We spent the afternoon chasing Ainsley all over the place: first, at the house, then we went to the park for a good long time. We’re pooped!
This parenting bit is some hard work. You get some awesome moments of happiness, to be sure, and I love being a Daddy, but this work is not for the faint-hearted or the uncommitted. We’ve been up several nights this week helping Ainsley sleep after major coughing attacks. We clean up the house and get all the food out of the carpet only to watch our little darling get it messy again as soon as she gets up. My wonderful book collection, so lovingly sorted by author and genre when we moved in, is a gigantic, haphazard mess because we don’t have time to put them back in order after Ainsley pulls them off the shelves. And let’s not even talk about what I’ve seen in her diapers, or the sheer amount of snot, spit and puke we’ve wiped up or absorbed on our clothes over the last fifteen months. No, being a parent isn’t easy – but nothing worth doing well is ever easy.
In tonight’s reading from the Gospel of John, Jesus talked to his disciples about the pain of delivering a child. He did get it right, you know: holding the new life in your arms drives all the exhaustion and pain right out of you. I should know: I didn’t sleep for almost twenty hours before Ainsley was born! J In all seriousness, Kristin did enjoy holding our little one almost right away when she was born, and the 30 hours of labor she had endured were reduced to almost nothing in that moment. But that doesn’t mean Kristin was ready to get up and dance in celebration. The joy of becoming a parent is beyond description, but it leaves scars and changes your life forever.
Living the life of Christian discipleship is much the same. When Jesus was telling his disciples about his coming death and what it would do to them, he knew they wouldn’t understand, because you can’t understand this kind of thing until you’ve actually lived through it. Jesus knew that the crucifixion would not be a “get over it and move on” experience; the disciples would be tested, pushed and pulled past their breaking point, and finally scattered and left to fend for themselves, before the resurrection would bring all things back into some semblance of restoration. But the resurrection doesn’t reverse the effects of the crucifixion: the scars remain. The resurrection was the joyful end to a terrible ordeal, and, like a parent with a newborn child, resurrection joy can never be taken away from those who follow Jesus Christ.
You’re in the crucible of your semester: it’s Dead Week, finals are looming and while the end is in sight, there is much to be accomplished before the work is completed. You’re delivering the fruit of four months of gestation, if I might stretch a metaphor to its breaking point. There are probably days when you feel like just walking away from it all and settling for the anesthesia of happiness instead of the deep joy that comes from an ordeal such as this. I pray that you won’t let that happen. There is great joy and grace to be gained in going all the way, in following along the hard and narrow road and not taking a side trip onto Easy Street. I won’t commit the heresy of comparing your semester to the ordeal of the crucifixion, but I will ask you this: in grace you’ve been set free to serve God – wouldn’t a fully committed, 100 % push to the end of the semester be a fine and fitting way to offer praise to the God who gave you this opportunity in the first place?
Wherever we are, whoever we are, our lives mean more if we live them deeply, fully committed, going all the way. Yes, the road can be hard. Yes, living this life fully can be painful. But you do not live this life alone, and you do not live it without help. Your savior Jesus Christ has gone all the way before you, that in Him you may have peace and joy – even in the midst of your toiling. Be blessed friends, and work, for Christ has called you here to give it all you’ve got. Don’t settle for anything less. Amen.