“I’m sorry Dagny. I’m sorry—”
My wife paused.
“No, I’m not. I’m not sorry for tummy-time.”
That was after tummy-time, when my one-month-old Dagny was crying up a storm. She had already been scooped up, embraced, comforted, but she didn’t like what we had put her through. Not at all.
Tummy-time is what we (cleverly) call it when we put her on her tummy…wait for it…for a time. Not long, just a minute or so.
She hates this. Not only is she utterly alone (she’s not), but it forces her to use her own strength to lift up her own head to see what’s going on! And that’s uncomfortable, because her neck starts off ridiculously weak. You have to hold her head very carefully for months after she’s born because otherwise her head will just roll around, subject to whiplash and inertia and other injury. She’s a delicate thing, and she needs lots of care. She needs our support for the places she is weak.
But Dagny, do you want to be weak, to have us hold up your head the rest of your life? Follow you around with my hand behind your neck, making sure you don’t teeter forward or loll around? I’m your father and I love you, and I don’t want you to have to experience any pain at all. But my wants—and your wants—are not your needs. And both you and I need you to practice lifting up your head, even putting you in situations where you feel alone and you are compelled to lift up your head, painfully, yes, uncomfortably, yes. Because you’d gain absolutely no neck strength otherwise. And you wouldn’t have the power to look around on your own merits, to see the beautiful world and move and walk and run in it. All the beauties and glories to be found in the world rest on you learning to hold up your own neck.
[God] is prepared to do a little overriding at the beginning. He will set them off with communications of His presence which, though faint, seem great to them, with emotional sweetness, and easy conquest over temptation. But He never allows this state of affairs to last long. Sooner or later He withdraws, if not in fact, at least from their conscious experience, all those supports and incentives. He leaves the creature to stand up on its own legs—to carry out from the will alone duties which have lost all relish. It is during such trough periods, much more than during the peak periods, that it is growing into the sort of creature He wants it to be.
We only do it periodically. You might gain more strength if we do it more often, or even all the time, but you’d feel less love that way, too. We are not cruel. We do not leave you alone. But we let you work on your own strength as much as possible because that is how you most increase it. Because someday you’ll be big like us, and so you need strength like us.
And afterward, we pick you up and hold you tight and let you know you’re not alone, and say, “Well done, my good and faithful baby. You have been faithful over a few things, soon you will be ruler over many things.”
Soon you will be big like us.
(Too soon, I already sense.)