10 weeks ago my beloved wife gave birth. Our first child. A son. And as you might expect, he has completely changed our lives. Perhaps less obviously he has changed my understanding of God as my Father too. It’s as if what I once understood is just a rough pencil sketch and now I’m seeing in high-definition 3D film.
As a thirty-something British male, I’m not prone to be overly emotional (or at least not that I’d be letting on), but the arrival of my son has tapped into something locked deep inside of me. The love of a father. The love of THE Father. Until he was born, I didn’t believe I had such capacity to love. And that’s not to say that I don’t love my wife with all my heart. It’s just that my unbound devotion to my wife is one based on mutual feeling and how I feel about my son is something else again.
In the past 10 weeks I have experienced more joy, more pain, more terror, more despair & more relief than I think I have in my entire adult life. I feel utterly helpless yet undeniably responsible. The rollercoaster ride of parenting has, in its early stages, left me at times soaring like an eagle and at other times crashing helplessly and breathlessly, unsure where to turn for answers. It’s not even as if my son has undergone that much that doesn’t afflict all newborns at some point. And yet I have been given a taster of how it feels to love your offspring, your creation, with all your being.
With every twist in his early development I’m wracked with anguish about what he does and the person he will become. Even the messy stuff he produces is something I take care of simply because I can’t not. Would I rather every nappy were spotless? Of course but even when they’re not, I know I am the only one who can restore him to cleanliness. Every time he wraps his tiny arm around mine, I think “If I could I would hold him to my chest for the rest of my days. It’s the only way to keep him safe and ensure he knows he’s loved, right?”
But eventually (sadly soon enough) he’ll grow and need to make it on his own. I won’t be able to choose his path or guide him by the hand forever. If I truly love him like I say, I must grant him freedom. The freedom to make his own way. To make mistakes and realise the consequences. To choose to love me back. It will hurt me. But I will know that he has made the conscious decision to embrace life and maturity. But our relationship as father and son won’t have ended there. It will just have begun.
These 10 weeks have given me some truly fresh perspective. I have a greater appreciation for my own father, knowing that he too will have gone through this when I arrived. It has also given me a greater appreciation for my Heavenly Father – for God himself – and all he has given (and forgiven) me. He is not just the best example of father, he’s the original – the one on whom this experience is modelled. Much like all that is truly beautiful and transcendent in this wonderful world, it is best epitomised in the one who first commissioned it…
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
Let me be clear, I’m not saying it is just because I am now a father myself that I can achieve this understanding (lest I say that non-parents are somehow unable to fully comprehend this truth). But, for me, parenthood has offered a deeper, richer, more tangible perspective on just how much God loves me – and just what He goes through on my behalf!