Editor’s note: This blog was started on Tuesday, continued on Wednesday, (the day of the poop debacle) and then finished on Thursday. Just thought you all would want to know.
What is the worst prayer imaginable?
It’s for patience right?
Well, I’ve come to discover that contentment is a first cousin to patience, and it’s possible that the relationship is even closer than that. *1* Really, I think one’s a state of being, and the other is the practice of that state of being, as in I am content, and I am practicing patience. Or, more accurately, I am not often content, and unsurprisingly, I am also often not very patient.
I’m not talking about stuff, or the acquisition of stuff, though I suppose I could be since I often find myself wishing for things I neither can afford nor need. But I’m not talking about things, so much as I am about the station in life I find myself in, and my ability to deal with it appropriately.
For four years, Donnette and I both worked toward a single, common goal: to get me through school. This involved no small amount of sacrifice on both our parts, *2* and though at times it seemed like it would never end, as long as I kept on taking classes we both knew that eventually, I would be done, I would graduate from seminary, and then this stage of our lives would be over, and we could move on to something else. That something else was going to be a job for me, that was the deal, the plan, the agreement, and, for my part, one that I was eager to uphold. For four years, I kept my head down, worked hard, took class after class after class, *3* convinced that it would eventually be over and I’d be able to move on to something better.
Maybe better isn’t the right term. Seminary, as challenging as it was at times, was amazing, and so better probably isn’t what I expected. But, seminary was a means to an end; I felt called to the ministry and seminary was a required step in making that calling a reality. I could go on and on here, but I get the feeling that this is going to be a long blog already, so let me get to the point. I went to seminary so that I could go into full time ministry. I assumed that this would start very closely to the time I finished seminary.
I was wrong.
It’s been 10 months since I graduated from seminary. I can feel the objections coming already, that yes, we have a job, a calling – I’ve even been ordained, something you can’t do without a call in the PCA, so what am I complaining about? And you’re right, I suppose, because we are itinerating missionaries, we’re raising support to go to France, a place that God has called us to go, and we’re seeing so any different ways that God has provided for our needs, and all that stuff, and believe me, I get it, on a macro-level I am fine with it all, but on a day to day basis, it has been 10 months since I graduated from seminary, and for my part, there are days when I don’t feel like much more than a stay-at-home dad.
This is not a roll I would have ever picked for myself.
I recently heard that 23% of men are now stay-at-home dads. I don’t know if this should make me happy that there’s some solidarity to be found, or sad that I can count myself in that number. What I do know is that when I heard that statistic, I turned the radio off and drove the rest of the way home in silence. In my mini-van.
I always start the day with at least ten different things I hope to do before I go to bed. I’m usually lucky to get through four of them. I try to prioritize, but my priorities don’t always match up with the kid’s. *4* Because I can only listen to them cry for so long, they usually win out. (That is a joke. Sort of.)
This has really evidenced itself in raising the kids. I am fortunate that I get to spend this time at home with them, and I’m glad that we aren’t in a position that forces us to allow someone else to raise them, *5* but there are days when staying home with two kids is nearly soul-crushing.
It’s not just that I’m not able to do what I want to do either, it’s that raising kids is really hard work! *6* I recently read an article by a dad of three sub-five year old boys, in which he discussed the advice that all young parents get, to enjoy this time while you can because it will be over soon. He pointed out that there’s no way that you can enjoy ALL of these moments, because someone them are down right terrible. He described some of his kids behaviors as acts of terror, which isn’t surprising since I’ve often described Avonlea as attempting to hold Donnette and I hostage. Avonlea is a joy and delight most of the time, and I do love her dearly, but her ability to lose her stuff over minor incidents prompted me the other night to ask Donnette if it would be okay if we got her a bunny, raised it over the summer, then ate it at the start of fall. It’s like immersion therapy: if you’re afraid of clowns, go to the circus, etc. *7*A few days ago, for no discernible reason, Oliver spent the better part of the afternoon screaming/ crying/ refusing to be put down. No way I’m going to enjoy that. Even more recently, *8* I heard Avonlea banging around her room during her nap time. When I walked into her room, I was immediately greeted by the smell of poop. Which wasn’t surprising, since she’d pooped in her pants, tried to take them off, stepped in it, and then walked around most of her room. Fortunately for me, I had a labrador that did this kind of thing with some regularity when he was a puppy, so much so that the smell of poop barely gets to me anymore. Still, no way I’m going to enjoy that.
A lot of time, I’m content to settle for not wishing the kids were older. To me, this feels like a win.
It’s not just me. Donnette struggles with this too. She’s really good at her job, and she has a good job, but even still, most days *9* she’d rather be home with the kids while I was off at work. I see it on her face in the morning, when she has to kiss Avonlea and Oliver goodbye, and Avonlea says “Mommy’s going to work,” which is one of her most practiced sentences. She doesn’t complain, because she is behind what we’re working for too, she feels God’s call to France just like me, but that doesn’t change the fact that she’s very much ready to trade places with me in our day to day activities.
I don’t want to complain, and I honestly hope this hasn’t read like one. We are blessed, God has continued to make himself real to us in new and amazing ways throughout this process, and we are humbled and excited about what that means for us. But, contentment is a learned behavior, it doesn’t come naturally to us. Most of the time, it’s only with the benefit of hindsight that we’re able to discern what God was doing in our lives, yet I believe this is one of those rare occasions in which we are aware of what’s happening as it’s happening, and if we’re going to take away what we’re supposed to take away from this time then it will only be by God’s grace, fueled by prayer, both mine and yours.
Which is the point of all of this. We’re praying for patience, praying for contentment, and we’d ask you to do the same. Thank you all, I hope everyone has a meaningful and worshipful Easter weekend.
*1* Although, in certain parts of the country, cousins may constitute a close enough relationship.
*2* Hers more than mine, but still.
*3* If you aren’t aware, an MDIV from a reputable seminary is about 106 hours long, so this isn’t just hyperbole for effect, it is reality.
*4* I need to write new support letters, but they want lunch. I keep trying to get them to see the bigger picture, but kids can be pretty selfish.
*5* Not a judgment on those who do, it’s just not something Donnette and I ever wanted for our kids.
*6* Before you judge me, I was never under the impression it wasn’t.
*7* Even as I typed that sentence, I realized it’s a good thing I’m not parenting on my own. Besides, one rabbit wouldn’t be enough to feed the family anyways, which is why I’m now campaigning for a pot-belly pig.
*8* Like, as I sat down to write this blog a little while ago.
*9* I say most, only because no one would willingly want to clean up what I just cleaned up.