Over the last few weeks, I have caught myself thinking about this time of year. As I did, I was reminded of another dad who probably sat and had similar thoughts.
One of the songs that really made me think this Christmas season is “Joseph’s Lullaby” by Mercy Me. Keep in mind, I'm certainly not trying to take anything away from the true meaning of Christmas. The story of Mary and Joseph and the birth of my savior, Jesus, is why the Randalls look forward to this time of year.
That said, every time I hear this song and look at my children, I connect with what Joseph may have been thinking.
"Go to sleep my Son, this manger for your bed.
You have a long road before You. Rest Your little head."
What is in front of my child? Will it be a long life of struggles? Will he/she float through decisions easily? Will I be around to watch them grow and mature into adults? As a father, I long for a long, wonderful life for each of my kids. And yet, I know that I am not in control of that. They are here for a purpose.
Today, all of them remind me of God's grace. We couldn't have kids, but wanted to love one the way we are loved by God. Enter LilliAnne. God chose me to be her father because he knew I needed to learn compassion, needed to learn to deal with frustration, needed to learn to show love and mercy unconditionally.
God gave us Grace to remind me that I don't deserve anything, yet He is still willing to shower his grace on me and give me hope. He knew that Laura Jane and I were ready to lean fully on each other and Him. Allowing us to go through the joy and pain of losing a child in the womb forced us to lean - lean on God, lean on each other, and lean on many of you.
God gave us Wesley and Talitha to flesh out that hope and bring us joy. He knew that, somehow, we could handle the craziness of two babies at the same time. He knew that every time I look at them, I would receive an ear to ear grin back at me, melting my heart. He also knew that I would shortly thereafter begin to think about all of their futures, what was in store for each of them, and begin praying for them - a discipline I lacked before now (and still fail miserably at!).
"Can You feel the weight of Your glory? Do You understand the price?
Does the Father guard Your heart for now, so You can sleep tonight?"
I believe God watches over all of us, especially as we sleep, but that doesn’t mean I don’t worry about them. What is in store for them? Only God knows. What were they made to do? What God-given talent will they have to change the world and influence people? Will they make the most of this? Will they obey God like Joshua, obey with reservation like Moses, or run away like Jonah? What can I do to help ground them in their faith, and help them discover their talents and destinies?
I think of Joseph. He knew what Jesus was here to do. Matthew 1:21 says that God told him, "She (Mary his wife) will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Joseph knew what Jesus was destined to do. Yet, like me, he had no clue what that would look like. It's a conundrum we as parents get to live with, wait for, hope for, and more than likely get surprised by. Some of us try to direct our children at an early age into what we think they'll be for the rest of their lives. Others of us try and give them any, and all, opportunities to try whatever they desire to keep the doors open to anything. Joseph did what every other father in his time did - he taught Jesus a skill, carpentry, but also taught him his heritage and his faith. I can imagine Joseph and Jesus had many, many conversations as they worked on various wood pieces together.
What will I talk about with my kids? Will I make the time to include them in my life to afford us the opportunity to talk about life? Will I be open to their questions and not quick to judge? Will they know that I spend time with my Father, praying for His ever present hand to be with each of them?
"Go to sleep my Son. Go and chase Your dreams.
This world can wait for one more moment. Go and sleep in peace."
Why do we as American’s try to rush our children into things? Why do we try and figure out what they should do for the rest of their lives by age 6? As I watch them sleep, and avoid my own sleep, I ponder why we as human beings need answers immediately. Yet, peace is really all we are after. We want the peace of knowing our children will be all right. We want the peace of knowing they will make it. We may even want the peace of knowing that their success will provide for us when we ultimately need it.
"Wait". It's a word I have a hard time with. Many are the moments where I have lost my cool with LilliAnne because I couldn't wait for her to do what she had been asked. I was unwilling, in that moment, to harken back to my own childhood and remember how I liked to observe and discover new things, how I liked to figure things out on my own, and how I got frustrated when things didn't work out just as I had envisioned. LilliAnne is a young me in so many ways. Why can't I let her chase her dreams on occasion? Certainly there are times where obedience must be immediate. That is, after all, the essence of obedience. However, all I really want is for her to rest in the knowledge that I love her and want the best for her.
"I believe the glory of Heaven is lying in my arms tonight.
Lord, I ask that He for just this moment simply be my child."
Unlike Joseph’s son, my children will not grow up to be perfect, will not be the Savior of the world. Heck, they won’t even be perfect children by the world's standards along the way. Yet, like Joseph, I want them to be MY children. There is something peaceful and comforting about holding your child in your arms. Each of my children's faces light up when I hold them and look directly into their faces, especially as infants (LilliAnne is 5 which means sometimes looking directly into her face is for correcting). But there is a sense of gratitude and a sense of thanksgiving that wells up when I hold my children and watch their faces break out into wide grins. They don't smile like that for just anyone. There is a special connection between a child and a parent. We are theirs and they are ours.
As infants, they don’t know that we have fears. As infants they don’t know we make mistakes. They don't know, or care about, our past, our successes or our failures. To them, we are the ultimate providers of all of their needs and creature comforts. In their eyes, we get to feel like someone worth something, if even for just a moment or two. What a gift we are given in the lives of children! Those of us who have never been able to have children, or waited for a significantly long time may understand that gift a little differently than others. But ultimately, deep down inside, I believe we all know how precious and pure is the smile of a child.
"Go to sleep my Son. Baby, close Your eyes.
Soon enough You'll save the day, but for now, dear Child of mine, oh my Jesus, sleep tight."
What is in store for our children? As they lie in their beds or on their play rugs, they are pretty much helpless. Everything they need must be provided by someone else. Yet, what thoughts do they have? What dreams spin through their minds while they sleep?
Will they be parents? Will they work as public servants, farmers, doctors, pastors, lawyers, teachers, or something else? What will the world be like when they are 5? 15? 35? 75? What talents and gifts will they have? How will our God use those gifts?
For now, what is my hope and dream for each of them? Peace. Imagination. Joy. Love. Hope. That they might become exactly who God has made them to be and that I will not get in the way of that, even if I don't understand. Tonight, they are "just" my kids. They're a whole lot more than that to their Creator.
Unlike Joseph, I am not raising the King of kings. Like Joseph, I know I can't raise them to be who they have been created to be by myself. And that is one of the most humbling things for me, a man who struggles with pride. Children have a way of reaching past that pride and bringing us to our knees. As we spend time with family and friends this Christmas season, I know I will also be spending time learning how to be a humble father doing my best to raise my kids to be whatever they are to be.