Family: Living each moment loving as Christ loves
By Chris Sperling, LMFT
A few months ago my wife and I adopted our baby girl, Elizabeth Rose. As we were leaving the facility, I remember thinking "Really, you’re going to let us take her home?" As we came home, for the first time as a "mommy" and a "daddy," I placed the carrier with my baby girl in it on the couch and I sat across from her on the coffee table. The photograph of that moment adequately captured my thought at the time, "Now what?"
One night, in a slight state of sleep deprivation as I rocked her I thought "It won’t always be like this." I like singing to Elizabug (a cute nickname with a long story attached) and that night I found myself singing a country tune by Trace Adkins, "You’re gonna miss this." The chorus goes like this: "You’re gonna miss this, You’re gonna want this back, You’re gonna wish these days hadn’t gone by so fast, These are some good times, so take a good look around, You may not know it now, But you’re gonna miss this."
As I sang, tears filled my eyes and I enjoyed that moment to the fullest. I pictured a day when she would be embarrassed to hug her daddy, a day when she would leave home, and a day when I would give her over to the care of the man who would spend the rest of his days on this earth working for my baby girl’s salvation. I have some big expectations for this young man who is probably still in diapers!
Becoming a husband is the most important call I have been given by God, but it doesn’t seem quite so challenging or anxiety provoking as becoming a daddy to my baby girl. When I hold her, I realize that she will learn to accept love from the man she will marry as I have loved her.
How I love her mother, love her and treat other women suddenly have new meaning. After all, I am the first man she will love and the first to love her. She will observe me in my day to day interactions and will be formed out of that experience of my love. In many ways, she will image God the Father based on her experience of my love. If I am overly critical, she may see God as such. If she sees me objectifying women, she will learn that is how she should expect to be treated.
As her father, I am called to be sacramental in her eyes, that is I am called to be a visible sign of God’s invisible love. I am called to be an imitator of Christ and to demonstrate loyalty to his teachings. There will be times in her life when she will need me to fight for her as a faithful man of God. And I am called to model the traits of the man I will be proud to give her to someday –– the man who will take her into his care and continue to love her after Christ’s model.
So in my few short months of fatherhood, I have done a lot of thinking about that "Now what?" question. I have come to understand that I need God to pour down his grace upon me and I need to participate in that grace. And I need the prayers of all my Christian brothers and sisters to help me and my baby girl as we grow together. Every night as she goes to bed, I try to give Elizabug a blessing, which is at best an inadequate sign of the love her heavenly Father has for her. However, I pray in time she will know I have done my best to love her as Jesus commands in John 15:12-13, "Love one another as I love you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends."