across the desert to chase the sunset and aim the telescope to wait for Venus to stare down on us when you were very young. We whispered about all the things that mattered then. You will do the same with this child, no doubt.

You will teach your child to see with inner and outer vision and to seek worthy purposes over a lifetime. At some point, in spite of your practical efforts, you will find your face wet with tears as you pray that your adult children teach their own children well, for parents have cherished these same hopes since the rustlings of recorded history. Then perchance, the patterns you set will bless a world in need of another visionary generation, in ways we cannot yet fathom.

While you now rest on the couch at dawn, you may not think of these details on a conscious level, or experience parental exhaustion as humanitarian valor. Still, as you answer an infant’s call again and again, your prevailing love will exude its influence to make the earth spin on its orbit one more day, as it always has. This steadfast love might just be your greatest contribution yet. What a gift, to touch the nexus of past and future each time you caress your precious newborn and look into those eyes and wonder who this child will become—and to know that its grandparents also wait and wonder, just as they did when they held you in their arms, so many miracles ago.

Your sister said to her four-year old last week, “Here is a prayer for parents. Say it for your dad and I will say it for your grandparents.” Her child responded, “I will also say it for my grandkids and for great grandpa in the invisible world.”

We advance civilization by honoring these indissoluble bonds of love, an expanding kind of love more wondrous than string theory, as essential to human regeneration as air and water, a love which holds the universe together with another tiny labyrinth of possibilities each time an infant first gazes on its parents.

Congratulations on your new bundle of love and stardust:

Love is heaven’s kindly light, the Holy Spirit’s eternal breath that vivifieth the human soul… Love revealeth with unfailing and limitless power the mysteries latent in the universe. Love is the spirit of life unto the adorned body of mankind, the establisher of true civilization in this mortal world…. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 127.

O Thou kind Lord! These lovely children are the handiwork of the fingers of Thy might and the wondrous signs of Thy greatness. O God! Protect these children, graciously assist them to be educated and enable them to render service to the world of humanity. O God! These children are pearls, cause them to be nurtured within the shell of Thy loving-kindness. Thou art the Bountiful, the All-Loving. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i Prayers, p. 35.

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Comments

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  • Melanie Black
    Mar 31, 2016
    -
    Absolutely stunning essay!
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