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For Zac

Today, the child who made me a mother turns twenty-two. He’s 6’1″, wears size 12 shoes, is capable of dunking a basketball and growing whiskers … and is now a father himself. I have no idea where the time went. Here’s a memory from the moment I first saw him. Happy birthday, Zachary David.

The most amazing moment for me, as a parent, was that first moment. Unlike most other mothers, I didn’t get my first glimpse of my son when he was all slippery and irritated. Because we were adoptive parents, we had to wait for a phone call inviting us to the hospital. Zac was an hour old by the time Dave and I got there, and by then he was all cleaned up and calmed down. When the nurse placed him in my arms and I said “hello” to that little face, he opened his eyes and looked directly into mine. It was as if I could read his thoughts, as if I could actually hear him thinking, “Oh … there you are.” I just stood there and cried.

I didn’t know it was possible to love another person as much as I loved him in that first moment. When I felt those eight pounds, one ounce lying helpless in my arms, my heart was full to bursting with feelings of protection and delight and pure satisfaction. There wasn’t a single second when I thought, “Well, little guy, I guess I’ll accept you the way you are right now, because I have no other choice … but I’m really going to start loving you when you can walk.” Or, “I’ll love you best when you’ve figured me out — when you know that my favorite colors are blue and green and the ice cream I like best is peanut butter chocolate. When you know that I light candles at the first sign of rain. When you’ve memorized all those little details, then I’ll really start loving you.”

I didn’t think any of that nonsense. I don’t believe Zac had any such strange thoughts, either. I’m pretty sure there wasn’t even a second there, at the hospital, when he worried that he might not be a good son or that he might not work hard enough or manage to create anything worthy in his lifetime. I don’t think it ever crossed his little mind that he might not measure up to my expectations. Nor did he worry about where we had the car parked, or whether or not we had enough gas, or if Dave really knew how to maneuver us from the hospital back to the freeway and all the way home. He just looked up at the two of us and waited to see what was next. And you know what was next? A lot of staring and grinning. A lot of dreaming about the life we would have with him. And a whole lot of loving.

God is no different; He feels exactly the same way. He loves us just the way we love our children, only He does it much better. I hope you really grab hold of the truth behind these words: Your Father is not waiting to love you more, because He already loves you as much as He possibly can. He loves you perfectly, flawlessly. It’s not because of anything you can do for Him. It’s not because you try really hard to walk a straight line. It’s not because you’re diligent to read your Bible exactly thirty minutes each morning, followed by a precise fifteen minutes of prayer. He just … loves you. And the child who understands this is the child who is free — free to explore life and enjoy her Father and face tomorrow without fear of any kind.

Open your eyes and look up, and you’ll see an amazing sight: God is looking right back at you. He can’t help it. Your Father loves you so much, He can’t take His eyes off of you.

Excerpted from A Whisper in Winter: Stories of Hearing God’s Voice in Every Season of Life © 2004 Shannon Woodward. All rights reserved.

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