05/10/2012 04:19 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The Boy With a Broken Heart Is Born

I wrote a story a while back about a family in our church back in Pueblo whose baby was due just after we left town. Early in the pregnancy, doctors diagnosed little Avery with HLHS, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. There was a good chance he'd need surgery in utero or immediately after being born, and there was a formidable chance that he wouldn't survive the procedure. There was also, of course, a higher than normal risk to Lyndsay, the mother, too.

It was hopeful watching the church family rally around the Vigils, praying for them, bringing them meals, visiting and doing what they could to offer support in what I'm sure felt like a time of emotional free-fall. It was also weird to know that, when Avery actually came, we wouldn't be there.

That day was today.

Avery's first day as an oxygen-breathing member of the human race.

I got a message from Dave, the dad, this afternoon with photos of the newest member of the Vigil and Milagro families. He weighed in at a hefty seven-plus pounds and his APGAR scores (a test of health for newborns) was even higher than either of our kids. He's being monitored in the NICU, and his first surgery is scheduled for Thursday. Mommy is happy and resting, and she even called Amy to fill her in.

It's all pretty much as good as could be hoped for, given the circumstances.

There's so much that's weird about this, I'm not even sure where to start. For one, we're told that, when we leave the church, we really have to leave it. We've known people who have un-friended everyone on Facebook from the congregation they're leaving, but that just seems cruel to me. Yes, we're no longer their pastors, but we are their friends, and we shared our lives with them, as much as they have shared theirs with us.

So where's the line? Are text messages OK? I hope so, because I wrote Dave back as soon as his proud papa photos hit my phone. We are sharing in their joy and relief, even if from a distance. But what about the phone call? I mean, can't we keep in touch about the most important moments in these people's lives, especially since they have no new pastor to guide them through what still will be a challenging time, even with the first major hurdle cleared?

Well, can't we?

The truth is I have no idea. We're making it up as we go along, which is one consequence of the flatter model of church governance we're a part of. We have regional and national ministries, but they don't really have much power over local congregations. I suppose I could be scolded when some pencil pusher reads this, but there's really not much they can do about it. We're left to ourselves to decide where the line of appropriate contact is.

And for now, it moves as is necessary for us to hopefully keep some healthy distance, while also not trying to act like heartless assholes.

It's hard enough to celebrate from several hundred miles away. It also didn't help that she called us from her hospital room while we were sitting poolside in Las Vegas.

I guess that is kind of asshole-ish, right?

Anyway, we celebrated with them by speaker-phone and, of course, Amy cried some more. Can't get enough of that on this trip, really. And then we hung up, and they went about their lives, and we, ours. So strange to be so intimately connected to people one day, and the next, you're observing their lives as if through glass. There's still a connection, but it's not the same.

Amy closes the distance with prayer; I'm still not sure what to pray for. I'm not the kind of guy who believes in praying for results, so instead I sent out a simple blessing of gratitude.

For little Avery.

For his family.

For Milagro, who is still there for them.

And even for the distance that makes this so damn confusing.

In all things give thanks, says the Good Book, so I guess I can't go wrong with that. I'm not always sure how or why, but maybe with a few more decades of practice, it'll all start to make some sense.

Happy birthday, little Avery.