Friday, October 12, 2012

Here Am I

Mother and Child I
Ruth Sinclair
In the warmth of the womb I met you,
And I called you to life
Through the love of man and wife;
In the warmth of the womb I met you
Saying, “Here am I.”

As a baby in arms I met you,
Wrapped in linen and care,
Watched and welcomed everywhere.
As I baby in arms I met you
Saying, “Here am I.”
In the tensions of youth I met you,
Whether shy or uncouth,
Always searching for the truth;
In the tensions of youth I met you,
Saying, “Here am I.”

In the quiet of your home I met you,
When the door opened wide
Strangers came and out went pride;
In the quiet of your home I met you,
Saying, “Here am I.”

And wherever you go I will meet you
Till you draw your last breath,
In the birthplace known as death,
Yes, wherever you go I will meet you,
Saying, “Here am I.”

John L. Bell and Graham Maule, from “Heaven Shall Not Wait”

I have sung this piece from the Iona Community in Scotland to my son every night since he was a little baby. Always hoping that a solid bedtime routine with a consistent pattern would help us to win the battle against (or with) sleep, I would sing it faithfully - and still do - to help him drift off into sleep.

It first came to me to sing for him because of the first two verses - a reflection on God’s presence with us in our birth and infancy. I love the charm of the community conveyed in the second verse. It certainly matches his experience as a baby at church, being scooped from arms to arms each Sunday morning.

As he gets older and I experience a foreshadowing of his teenage years, having sung this third verse to him so many times has helped me to prepare (as much as one can) for those awkward and difficult years together.
As I have continued to sing it to him, he has become more and more aware of the meaning behind the words. I remember one night he was almost asleep as I sang the final verse, and when I reached the line about the birthplace of death he bolted up in bed, turned to me and said, “what is that!?”

A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of attending two days of lectures about faith and song with John Bell, one of the composers of this song. If I had felt emotionally capable of keeping my composure, I would have been inclined to approach him and thank him for writing this lovely song that has been our companion for so many nights together. Certainly he never thought that it would wind up being such a perfect lullaby.
One of my favorite parts about this bedtime tradition is how still at 8 years old my son will request the song by what he thinks is the title, as he snuggles up as close as possible to me:

“Sing me ‘The Warmth of the Womb,’ ” he will say.
The other night I asked him if he knew what a womb was. That turned out to be kind of a weird but short conversation, but one that will help him continue to understand all of the layers of this very simple piece. Even as my son gets older I continue to find those moments before bed - when they are not simply exasperating - to be the most fertile for conversation and expression.

Someday he will stop needing me to lay down with him at bedtime. I have already heard him humming the tune of this song to himself throughout the day. Hopefully when he is even older and can better understand the changing seasons of our lives, he will remember these words that were such a consistent part of his childhood.


  1. Naturally, this essay brings to mind the bedtime routines with my children, now 24 and 21, and the sweet, vulnerable moments right before the day ends. But tonight I had a rare bedtime conversation with my mother, age 77. We laughed and shared memories. I opened up with her and she with me, knowing we are much closer to the final verse of the author's song than to the first.

  2. A friend shared your blog on Facebook today, and I'm delighted to have found it - such a rare and precious gift to "connect" with other mother-ministers who care so passionately about helping to raise children in faith. And I especially love this post b/c I've never heard this song - although I love John Bell/Iona's work - and I can't wait to track it down! Thank you for all your good work in this space...will definitely be back.