erin ahnfeldt

Listening to Life

Sixteen years ago, I got my wife pregnant. That may seem like a fairly normal part of life, but for us, it was a miracle. There’s some backstory to that in a different blog. Basically, we waited the required nine months, but it was really years of waiting. Doctors told us a natural pregnancy was out of the question. People prayed, circled around us, even put their hands on Deb’s belly, pleading with God to give us a baby, and then, fifteen years ago this week in a hospital room, God introduced us to Hope.

Monitors beeped and nurses scurried in and out. Pain came in waves, but one song played over and over in Deb’s mind; it was the life-line she could cling to when the pain was too much. “Hold me Jesus. . .” The words of Rich Mullins soothed and calmed, “. . . cause I’m shaking like a leaf,” and Deb was shaking, trying desperately to bring God’s miracle into our lives, asking God to carry her through the night. More contractions, and that old familiar voice kept singing, “You have been King of my glory; won’t you be my Prince of Peace.” We held hands as Deb took deep breaths. The hours ticked by, and then finally, Hope came. So many people talk about the beauty of childbirth, and I’m not sure what I was expecting, but I do know that when Deb gave that last hard push, I felt like I was watching Aliens. It wasn’t beautiful. Flailing and screaming, our little girl looked more like a living glob of brown, moist clay. I held it together enough to smile and shout, “Deb, you did it!” With no sleep and a minor case of shock, I just kept repeating “Wow!” over and over again. The nurses cleaned Hope up and handed her over. She looked better wrapped in a blanket, and waves of emotion, after waiting all that time, brought tears.

The next morning, I rolled over out of a sleepy stupor. My girls were bonding in the morning light. Hope finished nursing, and then she was swaddled up in the clear bassinet between our beds. As Deb drifted back to sleep, I stared at that little girl staring back at me. Her eyes were so big, so full of untouched innocence. She was an alien the night before, but now, in that sunlight, she was our angel—perfect. Again, it should have been a moment of joy, but that’s not what I felt. Those eyes terrified me! As a teacher, there’s a little bit of acting I do for my students every day. I’m the positive and slightly crazy Mr. Ahnfeldt, full of energy and scattered thinking. I put on a mask, like most people, and I knew that little girl, looking at me with those big brown eyes, would see right through it.

She would see my flaws, all my mess. How could I ever be a good enough dad? How could I keep from making a mess of something so precious? The questions, like her eyes, were piercing, but as soon as they came, God saw me drowning in all that doubt and threw me a line. In the window just behind her bassinet, lit up with snow and sunshine, I could see Pikes Peak, and in the quiet of that moment, God spoke: “I lift my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD” (Ps. 121:1). That view brought to mind a verse I needed to remember, and the memory of it came at the perfect time. Some might call that a coincidence, but I knew at the deepest place in my heart, that it was God’s voice. To the psalmist, those mountains were a terrifying obstacle. They were filled with rough terrain and thieves, like the diapers, teething and late nights of parenthood waiting for me. With Pikes Peak right behind my new little girl, God was whispering, “I’m here to help.” When we met Hope, like Rich Mullins sings, He was “King of my glory”, and in that moment, quieting my heart, He was being my “Prince of Peace”.

He likes to do that; He likes to unveil that He sees us, because being seen the way He sees is to be loved. John writes about Nathanael’s wonder when Jesus said to him, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Phillip called you” (John 1:48). Nathanael was in awe. Maybe a little freaked out, but He was in awe. Jesus saw him! There was no other explanation, and he was hooked. He got a taste of the kind of love God has to offer, and there was no going back.

When those big brown eyes were staring at me in the hospital, God saw my bed-head hair and 5-oclock shadow, but he saw even deeper than that. He saw my heart sounding the alarm, panicking, and He brought peace. God sees you too. It’s not a threatening judgmental kind of seeing with a pointing finger and a scowl. It’s a seeing full of compassion and love. It’s a seeing that sees who we can become, not who we were, and it’s a seeing that goes past our bed-head hair directly to our hearts. We all have our mountains to face. Whatever they are, they’re right in front of us, casting their dark shadows. God sees those too. They may look overwhelming, but take a look around. Be still for a moment and enjoy the view from the valley. There’s a God we call Emmanuel, God with us, who wants desperately for you to know that He sees. He sees the fear. He sees the mountain, and He sees you. He told Nathanael, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that” (John 1:50). There is so much God wants us to see, so much peace He has to offer. Brown-eyed little girls don’t have to be scary. We just need to see the One who sees us, the one who sees our mountains, and climb in the peace of knowing we never climb alone.