In the three-and-a-half years I have (intermittently) been posting to this blog, I have taken many, many opportunities to express my gratitude to and for my beloved wife, our marriage, and the life we have together. And I have told quite a few stories from the lives of our kids – some happy, some sad, some bittersweet. But I have not often expressed my gratitude for them. . .
Molly will often admonish me that, as much as I dote on her, and shower her with affection and appreciation, our kids need those things even more than she does. Early on in our life as parents together, I came across something that said that the most important thing I could do for my kids was to love their mother. And I’m sure there’s a lot of truth to that. And I’m sure that our kids have gotten their share of the benefits of my ardent love for Molly. But they do need my love for them on their own behalf, and I have not always been so expressive of the love that I do, in fact, hold for them in my heart.
But, all this is becoming a pretty rambling preamble; let’s get to it, shall we?
My beloved children,
At this time of year, we take a day aside to focus on gratitude – those things in our lives for which we are thankful, and perhaps most particularly, those things which we might normally be inclined to take the least bit for granted.
And this year, I want to say that I am grateful for you. I am grateful for each one of you, and for all of you together. Each of you is a particular gift to me – each of you brings your own particular bits of joy into my life. And all of you together make our family uniquely what it is.
I confess that, in my wildest imagination, I never thought I would be the father of eight children. God has given me more than I ever imagined I could handle (of course, it often seems a bit hubristic of me to think that I’m ever actually ‘handling’ anything, but I try my best). I confess, too, that I’ve sometimes felt overwhelmed by the sheer ‘volume’ of our family, and out of that overwhelmed-ness, I’ve not always given you all what you’ve needed from me. And for that, I ask your forgiveness. But I’m getting ahead of myself. . .
I am grateful that each of you, in your own way, loves the Lord Jesus, and aims to live for Him. Just to have us pray The Hours together brings a layer of richness to our family life that is precious to me. But to see each of you pursuing the Christian life in your own way, and on your own initiative, gives me a deep, nearly-inexpressible joy. My one greatest hope is for all of us to one day be together in Heaven (if ‘days’ can be said to have any meaning in the context of Eternity). . .
I am grateful for the character that I see manifest in your lives, to ever-growing degree. And I hope that it will continue to grow, and bring prosperity to your lives (and you understand, right, that by ‘prosperity’ I mean something much more like ‘blessedness’ than ‘wealth’, don’t you?)
I am grateful for the music that flows from our family. It is a gift from God that, in one way or another, every one of you is musical, and we can take joy in our individual and common musical gifts. I have loved the times, few as they’ve been, where we’ve all been able to sing and play music together. Let’s try to do more of that. . .
I’m grateful that, in the past year or so, we’ve been able to have you all (or at least, most of you) together for Sunday brunch, most weeks. It is good, on a very fundamental, human level, for us to be together like that, and just be a family together.
For the times I’ve been too aloof, and haven’t given you (any of you individually, or all of you collectively, as the case may be) the attention and affection you’ve needed, I ask your forgiveness. When I was a kid, I tended to live a lot inside my own head; and that’s been a hard habit for me to break. Throughout my fatherly life, God has consistently, and persistently, called me more and more out of myself, and I’m sure that’s one of the reasons he gave me so many of you. Mother Theresa often said that our main task in this life is to learn what it really means to love, and for me, that involves getting out of myself, and giving myself for the sake of others whom God has given me to love. That would be you all. And I am all too aware that I have not always responded to God’s call to me to love you, as freely as I should have. And for that, I ask God’s mercy. And yours.
For the times I’ve been harsh and demanding, I ask your forgiveness. We parents harbor dreams of raising our kids to be better than we are. Which, when you think about it, really isn’t fair. But we do. We – I – want you to be the best you can be, and I’m all too aware of my own failures and weaknesses, and I would hope to keep you from them, as much as I’m able to. But my desire for you to be excellent, even better than I am, is no excuse for failing to love you, and appreciate you for who and what you are. And for that, I ask God’s mercy. And yours.
The Truth is, I love you – each one of you, as a unique instance of the Image of God. I regret that I have not always demonstrated that love to you as I should have; that, in my fallen-ness and weakness, I have fallen short, both of the love that I have owed you as your father, and even of merely giving you the love, meager as it is, that I actually hold in my heart for each of you. But I do love you. And I’ll try to show it to you more effectively, as I go along. (“Deeds, not words” is a worthy motto I saw somewhere; I’ll try to do better at that, too)
As I said above, I never, in my wildest imagination, thought I would ever be the father of eight children. But I wouldn’t trade being your father for anything – not for any amount of wealth, or power, or prestige. Being your father, I have learned something of what holiness is, as I’ve had to come out of myself (imperfectly as I have managed to do so); and I’ve learned something of what it means to love – and of how really little I have loved up to now. So, for those things I thank you.
And I thank you for making my life rich. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without any one of you; but it would be poorer – that much I know for certain.
So – thank you, one and all. Thank you for making me a father; and, in my case, at least, becoming a father has meant pretty much the same thing as becoming a grown-up – which is to say, a man.
I couldn’t have done it without you.
In love, and gratitude