The Disorientation of Love

The birth of a baby is completely disorienting. I found out first-hand this year. A core-shaking identity accompanies the joy of arrival, along with an exposure of motivations, and revelations of our inner heart.  As a new mom, I am constantly questioning what drives me. Am I putting Sam down for a nap because I want to sleep or because he needs it? Am I putting this outfit on him to impress my friends or to keep my son warm? How often do I use him as a prop in my life to excuse myself from obligations? Or on the flip side, how often do I push him past his limits to live into obligations that are inappropriate for this season of our family? The birth of my baby has exposed my bent toward pleasing others and challenged my ability to selflessly care for another.

As I sit in this Advent season, reflecting on the last year and the humble arrival of the Christ Child to earth, I wonder if perhaps this disorientation was exactly what God was trying to accomplish. Maybe he didn’t just want to shake us into a disoriented stupor but to reorient us to a grounded, whole way of living. In addition to exposing our neediness, the arrival of Jesus exposes what could be when we see ourselves through the lens of His love.

As Mary waddled into a foreign town with no place to stay, the baby exposed our lack of hospitality. As Joseph wrestled with how to respond to Mary’s news, the baby exposed our self-righteousness. As the shepherds trembled at good news, the baby exposed our fearful hearts. As Herod ran about killing innocents, the baby exposed our relentless grasps for power.  

When we find ourselves exposed, we know we need a Savior.

As we embrace the One who has come to save us, we see that the baby’s arrival has exposed much more.  As the shepherds run to visit the Child, the baby exposes our wonder and joy. As the wise men present gifts to the young king, the baby exposes our generosity. As Mary ponders the events in her heart, the baby exposes our insights. 

We often talk about how innocent and sweet Jesus made himself by taking on human form. But maybe in his wisdom, God knew that it was not the innocence of a baby that would turn our hearts but the disorientation it would bring His people.  The baby came to disorient and shake us up. And like new babies do, in disorienting our lives, Jesus reorients us to a new way of living. This reorientation is not just about sleep schedules and baby clothes, it is a reorientation to our identity as children of God, dearly loved and invited to love the world, dispelling fear and taking on truth.

As Jesus taught the elders in the synagogue, our notion of wisdom shook.  As cripples’ sins were forgiven, our notion of healing and wholeness shook.  As Jesus defended the disenfranchised from the religious leaders, our notion of authority shook. As Jesus died on a cross, our notion of love shook. 

My son’s birth has shown me that I need more help and have more to give than I ever knew.  I am stronger and weaker than I realized. I know a greater joy and deeper grief than I imagined. And I wonder if maybe the Baby Jesus came to disorient us from the way things are and reorient us to who we really can be.