The Fatherhood Chronicles XCIII

The Awakening to Salvation

It’s late (getting close to midnight) and I should be going to bed, but I’m up feeling overwhelmed to the point of tears by God’s goodness to me in my wife and daughters. I’ve been saved three times over, and thrice more every day.

Words fail me to speak of the mystery of God’s love in the love of my wife. It was just a bit more than a dozen years ago when I, a single young man new out of college, feeling his singleness and loneliness, knelt in a church to pray. It was silent all around me as I expressed briefly and simply my need to God. In his mercy he brought me to the Lord’s prayer, “Nevertheless . . .” and I yielded whatever was left of my dreams for my own family and home to him with whom they could only be safe. I could not have known, nor did I, that a week later I would quite by chance, and certainly in the face of human efforts aimed at another end, meet my wife.

Thirteen years ago, I did not know that I had met the one God would use to work my salvation. And truth be known, even now, in the heat of quarrel or the exhaustion of the night, I too often fail to remember. But the quarrels pass, and the anger, the stress of shaping a home abates for a moment, and my memory is renewed, and, too, the love in this heart.

And could it have been already more than two years ago that Sofie was sent to us? If the mystery of Anna’s love is great, great too is the mystery of the love of my daughter. We had grown accustomed to looking elsewhere when news of her impending arrival first reached us. And that news brought a rush of confusing feelings. But, too, it brought ever more to our attention the great mystery of prayer, the intercessions of the Mother of God, and the life and witness of the Church. A month and a half before we learned of Sofie’s advent, which news came to us in the Advent of the year, I had knelt and prayed in a monastery chapel, before a statue of the Virgin, and relinquished again my hopes and aspirations for the future. I wanted only one thing: ever greater union with my wife in God and in his Church.

And then Sofie arrived, bringing with her greater wisdom than I had yet known, opening my eyes to the reality of love, that it grows ever larger the more that it is given wholly away. I learned that the giving of love to a daughter only increases the love for one’s wife and the mother of that daugther. I learned that parenting is an askesis, a plowing of the soul, in which God churns up furrows in one’s chest, painfully loosening up the soil of a heart grown hard, readying it for irrigation and planting. I marvelled at the faith in God that lives in the heart of a child of Christian parents, and I thrilled at tiny fingers clumsily making the sign of the Cross.

And then, yes, and then love increased yet more. Delaina was born, and I held her, still damp and wrinkled, in my arms. What can I tell of the joy of becoming a father twice over? Who could ever deserve one daughter, let alone two? But it is not that I deserve such love, rather it is that I need it if I am ever going to be saved. I arrive home from work and am greeted by the joyous cry of “Daddy!” and the impact of a two-foot toddler throwing herself against me, wrapping her arms around one leg and saying, with emphasis, “My daddy!” Then I look over at my wife, and there is our six-month-old, held aright in my wife’s lap, bouncing up and down and holding her arms out to me. Me! My daughters want me, their daddy.

What kind of man could I be and this would not melt the stone of my heart? And yet there are moments my stony heart fails to remember the soft kisses of my wife, does not call to mind the ferocious hugs of a girl named Wisdom, and for a moment does not recollect the light of a daughter’s eyes which are just like mine. It is horrible that this happens, and when I come to myself I know the shame and regret. But those moments of amnesia, brought on by a wife’s exhausted rebuke, by one daughter’s tantrum or by another daughter’s inarticulate upset, is remedied precisely by these very occasions themselves, and it is in the midst of these moments that the salvation for which I long can be found. I must dive foursquare into the seeming darkness if I would know the light of love.

It is easy, too easy, to fail to remember these things.

But in moments like this, when it is quiet in the home, when I am tired from the day, but cannot yet unwind, I am given a chance to reflect while she sleeps, and my daughters rest too, watched over by unseen essences of fire who do His bidding. And in these moments, I am graced to see more clearly than before, but not yet as clearly as I will one day see it, that in the love of these three, my God loves me and saves me.

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