"Before you can search for truth, you must be interested in finding it." -Miroslav Volf

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Some Early Thoughts on Fatherhood

This evening, a sportscaster talking about Eli Manning and the Super Bowl suggested this victory cemented Manning’s place in the Hall of Fame. And then he referred to the Super Bowl as “the most important game,” in an intense, epic voice, as if to say: “there is nothing more important than the Super Bowl.” My wife laughed; she thinks sports fanaticism is funny.

I’m going to be a father in a little less than half a year. Fatherhood seems important. Like, legitimately important. I hate to be dismissive of an event that provides jobs for its participants and good fun and company for millions of viewers, so maybe I should say: my expected child and impending fatherhood is more important to me than the Super Bowl.

It’s perhaps more important to me than anything, actually. That feels a bit strange to say, at this point. My health is important, and I am careful to make choices that cultivate good health. My job is important, for the lives I influence through it, the opportunity to be “useful” and a good steward of my abilities, and for the income.

My friends and family are important; they’ve shaped me, enriched me, educated me, brought pleasure to my life, and deserve my reverence and gratitude and attention. My hobbies are important and provide enrichment and a needed escape from pressures and stresses.

My educational goals are important and deeply linked to my vocational goals, as are the nurturing of my gifts and strengths. Inching ever closer toward something like moral excellence is important. My faith and hope in my/our Lord, God, Savior, and Way is immeasurably important.

Perhaps more important than them all is my companion on the journey through all of these things, my beloved wife.

And then I think about being a prospective parent, of what will be required of me, what gift I will be given, what responsibility will be laid upon me, the sacredness of my child and the opportunity of fatherhood.

I think about the delicacy of our formation, how forces, powers, people, contexts, etc—how they shape us, how malleable we are, especially in those early years.

I think about how I could be a horrible father and really mess up my child. I think about how I could be a horrible father and my child could become an excellent human being, in spite of me. I think about how I could be a great father and my child could become a troubled soul and live a troubled life. Or, option four, I’m fine, he/she’s fine.

I can’t control the outcome, I suppose. You fathers out there probably know this, and have much more wisdom than I in this area. But I think about my child, and feel an enormous sense of call—to be the most caring, educating, nurturing, empowering father I can be for my child. I can’t fully control my child’s development, and do expect pain and sorrow upon continual realizations of this fact along the way.

But I can influence, persuade, guide, model and endure through tough parenting moments with hope that my weaknesses as a person and father will not overly influence my child for the worse and that my successes will take root and help my child on his or her journey of becoming—becoming more fully his- or herself, more united with others, with self, with God.

I think about being a father, and much of life seems secondary, inconsequential. All my ambitions and interests seem less significant. My desires to be right, to be praised, to be known, to win, to be in control, whatever…seem lost in the shadows of some very simple things—having warmth, food, health, community, a wife to share it with, and a child to pass everything on to.

Being a prospective father puts it all into perspective. I’ve no intention to abandon these important things in my life, these pursuits and dreams and essentials of daily living. But I think excellence in fatherhood and the emotional, physical, social, mental, and spiritual health of my child are ambitions and goals that may trump them all.

Well…maybe child and wife are tied? Oh boy…I’ve got to figure that one out. Maybe I don’t have to choose. J

I share here some lyrics that have brought inspiration and clarity of late, penned by Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol:

A hand upon my forehead, the joking and the laugh
Waking up in your arms, a place to call my own

This is all I ever wanted from life
This is all I ever wanted from life
This is all I ever wanted from life

Ireland in the World Cup, either North or South
The fan club on the jukebox, the birds and yes the bees

This is all I ever wanted from life
This is all I ever wanted from life
This is all I ever wanted from life

Words of reassurance, but only if they're true
Just some simple kindness, no vengeance from the gods

This is all I ever wanted from life
This is all I ever wanted from life
This is all I ever wanted from life

To share what I've been given, some kids eventually
And be for them what I've had, a father like my dad

This is all I ever wanted from life
This is all I ever wanted from life
This is all I ever wanted from life

(Snow Patrol. "Lifening" Fallen Empires. Universal Music Group, 2011.)

1 comment:

Barb said...

Yep, you are in the zone!

Well said, my son.