In August of 2015, I became a father. I remember watching her tiny eyes flicker open for the first time. Neither of us could stop looking at the other one — both of us trying to take in who this new human was and what this meant. It was incredibly powerful and possibly the most category-shattering experience of my life.
My wife and I enjoy our little girl greatly. Each night, after she has fallen asleep, we sneak into her room just to look at her. I can’t help but smile as I wrestle and play with her on the floor. She is such a blast. I enjoy watching her grow and learn — the way she ruffles her eyebrows when she’s taking something in for the first time and trying to figure it out. I love that. There is so much in my heart that I want her to know and understand and be confident in. I pray for her every day.
My love for her will keep growing. I can never stop loving her and will always want her best. Even though, the day is coming when I won’t be directly responsible for her any longer. She will get married and have a family of her own. As hard as it is to think about that day now, it’s important. I want to savor every hug of my leg. Every two-tooth smile. Every bump on the head when she cries and reaches up for me to comfort her.
It won’t always be this way. And, it shouldn’t always be this way. It’s the job of my wife and I to prepare her to be a godly woman who loves and cares for her family and others well. In Genesis, the story of God is clear that children are to one day leave their parents and join themselves to their spouse, their new family.
In our culture, love of your children is often seen as a stronger bond than love of your spouse. Most sane parents would never consider leaving their child, turning their back on them. It’s viewed as a lifelong commitment no matter what the child does or doesn’t do. Sadly, that isn’t the case in our culture when it comes to the relationship between a husband and wife. The marriage relationship is often viewed as weak, something that can be broken if there is enough reason.
But, Paul in the bible explains marriage as a picture of Christ and the Church (and Jesus certainly doesn’t leave the Church.) Paul also calls a husband and wife “one flesh.” One flesh! The same entity. We make vows before God and witnesses to stay with this person no matter what, because we are one flesh with them (you cannot break that). Whereas Genesis actually says that children will leave their parents and join themselves to their husband or wife.
So, marriage is the unbreakable, one-flesh union that is totally different from any other relationship on the earth — including friends, family, and even your own children.
I totally understand the strong bond to my daughter. It’s insane how much I want her best and would never let anyone harm her. Yet, that doesn’t compare to the one flesh, lifelong bond I have with my wife.
I think the takeaway for me is twofold:
- Parent with the goal of releasing: Often parents “love” their child so much that they don’t want to ever think about them leaving, so they don’t, in love, prepare that child to love and support a spouse and family, use their home to bless others, handle money/power well, etc. Parenting to release is different from day 1. You are thinking about this little person as an apprentice, a student. They are learning how to be a passionate Jesus follower. That’s the goal. (Oh, and don’t parent once you release your child. That’s unhelpful and can hurt the very friendship with your children that you actually want.)
- Above all the parenting, never stop focusing first on the relationship with my wife. In fact, let the joys and struggles of parenting bring us closer together. This is my best friend that I’ll be spending the rest of my life with long after the children are running their own families. Sadly, marriages often don’t last through parenting — often they separate because it’s easier than parenting together. People “fall out of love” with their spouse and the children are forced to try to make sense of the world in a divided, messed up home. True love for children keeps spouses together as they honor their vows and grow closer together in friendship.