I glanced over at four-year-old Bethany the other day and found myself deep in reminiscent thought. The birth of our second daughter, Christine, has brought a flood of fond memories back to me concerning the early days with Bethany.
For Bethany, life is a constant and desperate sprint to become “older.” Her wishes are quickly becoming a reality. We have often heard from seasoned veteran parents that children grow up much too fast. They beg us to enjoy the present, for it all too soon becomes the past. I can see more clearly every day how true this really is.
Looking at Christine reminds me how quickly babies become toddlers and toddlers become children; and how all too soon, children become teens and then adults. Somewhere in the madness, Bethany passed through the toddler stage. She is now a little girl with longings, joys, sorrows and hopes all her own. School looms much larger now on the horizon of her future.
Soon, she will be a woman and Joshua will be a man. And yes, even little Christine will make her way to adulthood in just a passing moment, for time looking backwards seems to have a wrinkle in it. Every instance in the past viewed from the present has an element of immediacy. It is almost as if nothing separates the historical event from the current recollection. We glance back and seem to see no space in between the present and the past.
Our existence is this way. It requires a lifetime for reality to pass us by, but as we look back upon it, from the end to the beginning, only a second has expired on the universe’s clock. My life as a father is just beginning, but already it seems so instantaneous, like it will be over in only a moment.
At a Promise Keepers conference in San Diego, speaker Ken Davis talked of his own experience as a father. He put it this way: “Right after my daughter was born, she reached out and grabbed a hold of my hand with her precious little fingers. And I made a mistake. I blinked. And when I opened my eyes, she was letting go of my hand as I gave it away in marriage.” This season of my life as a father will, I am sure, be similarly brief.
“You turn men back into dust . . . For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by . . . . The length of our days is seventy years—or eighty, if we have the strength. . . . For they quickly pass, and we fly away. . . . Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Psalm 90:3-4, 10, 12.
There have been some tired moments and some late nights in the midst of all this chaos. It is during those times that I find myself most inclined to walk away from the effort, the heartache, and the sacrifice of raising children in a modern world. But it is also during these times, I find myself reminded of several things. Not everyone has the privilege or responsibility to raise children. God has placed the tremendous task upon my shoulders for some reason that He alone can know. And the task is a burden I am not fit to carry. God alone can walk with me and pull me through this fire.
How I long for my children to know and serve Christ more fervently than I have ever done. I long for them to change, to mold the future of our world, even as God is using them to change and mold my own faulty character as a father, as a husband, as a Christian in a godless world. How I long for them to be like Christ despite my frequent failings.
In the midst of this season of life, I remain a tired, but grateful father. And I would not trade places with anyone else in this world. During those deep dark nights, even within the din and the cacophony, God’s voice, and the voices of countless others who have gone before me, whisper softly and relentlessly in my ringing ears, “It’s worth it. Treasure these moments and never forget that it’s worth it.”