Our foster baby’s first visit to the doctor was memorable. This was just three days after we received him into our lives. Aside from finding out some surprising pieces of information that I’m not at liberty to share, I saw our baby for the first time completely without his clothes on. The doctor tenderly undressed him to examine him. We knew he was underweight and extremely small even for a newborn, but seeing his thin arms and legs and bony ribs where there should’ve been more baby fat broke my heart. I had to look away briefly to hold back from suddenly crying in front of the doctor.
With more details and labels that the doctor gave about the baby, we were cautioned that this child needed extra care. She said their hospital unfortunately sees many of these kinds of cases with infants. But when she told us that fortunately there are good people like us to care for these children, it shamelessly gave me a sense of proudness. Proudness in that we can stand in the gap of brokenness for the orphans whom God loves, as the Bible says.
But there was something else the doctor said that stuck to me. After naming the risks affecting our baby, she said that if this baby is loved well by good parents, he will grow and develop. That was the medical remedy for our baby – love! Interestingly, this was the second time that week that I heard someone say to me that if a physically at-risk baby is loved by good parents, he will grow. Love makes us grow was the principle that echoed through my mind. I began to think of how true this is not only for us when we’re infants but throughout our lives. It’s profound to think that of all the things we work so hard for – money, careers, degrees, fame, fortune, or pleasures, the one essential that nourishes our souls and physical well-being is love. With all the things we desire, the one thing we most covet, whether we realize it or not, is to be loved. In our contemporary age of relational skepticism and excessive positive psychology, a main social mantra of our day is to love yourself because many have resigned to think that no one will love you as much as you should love yourself. But the love needed for the soul is not a self-love. It is a love from another – a love from outside of us. It’s not enough to generate love within yourself for yourself. There’s something about receiving love from another that you could not give to yourself. Love inherently involves an outside person, connectivity and relationality. Love implies sacrifice, selflessness, empathy, and seeking the good of another. None of these could be achieved in self-love. Yes, love makes us dependent. I know we hate that word, “dependent.” We like the other word, “independent.” But that’s why love is humbling – you have to depend on someone else to give you what you cannot give to yourself.
In the same way, our baby is a humble child that has to depend on someone else to love him. This little infant reminded me of what our lives needed – genuine love. Money will not nourish our souls – nor gadgetry, nor materialism, nor pleasure. The love of a good person will. So love your wife, husband, children, best friend, sister, brother… for your love nourishes them and helps them grow; and they dependently need it from you.
At the end, the doctor asked us if we were in it for the “long haul” with this baby. I replied immediately, “Yes.”