Before I had kids, I was scared of many things. Here are the top six fears I nursed:
- My children will grow up to be mass murderers.
- Even if they aren't mass murderers, my choice to give new souls existence will lead to the world being worse in other ways, such as overpopulation.
- I will "screw my kids up" with my own imperfections.
- If Bible greats such as David, Jacob, Abraham, Adam and even Creator God Himself had such lousy records as dads (think Absalom's rebellion, Joseph's brothers selling him as a slave, Ishmael and mom having to flee, Cain killing Abel, Adam and Eve finding the only junk food in an otherwise perfect garden), then I am SOL (Surely Out of Luck).
- My relationship with my wife will be over once the kids come.
- I will no longer have a life.
- While my paranoia that they'll be homicidal has pretty much tapered off (and what's more, we parents beat the infanticidal temptations of those sleepless nights), I do still fear that my kids will pick up a habit of killing people with unkind words, gossip and contempt.
- I believe now that by grace, my children will actually make the world better than it could have been without them. I continue to fear that growing up in a materialistic society will give them a sense of attachment and entitlement to more than their share of resources, that they will be wasteful and careless.
- I am grateful for the ways that grace has diluted the "sins of the fathers" in my generation, and hopeful that the weaknesses I pass on to my kids will be watered down even more. Still, I abhor the thought of my girls apologizing some day to their kids for their anger, moodiness, pessimism, procrastination, criticism, messy house, etc. with the explanation, "Sorry, but it's something I learned from your grandpa."
- When Rachelle and I were expecting Brielle, I expressed fear #4 to my friend, Tracy Gunneman, like this. "When I look to the Bible for hope as a future father, I keep seeing that all these spiritual giants really sucked as parents." Tracy's inspired response? "And you know what, Mike? You're going to suck at it too." Beat. I giggled, checking to be sure I'd heard him right. He nodded. "But by God's grace, they're going to be OK." This prophetic utterance was the breach in the dam of my parenting perfectionism. Nothing goes perfectly, not then, not now, not ever. But God still does His thing. And it's going to be OK. (I do still fear that Ashlyn will take after Great-grandma Eve and eat poisonous fruit.)
- Did you ever have a friend move away, and somehow you created more quality time and intentional communication than when they lived across town? Kids have been like that move to Rachelle and me. We have to plan more carefully, but we actually have weekly date nights and quarterly overnight getaways, things that we never got around to before the kids came. The luxury cruise ship of convenient time together has gone the way of the Titanic, so we cling to these couple times as our life raft of intimacy, and it's cozier here. What's more, the common focus of our kids brings us together with a less egocentric focus than before kids. Rachelle's commitment to our couplehood as top priority has all but eliminated this old fear.
- I have redefined, "have a life." My old definition was pretty narrow, anyhow. I'm actually just scared of what sort of life I might have lived had I limited myself with all these fears.
Questions I'm asking myself:
- If "perfect love casts out all fear" (1 John 4:18), to what extent does the persistence of these fears reveal a lack of love in me? To what extent might these fears interfere with my love of my family?
- But it seems like responsible parents must be somewhat fearful. Doesn't God fear what might become of us? To what extent should I seek to purge my heart of fears for my kids?