My wife and I had always had a vague plan that we would wait to have our first child until we had been married five years. As we got closer to that mark, we’d talk about whether or not we’d be ready for a child. From these discussions, I could tell Tara was more easily able to reconcile herself to having a child. I was not. I told her I wasn’t ready yet. Not only were there things I wanted to do with my career – I wanted to hit my target salary mark achieving a level of security and safety before committing to the responsibility of a child. But greater in my mind was that I had to work out a few things in my head before making such a commitment. I was unsure of my ability to make a dependable living and provide for my family. I was unsure of my own abilities to be a father. I felt I needed to be certain that I was capable before committing to a child.
Well, all these considerations ended up being for nothing because in our fourth year of marriage, my wife announced she was pregnant. That first night after hearing the news I was a basket case. I felt very unprepared. Yet over the course of that night, I began to accept that my carefully planned life was not going to happen the way I expected it to.
Of course, now four years later I am grateful that everything happened as it did. We have a beautiful boy who is glorious to be around (most of the time).
About a year ago, Tara and I began talking about having a second child. This time I was much more certain in my ability to provide and care for my family. Yet I still didn’t feel ready. Tara was sure she wanted another baby. I admitted I’d never be truly ready, but agreed we should go forward. Now we have our second son and again I am very grateful.
I’ve just read a book called This Beautiful Mess by Rick McKinley. It has been harder for me to get through this book than any other I’ve read (and I read a lot). It’s not that the grammar was difficult (it’s an easy read in that sense) or that it was very long (only 180 pages). Rather this book describes what living life in Jesus’ kingdom can look like from a practical perspective – not in a far away heaven, but right here and now.
The book has opened a new perspective for me and described my responsibility to a hurting world in such a way that frightens me. It makes me shudder to think of what living this way might do to my life. I am afraid of giving up what I consider to be mine – my money, my belongings, my time, my plans, my privacy and safe seclusion from the world.
This book paints a picture of the gospel that calls me into to world where injustice happens, people are hurting, and many are without hope. I am seeing that my sitting on the sidelines in my comfortable suburban home, or at my plush corporate desk is not what I am here to do because those settings, by their nature, separate me from the world Jesus came to redeem and reclaim.
I don’t believe that Jesus is calling me to explicitly sell my house or quit my job (someday he may), but I am certain he is calling me to get unselfishly involved in people’s lives – forming real relationships full of the beautiful and the ugly, listening to and meeting their needs. This scares the pants off me and I am not ready for it.
I’m not ready because it requires that I view my possessions in a truer light – that they are not mine at all. Each dollar I spend is not mine. Each moment I spend can be used to either serve this calling or to serve self. I’m not ready because this is a call for total and complete surrender of every part of myself.
When I think back on the story of my children I think that God was using those times to tell me that I will never be ready, but that I should just dive in head first anyway. In fact I picture God saying that it is His purpose that I never be ready. If ever I was ready to serve, perhaps in my human arrogance I might claim my readiness for myself and strip God of that glory. God, in his infinite wisdom, was teaching me an important lesson – that the way I order events in life is wrong. I don’t have to first be fully prepared and ready before committing. Rather, I should be fully committed in spite of not being ready or prepared. Doing life in this way honors God and brings glory to him because it becomes clear that He makes the successes happen not me.
This is the natural order. God acts and we respond. My action is a responsibility in that I have an obligation to respond to God. What carries more weight with me is not the obligation. Rather, I am awed by the image of my potential future evolution – being entrenched in the mess of this world, forming authentic relationships in order to meet needs and show what living in the present kingdom of Christ can be like. This image of this possible future feels natural, like the way it was meant to be. Yet, it is also so counter-cultural that it scares me to think of myself living this way.
I’ve thought it through and understand it. My heart feels drawn in this direction. Now what? Does this picture of me serving the world motivate me enough to walk out the door and work, or do I stay in my Lazy-boy?