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On Being a Father: Grace upon Grace

Today my son Charles is four months old.  This is him:
He has been a colicy baby, so my wife and I have had little sleep and have spent most of our time either entertaining him or trying to soothe him.
But that’s quite alright.  This was the sort of thing I expected when people told us that everything in life was going to change.
What I didn’t expect, was a very different change that Charles has created in me.  In fact, this change was so unexpected, so unlooked for, that it took me a good couple of weeks to figure out what was different.  I knew something radical had happened inside of me but I was unable to name it.
You see, for the last seven or eight years, I have felt like I was slowly shattering.  I felt like my journey into broken places was slowly breaking me — breaking my heart, my strength, my spirit.  With each new death, each new kid lost to drugs or mental illness or violence, each new rape, I felt like another piece inside of me broke off.
In recent years, I have felt that there were so many cracks and fissures running through me that I often wondered how long I would be able to hold myself together.
And then Charlie was born.  And the first time I held him I felt as though all of my broken pieces fused back together again.  That’s why it took me so long to figure out what I was feeling — I hadn’t felt that way in so many years.  So it’s no wonder that it hit me like a ton of bricks a few weeks later when I finally realized what it was that I was feeling: “My God.  I feel whole!”  What a miraculous gift my son has given to me.
My wife and I weren’t planning on having a child when we did.  Charlie came into our lives unexpectedly.  But the timing ended up being perfect — far better than we could ever have known.  He has been a gift from God to us.  I look at him sleeping beside me and think, “Amazing grace!”
Of course, as I suggested in my opening paragraph, there is nothing ‘cheap’ about this grace.  It is costly; it demands a lot of us.  But all of that — the sleepless nights, the exhaustion, the sacrifice of other things — is immediately forgotten the minute Charlie smiles from ear to ear and giggles at me.
I reckon this is often how things stand with God’s gifts of grace — something unexpected, something unexpectedly wonderful, something life-transforming.
I also hope to participate in this economy of grace.  I hope to give gifts to my son.  In particular, I hope to give him a gift that I have never experienced — I hope to be a loving father to him.
My own father was often violent when I was young, and my childhood was dominated by feelings of fear.  Even now, my father continues his efforts to emotionally manipulate and abuse the people close to him.  So I have never known what it was like to have a loving father.  This is not to say that my dad has never felt warm fuzzy feelings when he has thought of me; rather, it is simply to observe that his words and actions towards me (and his other sons) have usually been anything but loving.
Therefore, by committing to love my son, I am hoping to give him a gift that I have never received.  It blows my mind to think that I can offer Charles a life so different than my own.  It blows my mind to think that he will never have to know what it is like to have a father who is incapable of loving his children.  It amazes me that I can give him an experience so far from anything I have ever known.
This, surely, is a glimpse of the abundant life we find in the company of God.  This, surely, is the giving of grace upon grace.
Charles, my boy, I’ve never been so in love.  May you ever only know the economics of grace and the giving and receiving of gifts.

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  1. Beautiful! So sorry I didn’t get to meet Charlie yesterday when Audrey came to get her bag. We’ll have to introduce him and Emily one of these days.
    Parenthood is good. But lots of work. Hope the colic part is over for you guys…I wish you (and us too) much rest and the ability to cope when sleep doesn’t come.

  2. yeah, charlie! parenting is tough, let alone colic. hang in there you guys…you’re doing great (and i miss you lots).

  3. Thank you for sharing that moving reflection with us. Interestingly I think I felt a breaking and a softening in me at the birth of my first child, I have definately become a lot more emotional since then, often despite myself. God bless you, the fatherhood journey has just begun.

  4. saving is sort of a back and forth thing. right now you are saving charlie from tears and fussiness and danger, and he is saving you right back.
    you are going to be the best kind of parent. i could see it a mile away, in a smallish pub in point grey.
    i love you all. xoxo

  5. Dan, you’ll do a freaking fantastic job as a father. You’re already pretty fucking awesome with people you barely know, as far as I can tell. That little Charles is a lucky little fellow indeed!
    It’s funny you should write that now, because I was going to write something about the transforming power of God’s love. I grew up in a somehwat fucked up home and God is the first person I said ” I love you” to. And fifty times a day too. And then nakedpastor posted this:, one of his best cartoons ever IMHO, and my feeling exactly about hum… coffee.
    It’s absolutely amazing how the love that God showed me just radiated around me too. I couldn’t believe the amount of healing I was inadevertantly bringing to people. When they asked about God, words just burst out and I didn’t event try. Even now, God’s love is so energising that it shapes my frail human love.
    I’m broadly aware of trying to reproduce that Godly love with people, but it’s fairly automatic, I don’t have to think, it’s impossible to contain the “I love yous” just expand to other people. I’m still trying to figure out the mechanism of what’s happening to me. Blows my mind.
    If Charles grows up surrounded by something more or less similar (and I trust that he does), he is the richest man in Vancouver.

  6. That was Dany again. The default is still set on transferring comments from one blog to another. Speaking of which…

  7. Thank you for sharing such a personal epiphany. (They’re all personal, of course, I’m temporarily using the conventional understanding of ‘personal’ that sees nuclear-family life as somehow more private and intimate than everything else we do…)
    One of the things that awes me about parenthood is the extraordinary contingency of it. There is no assurance that things will go well. You give yourself permission to lose your heart to this particularly vulnerable and wayward incarnation of a particularly vulnerable and wayward species and open yourself to a world of pain. People can emerge relatively whole from shattering childhoods. They can also fall into wickedness after a childhood spent in the presence of integrity and love.
    By God’s grace, may fatherhood always bless us with the same power as it does now, though the form of that power change over time.