Friday, September 13, 2013

Comparison as Joy's Thief and Parenting as My Christian Vocation

It's about 1:00 p.m. on Daddy Day (Fridays when my wife works and I do not) and here is what I have accomplished:

8:30 a.m. sat in the bathroom and attempted to coax my daughter to pee on potty

8:45 a.m. cleaned up puddle of pee on living room floor that never made it into potty

9:30 a.m. Watched The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything while cuddled on couch with the Twinado

9:45 a.m. Read several articles about justice and peacemaking efforts locally and globally by friends and colleagues after kids abandoned me on couch

10:30 a.m. Felt inadequate as changing two diapers in between articles seemingly paled in comparison to what I just read

11:00 a.m. Built an impressive Lego tower in basement (I let the kids help me)

11:15 a.m. Clipped my son's toenail that was falling off after dropping a rock on it a few weeks ago

11:30 a.m. Picked up where we left off on The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything

12:00 p.m. Made kids lunch and then attempted to do the dishes from last night

12:15 p.m. Cleaned up the water dripping from dining room table after my daughter knocked over flowers as a declaration that she was done with lunch

12:30 p.m. A dramatic reading of Green Eggs and Ham prior to putting kids down for a nap

1:00 p.m. Sat down for a cold cup of coffee I made this morning

The day is only half over and it is easy to wonder, have I really done anything of significance?

I read the other day a reference to Teddy Roosevelt's quote, "comparison is the thief of joy."*

Indeed.

In a world where everybody's life is public and we can read about everything everybody is doing on our Twitter feeds and Facebook pages, comparison is the great idol and demon of our day.

Our life is never quite good enough.

We are never doing enough.

Somebody is always better.

Someone is always out-serving, out-living, out-advocating, out-innovating, out-achieving, out-earning, out-adventuring, and out-cooking the most organic and well-balanced meal worthy of Instagram.

So cleaning up pee on the floor or microwaving chicken nuggets can make this youth pastor, blogger, dreamer, and wannabe advocate of justice and reconciliation feel as though I am not living up to some mythical ideal of who and what I should be.

Then I hear the grounded words of my wife, nothing matters more to us than caring for our kids.

I hear echoes of Scripture, "whatever your task, put yourselves into it as for the Lord and not your masters" (Colossians 3:23). [While the context is complicated and it may be difficult to compare my children as masters to Paul's charge to first-century Roman slaves, you get the sentiment.]

Whatever your task on whatever day and season of life, do as though God has called you to it.

My task on Fridays, and everyday for that matter, is to love my kids, play with my kids, serve my kids, teach my kids, clean-up after my kids, and treasure my kids as the gift God gave to my wife and me.

This gift is never to be taken for granted and deserves no comparison to what anybody else is doing, lest either of us be robbed of the joy and calling of parenting.**

I am a firm believer, although it is a challenge to remember, that to be a faithful, attentive, compassionate, humble, playful, and thoughtful parent is just as worthy of a calling as anything "heroic" I read about in magazines, books, blogs, and newsfeeds. In fact, unless I am committed to my calling as a dad, and a calling is exactly what it is, nothing else matters.

"I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children are walking in the truth." (3 John 4)

So I am learning to stop comparing. I am attempting to quit pondering what else I could be doing. God will open those doors in due time.

I am beginning to see parenting, in all its joys and frustrations, as my greatest expression of Christian vocation.

Nothing matters more to me in life right now than raising my kids alongside my wife.

And after many prayers whispered and shouted to become a parent, thank God for Daddy Days!

Actually, I can't wait until they wake up so we can build another tower.

Well, maybe wait until I take a shower...

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*One of my favorite musical duos, Over the Rhine, mentions this quote in an interview with Relevant Magazine. Karin Bergquist, female vocalist, has a tattoo of this quote hovering above a hummingbird. Pretty awesome!

**I say this empathetic to all those who long to be parents and for whatever reason have yet to be able to have children or have lost children. My prayers are lifted for those struggling through infertility, pursuing adoption, or who have medical diagnoses that have made child-bearing a faint dream at best. God struggles and weeps right alongside you...

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