Life doesn’t go as planned, a lesson I’ve learned enough times to comfortably say its one I refuse to accept. I originally planned a very different first post for Charlie’s Church of Christ, a post in the same vein as the rest of the content to come, however the birth of my first child a mere 50 hours ago has stirred me in such a way that I must roll with these changes.
Seeing my daughter, whom was simply my first child as we chose to not discover out our baby’s gender before birth, come out of my wife is surely one of those moments that abruptly and utterly changes a entire life forever. At the risk of sounding totally corny, my baby has shown me more about God than 26 years of sermons and books have told me about God. And this is no fault of sermons, books, Bible studies, and the like – this is simply just how physical, material life works, and I feel confident saying it’s designed that way.
Its one of those lessons that reaches all the way back to grade school – that showing is far superior to telling. However, since I can’t show you in the same way I have seen, I will attempt to tell you what I’ve been shown as a morsel to tide you over until you get to experience them for yourself.
I grew up hearing from whatever preacher was rolling through town that sin, in any of its forms, is as ugly as diaper laden landfill and that because of it humans beings are so far removed from God that we could never even come close to touching the Divine. Their hatred and intolerance of sin indirectly taught me to believe that humans have nothing in common with God. Any admission of such on their part could eventually open up the possibility that a human would not need Jesus for salvation. So the fact that a human being can create, albeit not alone, another life that lives outside of its creator, and moves and works and interacts not by strings attached to our fingers directly reminds me of the creation story at the beginning of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures. That ability actually showcases our similarity to God, who immediately defines himself as a creator. How striking that he shares such an immense “power” of creating. A noted difference is that we are limited to creating other human beings and not simply anything or creature, it takes extended time to do so and that no one can do it by themselves. You may argue that we can write original music and use tools to make a never before seen product, and we can certainly build all sorts of things as evidenced by our planet viewed from space, however we do not create them in the same way we birth a child. We merely put materials together in build, we do not breathe those raw materials into existence.
Despite our ability to give life, we do not create it brick by brick consciously. Throughout my wife’s pregnancy I was struck by the fact that each day she did not have to consciously hard wire a brain or begin work on a skeletal structure, but that somewhere inside of my wife’s body is a code that decrees how to build a human body from scratch. That’s not to say this maternity process is effortless, certainly my wife had far less energy from each day’s body building, however she could simply accomplish whatever each day demanded and not concern herself with placing the kidneys, intestines, stomach, lungs and heart.
My daughter weighed a little shy of nine pounds at birth. Inside this meager body (relative to how big she will be in two decades) is not only innumerable minuscule blood vessels and muscles and neurons but also all of the code necessary for her body to grow and change all the way into one hundred years of life. She does not go to my wife or I, her physical creators, for additional information on what new processes to develop during adolescence, on how to complete physical maturity or how to adapt as the years wear on. Inside my tiny daughter tucked away in an archive is her own maternal instinct, to remain dormant for many years. She became an independent being at nine pounds and at 10 months of life, yet contained inside of her is enough to literally last a lifetime.
Worries about finances, potential parenting abilities and the responsibility of constantly caring for a small child are all reasons people delay having children (if they ever do), though I suspect the reason that trumps all those is that simply can’t do nearly as much once the little guys start coming. Your traveling career drastically changes (likely diminishes), you probably won’t design and build your own home with an infant around, starting your own business suddenly makes it seem like caring for triplets, and it is not the time to start forming that band you’ve always wanted to play in. Your autonomy and ability to pour your heart into activities and pursuits drastically shrivels up and puts itself not in the back seat, but in the trunk under the spare tire. However a child instantly, near magically, forces you to not care for yourself as if you are most important, and it teaches you the very spiritual lesson that giving to other people is the closest thing to the meaning of life. As a society we emphasize accomplishing much, despite the thousands of years of sage wisdom that loving others is the greatest you will ever do, and it is not until a child comes does our heart embrace this lesson.
For the first 24 hours after my daughter’s dramatic exit from the womb, at the risk of making this read like a diary, I would seemingly randomly burst into tears. If you inquired as to why I was crying, even now as I look back, the best summation I can give is the vague “it is all so overwhelming.” The strength and perseverance of my wife, the adrenaline of an intense 17 hour labor that never relents and most of all the unparalleled beauty of brand new life demanded to be felt despite the years of defenses I’ve tirelessly built up. The un-pleasantry of feeling and dealing with negative emotions (ex: anger, disappointment, loneliness) can easily lead to the repressing, avoidance and denying of all emotions, even if they are positive (such as joy, cheerfulness), however the beauty of the child birth experience has the ability to shatter all of the souls on earth so that you can’t help but feel the rush and weight of every emotion. Though such uninhibited access to the full range of my emotions is likely to taper off as I move away from the birthing experience, simply connecting with them enables a great ability to connect with them again.
Though my daughter is so small and helpless I’ve already found myself beginning to accept that we have created a life not so that we can control and manipulate it, but that we have created life because we so enjoy the experience ourselves and desire to show that to another, even if that life will be totally different from what we had. I’ve already begun accepting that my daughter is her own person who will live her own life, and indeed will need to make her own mistakes, even repeatedly, and that she is not mine to control. Though I have created, this does not give me license to control what I have created. Not only do I not have the license to try, but I do not possess the ability to control every (maybe any?) of her outcomes. Sometimes I wonder if God himself ever wishes he had thought twice about relinquishing control on his beloved sons and daughters. Yet it remains.
And all of that has been shown in only two days… May what I have learned be remembered in the recesses of my brain, and may I never stop gleaming from my experiences both as a father and a child.