Last week, I became a father for the second time. My wife presented me with another son.
I imagine that the birth of a second child proves over time to be a unique experience. There may be no other moment in life which so profoundly demonstrates love’s abundance. When you have your first child, it feels like a pinnacle. How could you possibly love more than that? The prospect of a second child seems to the uninitiated to portend a division of that love between two objects, like the division of an estate between inheritors.
I did not need to know my new son for long before realizing that parental love does not divide. It multiplies. Everything my firstborn means to me has been duplicated.
That experience provides some insight into the boundless love of God. What my two sons evoke in me dimly reflects what each of God’s children evoke in Him. My sons thus make it easier for me to understand why God would create us in the first place, and why He would be willing to give so much — even in the face of rebellion — to offer salvation.
Four years old, my firstborn constantly reminds me of myself, modeling in his relationship with me my own relationship with God. His defiance echoes my own, as does his helpless reliance.
Like most children his age, my firstborn becomes very attached to particular objects and carts them around wherever he goes. It may be a toy helicopter or truck. Sometimes, he clings to a found coin or his favorite blanket. Whatever happens to be his MacGuffin de jour, my son frequently loses track of it, whether darting about home or traveling around town. When he loses a coveted trinket, his world comes to an end. It absolutely must be found without delay.
Without exception, whenever I succeed in recovering one of my son’s lost treasures, he responds in the same way.
I found it!
Nevermind the role I had to play. He takes the credit for solving the problem. Though a bit offended, I humble myself with the knowledge that I am as guilty of taking credit from God. Every time I attribute a success to my own ingenuity without recognizing the vital role He plays, I stand guilty of idolatry.
Naturally, discipline presents no end of opportunities for similar introspection. My frustration as a father has been witnessing how my son defies my authority. Say I want him to brush his teeth or wash his hands or take a bath. Each mundane yet simple task has at various times elicited explosive rebellion. I wish I could understand it. More than that, I wish I could convey to my son just how futile his resistance proves. How much more time does it take to fight against washing your hands? What does resistance ultimately accomplish? Is it worth the struggle required to work yourself up into a frenzy, only to be forced to comply in the end or face harsher correction? It seems so silly to die upon the hill of a toothbrush.
Yet, does my defiance of God’s will for my life prove any less silly? I stand aware of ways I have resisted God, great and small, which were just as futile as my son’s refusing to take a bath — with far graver consequences.
There may exist no greater disappointment than parental disappointment. When your offspring fail to meet a standard, when they abuse or offend others, you hold some degree of responsibility for behavior you cannot directly control.
I read that it only gets worse as they grow older, that there is less and less you can dictate and more attractive influences to compete with. That raises a concern which threatens obsession, leading many into the perils of over-protection.
It helps to realize that I have, in my own turn, disappointed my father in heaven. As I experience concern for my son, I better appreciate God’s concern for me.
Conversely, there may exist no greater pride than that evoked by a child’s success and good behavior. When my firstborn acts graciously, says “please” and “thank you” of his own accord, or demonstrates consideration for another person, I stand blessed.
Particularly in this week since his sibling was born, I find my son’s gentle treatment of his baby brother uniquely pleasing. It helps me more profoundly understand God’s commandment to love one another. If my joy at seeing one son embrace another is any indication, God’s pleasure at our caring for our neighbor must truly abide.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I am humbled by how obviously my sons require the benefit of my knowledge and wisdom. Clearly, they cannot care for themselves and rely entirely upon their mother and I. As they grow older, their own knowledge and wisdom will increase, eventually reaching the point where they can care for themselves. However, even then, they will retain the opportunity to benefit from our greater years of experience.
How much more profoundly do I need God? How much more thoroughly does His knowledge and wisdom transcend my own? How silly my whims must seem to Him, as my sons’ often seem to me. As their lives might be made easier by submitting to my guidance, so too will mine be made easier by submitting to the lordship of the Almighty.