“I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me” (John 10:14 ESV).
In our small congregation, we are experiencing a baby boom. It is an exciting time, filled with anticipation, prayers and waiting for a total of eight babies to join us. My daughters, now school-aged, look forward to meeting these new little people and love discussing what they will look like, what their names will be, and when they will be old enough to babysit. As I watch these mothers be, I find myself praying for these families, and I often begin to reflect about my own times of expectation.
As infants, my children were strangely calmed by the sound of my teaching voice. As an expectant mom, much of my time was spent either lecturing in a college classroom or teaching and mentoring parents in community parent education classes. In the womb, the cadence of my voice was often that of a passionate public speaker. I assume that my girls could even feel my over-the-top hand gestures and erratic pacing across the room. As new babies, each of my girls seemed the calmest while I walked and talked, not in a hushed, melodic tone, but in my enthusiastic and full-of-life voice. I would read children’s books as though giving a lecture. It was amazing to realize that my children truly “knew my voice.”
In developmental psychology literature, numerous studies indicate the amazing sensory and attachment systems on board in the life of an unborn child. Just hours after birth, a newborn will turn his head toward the voice of his mother over that of the voice of a stranger. In the same way, a newborn will turn toward an item that even smells of the mother over other stimuli. There is evidence that if a mother plays (or, even better, sings) a particular song as she falls asleep at night while pregnant, that song will calm an infant’s system after birth. The life lived while pregnant becomes a set point for the life a child expects when she enters the world. It is a fantastic testament to a creator who is intensely aware of the need for connection and daily rhythm for the developing child.
Over the next few months, as many of these babies are born, we will celebrate with their families, welcome them into our midst through the waters of baptism and walk alongside them as their child grows. I pray that just as their mothers’ (and fathers’) voices are familiar to them, the faces of our congregation will become imprinted in their developing mind. I pray that the sound of our hymns and songs are a comfort as they take naps and learn new things. I pray that the words of our creeds and liturgy are familiar even before they know the meaning. I pray that these families, as life gets busy and challenges come, are supported and connected to a community of people who love them. I pray, most sincerely, that through the love and care of their parents, friends, and church, these children will know the voice of the Heavenly Father who loves them, knows them, and calls to them daily.
Do you know His voice?