My little boy, Corin Walter Shepherd, was born at 7.37pm on Wednesday 17th September 2014.
I’ll remember a number of things from the final few hours that led up to his birth and the few hours that followed. The moment that I saw him for the very first time is one that will, of course, never be forgotten. My dear wife had already endured a marathon and was exhausted when the time came to push. She tried and tried to get him out but nothing was happening. The doctor had a look and told us that he was facing the wrong way and was unlikely to be coming out without a bit of help. We headed down to theatre where we were told that they would try to use the forceps to encourage him along, and if that failed then it would be a caesarean section. It was at this point I convinced myself that something was going to go wrong: his heart-beat would stop; he’d be injured in some way; he’d come out not breathing; he’d have two heads. I remember sitting alongside my wife as she lay on the operating table. I smiled at her, told her everything was going to be fine. She’d been through so much more than I had and for her sake I wanted to appear as calm and confident as I possibly could. Inside I was a mess.
I needn’t have worried. After a couple of twists and pulls, Corin made his grand entrance. He was by far the loudest person in the room! Proudly announcing his arrival into the world, he turned to look at me with a very cross face, rebuking me for doubting that he was ever going to be less than perfect. Daddy! Daddy! How little faith you have! I am Corin, hear me roar!! A few minutes later I think he had forgiven me, as I held him in my arms and walked him round the operating theatre. Quiet and content, his eyes darted around the room, taking it all in. Calmly accepting this strange new world.
As intense and draining and joyful as all of this was, it wasn’t until a few hours later that the wonderful gift and privilege of parenthood really hit me. I’d been unable to think straight for some time, but driving home by myself later that night, having left my new family safe in a hospital bed, I was calm and quiet enough to be able to hear a whisper. A profound, encouraging, life-affirming whisper.
He’s not yours.
It made me frown too. He’s not yours. What do you mean? I think you’ll find that he is! I’ll get all Jeremy Kyle on your ass if I need to!
He’s not yours.
So whose is he then??
And who exactly might you be?
I think you know.
And yes, I did. The conversations that I’d had with God over the past few days had been panicked, one-way monologues. I’d forgotten what it was like to listen to Him, but in the quiet of my car there was no mistaking His voice. And what He was saying made perfect sense.
We always talk about our children. This is my son. My daughter. These children are mine. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve called Corin my boy many times already and will continue to do so. You are their parent and primary carer, more responsible to them than any other human being, so it’s quite normal to think of them as yours.
They’re not though. Not really. They, like all the billions and billions of people in the world, are God’s. They are His children just like we all are. Being a parent is a precious, precious gift and a wonderful thing. Through an act of love, my wife and I have created a person. For as long we are able we get to care intimately for another human being. Our love for him is as strong as any human love possibly could be. Over and above any other person we are responsible for his safety and well-being. We get to nurture him, teach, encourage, and protect him. He will probably be the best thing that will ever happen to us.
But we don’t have any rights of ownership. He’s not ours. We don’t have the right to impose our preferences or viewpoints on him. We don’t have the right to force him to make choices, pursue relationships or careers that we think are the right ones. We don’t have the right to try and turn him into the person that we think he should be.
Our only aim, and our only prayer, is that every day of his life he will know the love of his Heavenly Father, and that he will follow the path that that Daddy – the Daddy who knew all along that he was going to be perfect – has laid out for him. And if my wife and I can be signposts along the way then we will have done our duty in this wonderful gift called parenthood.