Recently my toddler daughter was fussing during mass, so I carried her to the back of the church. As I walked with her, she rested her head on my shoulder and began to sleep. She doesn't sleep on my chest often since she achieved mobility, so it is even more special when it does happen. As she peacefully rested in my arms, I reflected on the many moments as a father when one of my daughters was asleep against my chest. There are few experiences as a parent more magical than this.
While I don't remember moments like the one in this picture when I slept in my mother's arms, I do remember how special it was be close to mommy. In some of my earliest memories, I remember sitting on my mom's lap, giving her a big hug, and nuzzling against her, and I remember calling it a "snuggle cuddle". I don't remember many details, but the brief images I do remember of snuggle cuddling with my mom are associated with complete joy, peace, comfort, and intimacy.
A parent's ability to comfort a child can be powerful. I couldn't hope to count the number of times one of my daughters was upset or hurt or scared but was quickly comforted when my wife or I picked her up and held her close. In these intimate moments, I can literally feel her body relax in my arms as she let go of the fear or the pain. Whatever the injury was or whatever was frightening her had not gone away, but for at least that brief moment it didn't matter. While resting in daddy's arms, the rest of the world fades away and she rests in complete peace, comfort, and security. She is confident that daddy will protect her. Some day when my daughters have grown old and left my home, I know one my most cherished memories will be those quiet moments when they simply slept with her head resting gently on my shoulder.
As I reflected on the moments of holding my daughters in my arms while they slept and of snuggling with my mother when I was younger, I remembered these words from Isaiah: "As a mother comforts her child, so I will comfort you" (Isaiah 66:13). Just as my daughters find comfort, peace, security, and intimacy by resting in my arms, we find comfort, peace, security, and intimacy when resting in our heavenly Father's arms. I remembered times in college when I was stressed, exhausted, and burnt out. I went out on the campus green to a small hill near a waterfall with paths going in circles around the hill. I would walk in circles, softly singing a worship song until, for a at least a brief moment, I forgot about the stress and found comfort in God's presence. The stressors didn't go away, but in that moment they no longer mattered. At other times, in a youth group meeting or campus ministry retreat, we would spend quiet time in meditation or contemplation, quietly sitting in a small chapel in the woods with soft music playing. In those contemplative moments, I experienced deep intimacy with God. In moments like these, when I felt deep peace and security, I imagine that in those moments I was sleeping in the Father's arms like my daughters sleep in my arms.
As we begin the season of Lent, we spend extra time in prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. There are many styles of prayer that can be practiced during Lent, but one way to pray is to simply rest in God's presence. This Lent, I plan to spend time resting in God's presence. I hope to find peace and comfort and security from a snuggle cuddle with God.