One day, Richard, when your family line approaches extinction, I guess at least you'll know right where to place the blame.
You and I have been working together at the same office for about six months now. In that brief period of time, I'm fairly certain I've single-handedly quashed any inclination you've ever felt toward the prospect of eventual parenthood. I can't pinpoint the exact moment I pushed you over the edge. Maybe it was my description of the joys of potty training. Perhaps it was the account of my 2-year-old daughter putting permanent marker to my computer monitor. Or maybe, just maybe, it was what the bags under my eyes say about the realities of sleepless nights at the hands of a newborn.
I will readily admit, Richard, that parenthood is the hardest thing I've ever done -- and it isn't even really close. I've struggled through seven years of college education. I lived in a foreign country for two years as a full-time missionary for my church and experienced a life in which things like electricity and running water can hardly be taken for granted. During the worst summer of my life, I butted heads with the bar exam and somehow lived to tell the tale. And yet none of this compares to the challenge, stress and strain parenthood puts on body, mind and spirit.
My life is a veritable merry-go-round of little people clamoring: fighting, feeding, playing, reading, diapers, dishes, spills and kisses. Never before have I felt the constraints of time so acutely. All other dreams and aspirations are forced to the side. When, if ever, will I be able to take that Caribbean cruise with my wife? When will I finish the manuscript of my novel? When will I squeeze in a jog? When will I watch an entire movie in one sitting? When will I read the newspaper in peace?
I confess I sometimes look back at simpler times of carefree bachelorhood with wistful fondness. And yet, Richard, despite it all I wouldn't trade my life -- not for a million bucks, not for the tea in China, not for the world.
I believe that for everything there is a season. (Or at least I must keep telling myself that in order to maintain my sanity.) I eventually will find the time to accomplish all of the above, but if I don't, my life will be that much fuller for it.
My wife informs me that several weeks ago in church a teacher asked the children if they knew of any people who might have lost their job and therefore be in need of prayer. My 4-year-old son's hand shot up first. "My daddy didn't lose his job," he announced, "and we have lots of money!" While my son's assertion about his father's financial status is far from conclusive, at least I know he feels happy and secure.
You see, Richard, at the end of a long day when things don't go quite right at work, when I'm feeling beaten down by the sadness, bitterness and dysfunction of the world, I pull my Honda Civic into the driveway and two little angel faces peek out the door of our home and grin at me. That's when I know it's all worth it.
So, the bottom line is this: God put men on earth to experience joy. And anything worthwhile in this life, including and especially joy, is just plain hard work.
Perhaps, Richard, I've neglected to tell you about the thrill of watching my son's eyes dance as his $2 kite careens through the air above East Campus. I probably didn't mention how my daughter prances around the house, curls bouncing, as she sings the words to her favorite song from the movie "Tangled." You wouldn't understand the wonder of holding a newborn son in your arms and seeing echoes of the first two in his features -- as well as a glimpse of the infinite possibilities.
Alas, these are things, dear Richard, you will never know. Pity. I suspect you'd be superb at midnight bottle-feeding.