Being a newly minted parent of two it has become common to hear questions asking how the transition has been. I have heard some parents say the transition had been easy, others not so much. So far (being less than two weeks in) the transition has been all we expected. We have two kids, and there are natural changes that have come from that, for better and for worse. Twice the tears, but twice the snuggles. Twice the laundry, twice the joy.But the thing that has struck me most is not twice the amount of diaper sausages, the lack of sleep, or the puke covered shoulders, it’s what I have coined as “my gospel bruise.”
Beneath the Surface
Marriage, parenthood, life in general, all of these provide us opportunities to examine not only what is happening in our lives, but what is happening to us personally. Often times we can look at life events and point to specific circumstances which have changed the kind of person we view ourselves as. I have heard some first time fathers use the phrase, “I’m a totally different person now.” While it is true that we are shaped by life, I think we can often misplace the origin of true change.
As a married father of two I can honestly look back at who I was as a single college student and see, for the most part, the same guy. I see a guy who is far too interested in sports. I see a guy who wrestles with carving out time for devotions and prayer, who wrestles with similar sins in different ways. But in a very real sense, by the grace of God, I am different. The sands of time have exposed me and shaped me. Yet what has changed me most is not the wedding rings, swaddlers and toddlers. What has change me most is how those things have caused me to view the gospel. The gospel is the only source of lasting change. You are shaped either by its presence, or its absence and it is profoundly effective.
Soft to the Touch
As a single guy, I understood that God was gracious and sovereign in my life. But at the same time I also understood that I had the faculties to make real choices. I could respond to God. I could chose to worship. I had an ability. When I married Sarah this idea was distanced, but still relevant. I could trust that Sarah was capable of good choices. She could follow God with the best of her abilities and it was my job to help her and lead her in that process. But with two kids under that age of three, that ability is not present. Just this past week God has impressed this on me in ways I had never before felt.
At church we were singing “Before the Throne of God Above,” and it hit me with the force of a thousand dirty diapers. This hope we were singing, the hope that God the just is satisfied, that through the cross God looks on Jesus and pardons me, this hope is sufficient for my family. God has placed me in a role of influence in my family. I am a husband and a dad, each of those include a great Biblical weight and responsibility. But before they need my parenting, before they need my love and protection, they need this grace of God. My family is God’s family, I’m just a steward.
For the first time in my life I was aware of the tension between my role and God’s sovereignty in a heavy and wonderful way. The soft spot of the gospel was growing. And this bruise, as much as it felt uncomfortable, was a wonderful affliction. By God’s grace I was made aware of it, and by God’s grace these three people in my family forced me to look at the gospel anew.
A Deep Ache
This viewpoint has changed me. This realization of the gospel is birthing a new man. My heart aches with the desire of Paul when he writes, “For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may about more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:8-11). This is my deepest desire, this is the soft spot of my life. This changes the way I love them, parent them, lead them, serve them, and pray for them.
I am still the man I was, but by God’s grace things are changing. They are changing not because I no longer have the time or money to do the things I used to love to do, they are changing because they are becoming incompatible with, or secondary to, the hope of the gospel I have for my family. I pray that every time I look at my wife, my son, or my daughter I am reminded of this gospel bruise: my role, God’s grace, my family, God’s children.