April 13, 2006


My daughter is for me a constant source of amazement and curiosity, as I frequently notice how her growth prompts my own. Her birth unleashed myriad undiscovered emotions within me and her frenetic development--daily bounding forward--is both dizzying and delightful. I am keenly aware that being a father is a matter both of biology and office. The former very much happens to you, requiring embarrassingly little effort on a man's part. The latter, not at all a given, is a thing inhabited and sustained by choice, by a daily act of the will, an agape-decision--or rather a long series of decisions--to better another and to sacrifice for another. Perhaps these twin realities capture both the grace and will of parenthood, the work of (co)creating and (co)sustaining life with and for the One who gives it in the first place. To abandon or blunt the will to be a father is to perilously assume a naivete about this developing little life's need for boundary and buoyancy. Yet to assume that a father creates worlds all alone is a belief too strident to account for the gift that a little life so clearly is. It is grace and will, then. A kind of a mysterious gift-and-calling, differentiated more in the gut than in the mind.

What is more clear to me is her beauty, both in the structure of her face and in the simplicity of her life. She is a delight to behold, but even more so to experience. There is an overabundance of humanity in her, suggesting that we are given by God more than we need than what is necessary simply for raw survival. I remember Peter Berger's suggestion that laughter is a subtle proof for the existence of God. That seems so, especially in its generous abundance and its unscripted timing, as one so often finds it in little children. That she does more now than simply exist: that is a gift. I suspect mothers bond with their child at the earliest contact between the skins, likely even before. I further suspect that fathers connect the moment it is apparent that there is more to a baby's existence than simply being biologically alive. I discovered a new relationship in my life precisely at that point, and there was both gift and calling.