In a couple of months, the wife and I will have broken past “normal” when our third child comes tumbling onto terra firma. A family of five is small, by our standards (we each have three siblings)—and by historical standards—but it’s mathematically beyond the modern norm. The benefits to having a large family are legion, but during a few (scarce) moments of quiet meditation the other day, I realized why we love having kids and plan to have more.
We are obsessed with the miraculous.
I occasionally step back from the fray and observe my children—at play, eating, squabbling, and sleeping, especially sleeping—and am filled with awe. How did we make these little people?
I know how, of course, and I remember the process with an acute fondness. But the mystery is more than skin-deep. I (sort of) understand cellular mitosis, but I am clueless about how the Creator knits together a human soul.
When my son imitates me at work or instructs me in his most imaginative play, I operate with a sense of awe. My daughter’s coy smile, irresistible love for the outdoors, and determined spirit are transporting. I get caught up in these moments. Time’s passage is altered. My priorities suddenly change, and I see that my most important work is to cherish and guide these littles.
Not that it’s all rainbows and sunshine. There are storm clouds and mountains of poop—as a parent, endless opportunities to be selfish. But my children are teaching me that my sense of self-importance is not only unsustainable, it actually ruins my relationships. There’s nothing like a sharp word to my groggy wife during a 3AM crying session to make me realize, “I’m the problem!”
I’m learning that love is death: it’s the capitulation of my sleep, the re-ordering of my priorities, the recognition that some of my dreams and whims and vacation aspirations may never be fulfilled. Of course, death is really just another word for humility—I cease to think about myself because someone more important is beckoning. It’s undoubtedly the most painful lesson I’ve endured, but I think it’s starting to stick. My fuse is getting longer, and I’m even learning to respond to childish adults with the same patience that (just barely) preserves all our sanity on those 13-hour car trips.
Each child comes with his or her own ability to inspire awe and to teach us in spite of ourselves. They’re our best human guides, in part because their instruction is intimate and ever-present, and it comes without any smug sense of qualification or self-importance. I figure I need as many of those teachers as I can afford.
You only get seven months to figure it out. Everyone says pregnancy is nine months, and that’s true from a biological perspective, but by the time the stick shows two lines, and you recover from the shock, she’s already rounding the corner into the second trimester.
And on that miraculous morning seven months later, when baby opens her eyes and peers into your soul, you begin to sound like the trite lead character in every new-parent comedy: “I don’t know the first thing about raising a kid!”
Of course you don’t. No one can adequately prepare for a miracle.
It’s frequently unexpected but always beneficial, because it points us to Someone higher, who uses foolish things to confound the wise.
The miraculous by its very nature breaks the rules: stuffy rules about propriety, rigid schedules, and fashion trends.
It contains the power to delight and horrify in one fell swoop.
And we can’t get enough of it.