“The nature of impending fatherhood is that you are doing something that you’re unqualified to do, and then you become qualified while doing it.”
Writing about what it means to be a father is a difficult task. Holding Arlo and Mae as newborn children was nothing short of terrifying and awe-inspiring at the same time. There were these intensely contrasting feelings of awe, wonder, excitement, and hope, pitted against fear, fragility, pain, and doubt.
Thinking back on having Arlo just three years ago, I realize just how wholly unprepared I was to be a father. And yet this seems to be the paradox of becoming a dad. I’m the type of person who likes to feel like I know what I’m doing. Most of my life, though, is realizing that I don’t know what I’m doing, and instead being humbled in the process of becoming. I think that this is the way God intended things—for us to look to him in all that we do, and to have a Father to walk with us in all that is life. In this way, being a father is not much unlike being a child.
When I became a dad, I suddenly had the realization that I would be a father for the rest of my life. Questions raced through my mind: Will I inevitably wound my children? What wounds am I carrying from my own childhood? Will I be a good parent? Will I fail? And what does that even mean? What if I don’t have what my kids need from me? With the birth of our daughter Mae this past winter, the same questions inevitably rose to the surface again, but with a new sort of shape. With Arlo they were baked into fear. With Mae I’ve realized that these fears are real, and that they’re simply the realities of being human in the world. I am a broken human-being. Yes, I will wound my kids, and I do not have everything that they need. And yet at the same time I am continually being shaped into a new creation.
“No man can possibly know what life means, what the world means, what anything means, until he has a child and loves it.”
Being a father (so far) has been nothing short of a daily process of giving oneself; of sacrifice, apologizing, asking forgiveness, and receiving grace. And yet in this there is deep joy. To be made new over the course of a lifetime in the presence of my kids is God-glorifying; it is to taste and see that the Lord is good; that he favors love and change over stale pride and hardness of heart.
The beautiful thing is that I have so much still to learn. In all there is to know, learn, and experience about being a dad, I am like a child. My prayer is simply that I would remain as one instead of trying to pretend like I know everything or have it all together.