The Love of a Father
The day my wife and I had our first child…
Actually, let me start this over.
The day I watched my wife deliver our first child, everything in my life changed. There is no way to explain it to you if you don’t have kids, but having a child is basically trading sleep, flexibility, and freedom for perspective, love, and ultimately, joy.
As I write this, I am sitting in a hospital room, at least the 6th room I’ve slept in at this particular hospital in the past month. Our third son, at three months old, has been really sick. He has been through so much already, and his little fragile body is working so hard to hang on for another day. Every step forward in his recovery has been quickly followed by two steps back.
Walking through this experience with my son’s health issues has been eye opening in so many ways to me. As a kid, I never understood how much my parents loved me. Now as a parent, I would do anything to protect my sons because I love them so much.
I remember crying as I told my wife that I would do anything to trade places with our suffering baby. I would gladly suffer twice the pain if my son could just be healthy and not hurt anymore. I think any father would think those same thoughts upon seeing their child suffer.
Without God though, this situation would be so much harder. But the reality is I am a child of God because of my Baptism. Which means that God is my Father, and He loves me infinitely more than I could ever love my son. In fact, we are all children of God. In Scripture, God is frequently referred to as our Father (Matthew 6:9), and the Catechism refers to the Church as our mother (CCC 169).
The longer I am a parent, the more amazing this becomes to me.
During this time, my wife thinks of Mary, who had to watch her son suffer. It must have been so hard to know that He didn’t do anything wrong and yet had to go through so much pain.
I think of Jesus who did exactly what I wish I could do. He was crucified for our sins. He literally took our place of pain and suffering so we could have the opportunity to spend eternity with Him. That is how much God loves us. He knows the pain and suffering that our sins cause and still chose to take our place.
My love for my kids is imperfect, but even in my flawed love there is an instinctual urge to protect my kids from pain. How much more so is God’s love for us – being the perfect manifestation of my imperfect love?
I’ve heard the Church called our mother, but never really thought about what that means. What does it mean that our Church would love us like a mother loves her child? Obviously wanting what’s best for us.
My parents weren’t perfect, but as I get older, I understand why they did some of the things they did. I can see why they imposed certain rules. It wasn’t to be mean, or because they didn’t understand me, but because they loved me and wanted what was best for me.
In the same way, God doesn’t have rules to make us miserable, but to help us to enjoy life more fully. God gave us the Church to help lead us to truth, because truth is what leads to ultimate freedom and happiness. God wants us to be happy, even if that requires His sacrifice.
As a child of God, I make many mistakes. I also experience pain sometimes because of the mistakes I made and sometimes due to natural causes. It blows me away to think about a God who is my perfect Father and would do anything to take my place. I wish I could do the same for my children.
Note: I wrote this nearly a year ago and since that time, our son has recovered well. Today, I reflect on this experience as Holy Week progresses. Our son’s healing has been an answer to prayer and every time he laughs, I am filled with joy. May your Holy Week be blessed and your Easter overwhelmingly joyful.
Photo taken March 2015