As I continue to prepare for fatherhood (Robie is in her 28th week), I have been helped by conversations, books and prayer. Today I met with a dear friend whose wife has the same due date (9/11, redeeming that date one birth at a time) to discuss the challenges, concerns and blessings of pregnancy and impending fatherhood. Although we realize we will never be “ready for fatherhood,” we took great encouragement that we are not alone, that we have a heavenly Father who has wired us for this all-important calling. “See how great a love the Father has given to us that we might be called children of God.” (1 Jn 3.1)
Believe it or not, the challenges set in before the baby is born. Although our wives have the hardest part (morning sickness, weight gain, hormonal changes, fatigue, etc.), their challenges call for husbands to relinquish their time to attend to their needs. My friend and I agree that our wives have been incredibly graceful and faith-full as they enter this unusual 9 month experience. Nevertheless, it takes time to pick up the slack, to clean more, to go to doctor’s appointments, to plan for life change. Losing time now is a foretaste of things to come (add to that sleep and sanity).
However, doing stuff isn’t the essence, though its essential, to parenting. In Becoming A Dad, James and Thomas write: “The priorities of joy-filled fathering must never be about doing more, learning more, or acquiring more skills. Rather, our focus as godly men must remain about discovering a life of authenticity and abundance based in the person of Christ…As fathers, we are called to acknowledge and experience the uniqueness of our children. This can only be done by naming, facing, and embracing our losses- the loss of free time, the loss of couplehood, the loss of money, the loss of privacy, the loss of sleep, the loss of freedom, the loss of quiet, to name only a few.” (and reading books like this one!)
Of course, loss is central to the Christian life, but it isn’t an end in itself. “Whoever wishes to gain his life must lose it.” (Luke 9.24) We lose our life, our lordship, in order to GAIN something, namely incomparable life, life filled with the fragrance of Jesus. So, my hope in parenthood is the same as it is in marriage and all of life, that I would gain Christ in every step, wherever it leads. Another father and friend has summed up the essence of fatherhood well: “In order to be a good father, try to be a good son.”
So, the joy set before us is to revel in our sonship. Sure, that will be really hard at times, but its worth it. Although gaining fatherhood isn’t without loss; its also not without gain!