What My Daughter is Teaching me about Life and Joy


We are here at the hospital for the birth of our daughter, Naomi Hannah Ortlund. She was born safely at 1:06 PM on Monday afternoon, 7 lbs, 19.5 inches. She is beautiful and tiny and precious. She is tough. She is gentle. She is curious. She is fun to hold. I love her! These words still feel great: “my daughter.” Wow.

Bringing a helpless baby girl into a fallen world is a vulnerable feeling. You feel such love and protectiveness for this little person that the thought of them being damaged by the world is the darkest and most terrible feeling. Sometimes, knowing the ugliness and suffering that exists in a fallen world, you can even wonder, “is it all worth it? Does the good in life justify the bad? Does the joy outweigh the pain?”

Having a little girl brought out these feelings even more than having a boy did. It brings in all kinds of fears I have never felt so strongly: “what if one day someone hurts her? What if she has a boyfriend who cheats on her? What if she gets sick and is in agony and there is no medicine that can help? What if she is an extremely sensitive person and harsh words damage her self-esteem from a young age? What if she gets in a terrible car accident and no one is there to help her?” And so on. I won’t list other examples because it is too terrible even to consider such things.

Maybe all parents feel this way? I don’t know. But I have found great joy and reassurance in two things. The first is listening to her cries when she was first born. We were in the delivery room, and I was holding Esther’s hand and waiting to see her, praying and feeling excited. And then all of sudden, this beautiful, squeaky, gurgling, chirping sound filled the room! I thought, “wow, she is tough! Anybody who messes with her is an idiot.”

The nurses said, “she is going to be an opera singer.” (Not likely, if she has her dad’s genes.)

The joy of this moment counters my fears. I don’t fully know why. But as I hold my daughter, observe her, respect her—I am reassured. It is not that I no longer feel that protective impulse. I may still be there with a shotgun on the porch before her first date. But the joy and the love somehow swallows up the fear.

Another thing that has helped me is observing the nurses in our hospital. Did you know that every day nurses come into the NICU and work 12 hour shifts? I remember this from our experience with Isaiah (though thankfully Naomi is with us). Imagine 12 straight hours of caring for needy babies who can do nothing but eat, sleep, poop, cry … and repeat. I know politicians have tough jobs, professional athletes work very hard, and lawyers have to pass difficult bar exams. But as far as I am concerned, these nurses have one of the most difficult and most important jobs in the world. In the eyes of heaven, they may well do more good in a year than most of us can do in a lifetime. I am so grateful for their example of Christ-like service and love. The most beautiful part is, they do not complain and seem to take great joy in their work. They remind me of angels: happy, stable servants of God, maintaining the world’s order and sanity.

Watching these nurses—and, even more so, holding my daughter—helps refine my view of the world. Yes, it is a fallen, broken place, and it can be filled with great pain and darkness. But it is also a place of incredible beauty, joy, and hope—a place that God finds worth redeeming, a place where God Himself is even “not far from any one of us” (Acts 17:27).

And therefore life is worth living. The good outweighs and swallows up the bad. By far. Thank you, precious Naomi, for teaching me this in a new way.

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  1. Congratulations Gavin! Thanks for reminding me, How Great and awesome our God is towards us! Enjoy your time with your precious little ones!!