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My First Year of Fatherhood

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It was around 3:30AM when my pregnant wife turned on the light to our bathroom just a few feet from my bed, groggily informing me that her water had just broken. As if quickly hopping out of bed late at night isn’t enough to make a person disoriented, the Benadryl I took 3 hours earlier certainly didn’t help. I was so excited, nervous, and exhausted that I nearly got in the car and drove to the hospital without Holly.
After 13 hours in the delivery room and an emergency c-section on March 7, 2012, I heard the sound that changed my life at 4:18PM – the sound of Caleb James Morrison, my beautiful son, crying.

Holly and I are celebrating Caleb’s first birthday today with a trip to the zoo for him to meet some real animals. As we do so, I am amazed by what this last year has brought – over $6,000 in medical bills, two emergency operations, two months of sleeplessness, a new job for me, the start to our home search, a new church, and plenty of tests of my patience and strength along the way. It has been an amazing yet challenging year. In this first year of being a dad, I’ve felt closer to God than ever before. Aside from learning that poop does fly, baby formula is expensive, and averaging 4 hours of sleep a night isn’t sustainable, I’ve also realized more about Christ’s love than I ever understood before. Five things in particular have become very clear thoughout this experience.

1.) Jesus was making a profound statement when he opened his prayer, “Our Father in Heaven…”

Honestly, I thought I knew what love was before I met Caleb but I was wrong. Nothing quite compares to the sense of protection and care I feel for him every day. But it’s not a rosy love. After a year of changing nasty diapers, randomly waking up at odd hours, and wearing most of his food at some point or another, my love for him only grows with no expectation of it being returned anytime soon. All I desire is for him to trust and rest on me at the end of the day.

Now having experienced this side of the father-son relationship, my understanding of God’s love has been radically enhanced. I’m constantly reminded of my own childish fits when life isn’t going as planned. I am also reminded that I’m completely unable to truly articulate how much I owe my Savior. The love God has shown is so much greater than anything I can give in return. I couldn’t possibly offer something equal to his love, even if I paid for it with my life. And yet, he did it anyway. Caleb requires my undying love and attention without any expectation of return and I give it gladly. How much more gladly does our heavenly Father do this for us?

2.) Caleb’s perception of God will be greatly influenced by his interactions with me.

This is a reality that weighs heavily on me. If God relates to us as a Father with his children, then Caleb’s understanding of that relationship will be colored by his interactions with me. I’ve known too many men who struggle to connect openly with God due to bad or nonexistent relationships with their own dads. My failure to love him sacrificially and discipline him compassionately could be disastrous. I want my son to know how much his heavenly Father loves him by experiencing how much I do. Being hands-off, driven by my career, overly strict, or disconnected are simply not options.

3.) The cross is an absolute scandal.

In the wake of shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, I couldn’t stop thinking about the gut-wrenching pain experienced by those parents. I couldn’t imagine dropping Caleb off at school, only to learn he was gunned down by a psychopath. Honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted the shooter to be dead at the scene. Right or wrong, I’d want my chance to torture him beyond his pain threshold. I’m not a violent person but no one harms my son and gets away with it.

I can’t even begin to explain how our Father in Heaven could watch his people beat his son beyond recognition, force a thorny crown into his forehead, strip him, mock him, nail him to a cross, and leave him to die. If it were me, I would have blown this planet to bits. And yet God allowed it to happen so that the very people who were committing the crime could be saved through his death. And with each and every selfish choice I make, I become even more complicit in the crime.

4.) I’m extremely selfish.

I’ve learned the two greatest weapons against selfishness are marriage and having a child. I am amazed by how often my own self-centeredness is brought to bare in my interactions with Caleb. I’ll be exhausted and craving rest only to find Caleb waiting for me to play with him. I’ll want to be out of the apartment, spending time with other couples but Caleb needs to get to bed. I’ve had to learn patience and self-control even at 4:00AM when Caleb is up and demanding that we hang out. Part of growing as a parent has demanded that I become more aware of my own priorities in light of my family’s needs. It has involved me rearranging my daily routine, going to bed hours earlier than I used to, giving up hobbies I once enjoyed, and understanding that my day now ends when Caleb is asleep, not when I leave my office.

5.) I can’t do this on my own.

The kind of love that our Father in Heaven models cannot possibly be matched by our fallen humanity. Modeling this love to Caleb requires everything I’ve got – and then some. Fighting my own selfishness, coming to grips with my own failures, and demonstrating patience in return is, at times, impossible.

The beautiful reality is that Jesus never asked us to make ourselves better. He never expects me to figure this out on my own. I’ve learned to rely on him each and every day. As Caleb’s will grows stronger, I’ve learned to pray for wisdom in how to discipline. As we go through the rough nights, I’ve learned to lean on God’s strength to make it through the next day. Even as Caleb required an emergency surgery at 8 weeks old, I was forced to trust in God’s provision through the ordeal.

In the end, I am so thankful for Caleb. I have been blessed with the sweetest, most caring little boy. I love his sloppy kisses that often end in him biting my nose. I love his hysterical laugh and his empathetic personality. My prayer is that, through me, he will better understand how much his Creator loves him as well.

Ministering in everyday life begins in the home. As spouses and parents, we cannot afford to fail.

Discuss: What has parenting taught you about God’s love or about yourself?

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  • Rick

    Very insightful…thank you for sharing.

    • Matt

      Thanks Rick!