Today as Olivia and I were planning out our daily schedule, taking advantage of a day off work due to some snow and late-night ice, I realized that her plans to get an allergy shot and go shopping with a friend from work would ax my plans to go running around the golf course. (Getting pegged in the head by a stray golf ball is not something I generally like to risk, so I rejoiced to think that no one would be out on the links today.) After all, I had to stay home and take care of our year-old son Ephraim.
I was in a sort of funk for a while after that, which I now attribute to the selfishness of my own heart. While Olivia was getting ready to leave, I commented on how I really find it hard sometimes to see children from God the Creator's point of view: that they are an unqualified blessing. "And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth'" (Genesis 9:1; cf. 1:28). "Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. ... Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!" (Psalm 127:3, 5; see also Psalm 128). Let's face it: we have it easy. Neither of us is a single parent, and we only have one child, who sleeps probably 16 hours a day. And yet how often all I think about is how having a child limits my freedoms and ease of living. I might be anti-abortion, yet I still functionally imbibe the zeitgeist that unlimited convenience trumps the challenges of raising children.
Then, as usual, God's Word exposed the thoughts and intentions of my heart and found them wanting and selfish. Yay, I love that. In 2 Corinthians 12:14-15 Paul sets forth a different attitude for parenting to his "children" at Corinth:
And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you. For children are not obligated to save up for their parents, but parents for their children. I will most gladly spend and be spent for your souls. If I love you more, am I to be loved less?As a father, my chief aim should be to love my son the way God loves us in Christ, pursuing us to win our hearts: "What I seek is ... you." Am I seeking Ephraim's love, trust, and respect so that I can point him to the Father above who loves him far more than I ever will? Or is my desire and prize to go running, explore the woods, sleep more, have a clean apartment, or watch Parks and Recreation?
And in that pursuit am I joyfully giving up everything I have and expending myself, just like Jesus did for me? "Though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9). Jesus gladly "emptied himself" of all his freedoms and lived each day in a death to comfort, self-will, and independence in order to win back the hearts of God's straying children (Philippians 2:5-11). Will I too do this for my son by sacrificing my plans, my free time, my convenience, and my sleep and spending these to serve and care for him?
Thankfully, all of this came to me while Ephraim was taking a nap. When he awoke, God gave me so much happiness as I picked him up, fed him, changed his stinky diaper, and danced with him to Caedmon's Call's 40 Acres album. Thanks, Lord, for my little boy, and every moment with him. He's growing up so quickly, and these days will soon be only photos and memories.