In his hilarious and oddly comforting book “Dad is Fat” comedian Jim Gaffigan offers many exquisite observations from the world of parenting. One in particular I have been unable to get out of my head. Gaffigan writes:
“Getting married and becoming the father of young children has taught me that I am a narcissist… My perceived needs were all important. When it cam to my career, relationship, or taking the last piece of pizza, I was only thinking about myself. And, of course, the pizza… Unfortunately, these narcissistic traits that made me a popular comedian do not work well for someone who truly desires to be a good husband or parent. I’m not saying that parenting cured my narcissism, but it changed me and continues to change me every day. I am now a teeny tiny bit less of a narcissist. Being a parent is a selfless adventure. The worldview of ‘Take care of yourself first’ is no longer logical to a sane person if your baby wakes up hungry in the middle of the night. You can’t be like, ‘What’s that? The baby is starving? Eh, forget her, I’ve got to get some sleep.’ For me, parenting was literally a wake-up call from my own simple selfishness. In other words, I’m not quite as horrible as I used to be. Raising kids may be a thankless job with ridiculous hours, but at least the pay sucks.”
The reason why I couldn’t get this essay out of my head was it spoke to me where I was at. For me, like Gaffigan, parenting was a massive wake-up call to my own ridiculous selfishness. Seriously, I thought I had it together, but two kids later and it’s a different story. From the little things like not being able to sleep in, never being able to finish a conversation with my spouse, or taking 30 minutes to complete a 5 minute task to the big things like endless exhaustion, mounds of dirty diapers, and aspiring not to raise serial killers; parenting has done nothing but mock my love affair with myself.
The title to this post is “Parenting is Killing Me (and that is a good thing). What I meant by this is that in a very real way parenting is killing me and because of this I’m not quite as horrible as I used to be, therefore it’s a good thing. Let me put this another way. God has used parenting to kill me and raise me anew. In the ashes of my own failure as a person, God brings in his resurrection life. Gehard Forde says it this way:
“True sanctification [i.e. Christian growth, discipleship, blah blah blah] is simply to ‘shut up and listen!’ For there can be no more sanctification than where every knee bends and every mouth is silent before God, the only Holy One. And God is revered as the Holy One only where the sinner, the real sinner, stands still at the place where God enters the scene and speaks. That is the place where the sinner must realize that his or her way is at an end. Only those who are so grasped that they stand still here and confess to sin and give God the glory, only they are ‘sanctified…’ Whoever knows this knows that there is an end to the old, there is a death involved, and that being a Christian means ever and anew to be blasted by that divine lightening (for we always forget it) and to begin again…
That was a lot of theology there, so let me sum it up. In my life God used parenting as a blast of “divine lightening” to wake me up to the true nature of who I am (dead in my sins) and in it’s wake raised me anew with his grace (in spite of all of this, God is actually quite fond of me). As Forde writes elsewhere, “The Christian who is grasped by the totality of grace always discovers the miracle anew. One is always at a new beginning. Grace is new everyday.” Simply put, in being killed, I could do nothing but receive.
I’m coming to realize more and more in my life and studies that this seems to be the way God works in our lives in a general sense. We think we’re doing just fine at life and then some thorn comes along, makes us cry uncle, and we cry to God. Martin Luther once wrote, “As soon as we begin to believe, we also begin to die to this world and to live to God in the life to come, so that faith is truly a death and a resurrection [I think Paul and Jesus said something similar too]…” I couldn’t agree more, but I’d add a little something. Faith is truly a day to day death, that hurts like hell, and resurrection. Simply put, no one likes to die, but as Christians we can have faith that God will bring life to whatever deaths we are dying.
Gehard Forde “Justification by Faith: a matter of death and life” & “The Preached God”
Martin Luther “Babylonian Captivity of the Church”
PS: In writing on narcissism I couldn’t help but think of Jeff from Community and Dr. Cox from Scrubs