Last night, my wife and a friend stayed late at the gym and climbed and talked and just enjoyed some time away from the craziness of child rearing for a few hours. More often since Katie has started working some evenings, I have had all four of my kiddos alone and do dinner and bedtimes for them. A year ago, I would’ve felt completely overwhelmed.
You see, over the last nine months, I realized that I was not finding joy in being a father. I was allowing stress, anxiety, and perfectionism ruin my vocation of marriage and fatherhood. I had built an idol of ministry which was supposedly for the service of others but only served to build my inner ego that I hid with self hatred and false humility.
I couldn’t “dad” well. I felt so inadequate as a father that I just gave up. But then something woke me from my slumber.
At the beginning of my sabbatical, I realized how unhealthy I was– mentally, physically, emotionally, & spiritually– and how unhealthy my most important relationships had become– those with my wife & my children. So my goal, was less vocational discernment for the Priesthood, and more– how can I unlearn what I think about myself and build it up again through Christ’s grace.
A major part of my change was how I viewed my children. Instead of little beings to control and make sure they are doing the “right” things, I have learned to see them as Sacraments of Christ that are wonderfully and uniquely created and happen to give me grace to be a father (for them) through Christ. They are a picture of God’s love in so many ways– quick to forgive, quick to love, and their presence alone can relax every muscle in my body.
So this morning, I slept a little later than my normal 5:30 wake-up, and had the smallest sacrament asleep beside me and the largest waking me up to go and spend some time on the front porch with him, drinking my coffee, and watching the dog play in the front yard.
For me, this is grace. and if I fail in some way towards them, I see Christ in them saying: What does it matter? All is Grace.