Oliver, my son, is due to be born in five days.
Waiting for your first child to be born is one of the strangest, most beautiful times I think anyone could experience. The overwhelming excitement enmeshed with the nervousness of knowing your life is about to wholly change, but not being sure just how. I can see the looks in the eyes of friends with children who must be secretly thinking, “This joker has no idea what’s about to hit him.”
I do think I realize how much our life is about to change.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about how I react to things. The circumstances that often make me happy. Why I react impatiently or angrily when something planned unravels. How I will feel when a son, my son, is placed in my arms for the very first time. Everyone to a man says that moment changes you.
I think about how I will react to my son in the coming years. In a recent conversation with my father, we talked about how fathers in an instant have to decide how to react to their child. With discipline, grace, affection, challenge. These split-second reactions can determine how a child sees the world. And then, I think about my father’s reactions to me over the years. He’s gotten it right almost always.
One time in particular, when things were spinning sideways for me and I needed a little bit of everything, he showed me grace in a way I had not yet experienced. The kind of grace that changes you. The kind Anne Lamott tries to describe, “I do not understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are and does not leave us where it found us.”
I wonder, will I know the right moments to be strong? To lead? A child needs his father to lead, to make decisions, to challenge, and to discipline. How will I react to my son?
Gerard Manley Hopkins, a 19th century English Catholic priest and poet, wrote in what has become one of my favorite poems, “Easter Communion”:
“Your scarce-sheathed bones are weary bent:
Lo, God shall strengthen all the feeble knees.”
And so I wait for the birth of our son Oliver, readily admitting that my knees are weary and bent. Feeble at very best. As a Christian pastor I tell others this is the very place we must live our lives from. Weary and bent, with feeble knees laying down our pride and plans, and allowing God who because of the gift of His Son, become our Father. The one who always reacts rightly to his children.
It’s my time to believe it, with feeble knees. Here’s to getting it right half as often as my father did.