I never liked babysitting. I only did it to earn enough money to buy my first topical study Bible, and then I was done. I didn’t volunteer to help in the church nursery – ever. Kids and I weren’t an easy fit. I knew early on I wouldn’t be a mother.
When I married, my husband was of the same mind. As an African from a large family, he reasoned he already supported a tribe of siblings, a hoard of cousins and aging parents. No need to add more mouths to feed.
We envisioned a life lived between Burundi and the United States, traveling together and always tickets for two. The reality and responsibility of children did not fit into our plan. So we took precautions; birth control for me, a more ‘significant measure’ for him to ensure no accidents, no surprises.
A few years into our marriage we traveled to Burundi for a summer visit. I met up with a missionary to hand-deliver a package sent from home via my suitcase. She ran a home for abandoned babies. She insisted on taking me there.
I remember her leading me room by room, introducing the babies and revealing bits of their story. Most were sick children recovering from neglect or malnourishment. All suffered abandonment. The nannies did their best to care for these children; my new friend did her best to reunite them with extended families.
She pointed out one boy, chocolate skin and long banana-shaped dimples, saying he needed a family to adopt him. He arrived to the center days after his birth, healthy but alone. I hoped someone would adopt him; he looked so small under that soft afro, so ready for love.
‘Will you make room for him in your life?’ The question shook me, jarred me out of my sleep. “Would you open your home to him and create a family for him?’ This could not be right – I’m not a kid person. But the question came like the tide, again and again.
The one thing I knew about myself was my lack of maternal urge or credentials. Why deliver this invitation to me? Considering this question could upend the life my husband and I imagined. To be open to this question was nothing short of revolutionary for a woman like me. Dare I consider this question, this child, the chance he could change everything?
I snuck over to the center one day. The nannies welcomed me. I cradled the baby boy, hoping it would feel natural and make it easy. Or not. Maybe it would remain awkward and I could say the maternal prerequisites are lacking in me. Question asked and answered.
But I studied his dark eyes, wondering if I could make room for him. I rocked him while walking the perimeter of the compound. We sat together under the canopy of a whispy tree, staring at each other. What my mind could not do, my body did. I tried to be open to that radical question.
Still – how could I do this? How could I transform into mother? Honestly, I told God, there’s so little maternal material to work with here. Your hands, even divine ones, would be fairly tied. And then I heard a whisper – ex nihilo. God’s gentle reminder that He’s created out of nothing before.
Out of my maternal nothingness He could create a mother. I felt formless and void, a soup of undefined nurturing and lack of motherly wisdom. But if I could summon some courage to answer, He assured me He could create again. It would be like a new creation for me…
But He’s created out of nothing before. And He would again. And so He did. He reached into my formless mess and fashioned a mother for this boy – and a girl, too!
Our God still creates out of nothing.