…and a few weeks ago, our family brought forth in West County an offspring – the first of our three.
We finally got around to celebrating the milestone yesterday, when the schedules eventually clicked for most in the clan. And spurred perhaps by the grilled pork tenderloin, sweet potato fries and fresh-baked apple crisp that blessed our table, I found that I’d developed a bit of an appetite for musing about my four decades of fatherhood.
At the risk of trivializing President Lincoln and the lives he memorialized with the Gettysburg Address, I have to say the birth of our eldest likewise seemed a pretty momentous event – at least in our intimate circle – all those many years ago.
Thick-headed though I am, I knew immediately things had changed the first time I held the little one in my arms. I knew for instance – utterly, instantaneously, terrifyingly – how much I didn’t know. How much they didn’t teach me in those childbirth classes. And: how much I found myself wishing that neo-natal nurse would “get back in here!” to help me change the diaper.
In the days that followed, as the trepidation surrounding my ineptitude subsided, I began to learn some other things about myself as well – chief among them, that there was plenty of room in my heart to welcome another. Love in our family wasn’t divided by the arrival of a son. It was doubled…or tripled…or quintupled.
My whole concept of personal economics got upended as well. It was a delight to discover what kinds of things I was willing to do (or what sort of disgusting tasks I’d willingly endure) for no payback other than a smile.
Of course, the kid plays no small role in the unfolding magic of this remarkable exchange. A child is the very definition of helplessness, dependence. And yet, I noticed, no credentials were ever required of me. No certification requested or provided. My child simply trusts that things will work out.
None of this qualifies as groundbreaking insight, I guess. But it does help me appreciate what Jesus keeps trying to teach us about life in the Kingdom. Children have been a recurring theme in the Sunday gospel readings of recent weeks. First, this…
Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Taking a child, he placed it in their midst, and putting his arms around it, he said to them, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”
And then, this…
[Jesus] said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not prevent them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it.” Then he embraced them and blessed them…
Even with forty years of fatherhood under my belt, I still tend to rush right past these lessons – lessons of selflessness, servant leadership and trust in divine providence. So I thank God, then, for the enduring gift of wife and sons and daughters and grandchildren who love me – and who challenge me to keep becoming a better version of myself.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.