This is the first week that Amanda and I both worked full time as real life grownups, the first week that Ellie got to spend three days in a row with her grandma.
This is the first week since early May that I have only gotten to see Ellie for a little bit, only a few hours each day.
And I would be lying if I didn’t admit that the tears are back.
You see, I don’t like change. I don’t handle it well. Like my father, I want to find a rut, get in it, and stay there. But life, of course, rarely affords that opportunity.
And Amanda and I have experienced enough change over the course of the last 15 months to last a lifetime. All of this change, all of this good and necessary and marvellous but difficult transition has taught me a handful of things that I want to share.
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First, life is far far better with Amanda than it ever was without her. There are innumerable ways in which I have improved since being married to Amanda, but here are a few: 1) Amanda has helped me learn to pay attention to what is right in front of me. She doesn’t get distracted easily. She is never too impressed with the latest and greatest thing. She is determinedly focused on people. And she carries with her a deep-seated empathy for the pains and hurts and struggles of others. 2) I eat better. I still do almost all of the cooking, but now I cook good food using healthy ingredients. And my flavor profile has grown exponentially. 3) I get to watch Amanda be an excellent mother. She is patient with Ellie. She knows all of Ellie’s moods and instinctively knows what Ellie wants to do. She is also a genius nurse, so she’s good to have around when Ellie is sick or has a rash. I never have to worry about Ellie’s health because I get to trust Amanda. 4) Amanda knows me so well, frequently better than I know myself, that she is able to help keep me steady sure. I joke that Amanda and I together are a game of tether ball. I’m the ball, of course, and Amanda is the pole. I swing wildly around in all directions, but she is always able to pull me back in. She helps me center myself. And being married to Amanda, especially over the last fifteen months, have taught me how to love sacrifically. My identity changed the moment I said I do. I am a husband.
Second, you have no idea how capable you are of love until you become a parent. I love Amanda. And I would give my life for her. And I love her more than I love anything else in this world, but she was her own person before I ever met her. Ellie was not. She was, and remains, more helpless and utterly dependent on the care of another than anything else I’ve ever known. And I am tasked not just with feeding her and wiping her butt, but with teaching her that she is wonderfully and fearfully made. Amanda and I are tasked with showing this new human what life is and can be. We are her guides not just to food and clothing and sleeping, though we are teaching her about all of those things too. Rather, we are her guides to the good world God has made, and we are her first guides to God. And that sacred responsibility, to help Ellie find the imago dei upon herself, is constantly with me; it is constantly on my mind. My identity changed the moment I saw her being born. I am a father.
Third, God is most clearly present in times of upheaval and change. I know that is kind of a cliche thing to say, but it is true. When you have to move three times in 2 months, or when your wife is pregnant and a nurse at the first hospital in the country to treat Ebola, or when your wife’s beloved grandfather is finally called home by the Lord, or when your father almost dies in a car wreck, or when you watch your wife labor for 40 hours and at the end you get to hold a brand new human being who will one day call you Daddy, or when you resign your job and withdraw from your PhD program–your life’s ambition–so that you can be the husband and father that you are called to be–then, in those moments, you are buoyed by the one who holds it all together, in whom all things consist. When nothing else in life is stable, you are able to turn and see he who anchors the universe. My identity changed the moment the waters closed over me in baptism. I am a son of God.
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Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.