For the first three months of his life, Eddie was always attached to something. For what seemed endless weeks at the beginning and then too many times to count after that, it was a respirator, making it impossible to hold him and cradle him the way that I longed to. Even when he was breathing well on his own, however, he was still hooked up to something. He always had a tube coming out of somewhere, the ever-present IV nutrition, an antibiotic here, a painkiller there. He lived in a ward with seven other babies, a dozen or so nurses, and whichever parents came and went. The nearest thing we had to privacy was a thin screen that could be opened around our crib but we rarely used it. Once, right before we were transferred from the NICU to Children's Dallas, the nurses gave me the gift of allowing us to go to an adjacent, empty ward together. They put some physical therapy mats on the floor and for the first time I could put Eddie on the floor next to me, play with him like most mothers were accustomed to playing with their infants. It was wonderful, but I still had to be very cautious. Even mobile, he was attached to a pole, monitored, fed through IV.
The transfer to Dallas was a crazy rush. While we'd signed up for the move, we never knew when a bed would be available, when he would be next in line. The transfer team loaded him onto an incubator, I grabbed a couple of bags, said hasty goodbyes to the nursing staff I had come to love as family, and we boarded a small plane for Dallas. The transfer team was funny and friendly, Eddie was comfortable, and as we rose above the clouds of a gloomy January morning into the bright, blue light of day I felt a rising hope, a sense of excitement and adventure I hadn't felt in a long, long time. A short flight, a short ambulance ride and we were out on the GI floor of a new hospital. After a quick assessment, the medical team all left and Eddie and I were... alone.
Not only was it an eerie feeling to finally be truly alone in a private room with my baby, but even more shocking was the fact that he was not attached to anything. Nothing. No leads to a monitor, no IV tubing... nothing. There was my tiny little man, laying free and loose in what seemed a ridiculously large bed. Tentatively, I picked him up. I crossed the room and sat down with him on the small, plastic covered couch. It felt so foreign, so strangely frightening, for him to be free. No wires or tubes to be cautious of, nothing between me and my baby.
It is hard to describe the anxiety I felt in a moment that should have been pure joy. I felt like at any moment someone would come in and scold me for taking him out of bed. That any second there would be a mad rush of activity and this moment would be taken from me. I tried to just breathe and soak it in, sure it would be over sooner than I could imagine. Minutes ticked by and still no one came. I realized I wasn't doing anything wrong. There was no mistake. Soon there would be a monitor and his nutrition but there was not a great rush. He was not in crisis and everyone was perfectly happy for me to hold him until it was time to hook him up. In fact, no one there realized that this was out of the ordinary for me.
When I think back on that moment, on the strange mixture of fear and elation, the almost out-of-body detachment I felt at the mere privilege of being able to freely hold my three month old son, I can't help but get misty-eyed. I was so traumatized, so fragile. We both were. We had survived so long in a state of emergency that peace felt foreign and wrong. A thing to be feared. Living the way life was meant to be lived, untethered and free, was downright terrifying.
God wants us to live untethered lives. His Word is full of calls toward freedom but almost all of us are too frightened, too uncomfortable to free ourselves. What are we hooked to? There are, of course, the usual addictions, but what else? The lure of material possessions, of prestige, of physical comfort. The need to live the status quo because it is all we've ever known and we can't stand the idea of the disapproval we would face if we changed. Sometimes we are hooked to anxiety, to worrying about the future, to trying to plan it. We do our best to monitor every moment of our lives, trying our best to have control over the next moment and the next. If we take the time to be honest with ourselves, our tethers don't make us happy. They don't make us healthy. But to live a life free of the need for money and material possessions? It's a nice concept but shrugged off as an ideal. To live a life free of anxiety? We snort. That is impossible... isn't it?
Through Christ all things are possible and, I would add, especially those things which are explicitly mentioned in the Bible are possible. God doesn't give impossible commands and through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we are free from the tether of sin, the only one that can hold us back. Christ said, "do not worry" so we don't have to. He said to scorn material possessions, to trust God to provide for our daily needs, to focus on nothing more and nothing less than following Him. When this call starts to move from concept to action, however, we get really, really uncomfortable. Sometimes we are downright terrified. But it is not a call to a life of hardship and struggle; it is a call to a life of freedom.
So today I am praying to be untethered. For God to examine my heart and show me where I'm still connected to the ideals of this world and to help me to get unhooked. Because in the light of eternity, none of that stuff matters. Because through the birth and death of my son, God showed me a radical example of His love, made perfect by the birth and death of His Son. I want to remember that and cling to it. I want to move freely through this big wide world that God has gifted to me, to all of us, in love. Some of us live paralyzed, stuck to what we believe, falsely, is "life" support. Others of us have evolved enough to get a little more mobile, but we're still dragging a whole bunch of junk behind us, careful else we take a wrong step and rip out something that we think we need. I want to be brave enough to invite God to rip it all out. To let the only source of sustenance be the One that dwells within me. To hold this life in my hands and allow God to hold me in His, untethered.