March 10, 2007
“For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror; for once he has looked at himself and gone away, he has immediately forgotten what kind of person he was.” – James 1:23-24
At 1:45am on March 1st, my wife and I welcomed our new baby girl into the world. Jenny is nine pounds of treasure like her big sister was two years ago. So I am now the father of two beautiful little girls. Without a doubt, birth is wonderful! . . . But birth is also dreadful. I am now the father of two beautiful little girls!
Let me explain how I could feel both of these sentiments at the same time.
From the day that my wife told me about her second pregnancy, I was overjoyed. I did not experience any regret or worry. However, as the months till delivery turned into weeks, and then days, I found myself growing numb to the encroaching reality. Now, don’t get me wrong. The deep sense of joy remained; however, a blank kind of feeling began to slip into my daily routine. My energy at times left me, and I occasionally found myself in thoughtless silence.
I choose words like “numb,” “blank,” and “thoughtless silence” because I could not figure out what was causing my qualms concerning the imminent experience. When I tried to express my issues to my wife, I couldn’t. I became frustrated that this joyful occurrence was being rivaled by inexplicable emotional paralyzation. Jenny’s coming was making me nervous, and I didn’t know why.
Then Jenny was born, and like I said above, the experience was wonderful.
However, two days after Jenny’s birth, I was as numb as ever. It was Saturday night, and I was scheduled to teach the next morning at church. As I sat up in bed, I read and re-read the focus passage, 1 Peter 1:3-5:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
As I dwelled on this passage, something happened that, quite honestly, I was not expecting. These verses became my mirror. As I gazed at my Bible, I started to see myself. Through the truths of this passage, the Lord helped me to both articulate and address my struggle.
Here are the truths that God used:
In verse 3, Peter glories in the fact that Christians have been born again by the mercy of God. This truth refers to the identity of the believer. Because he has experienced the regenerating work of God, he lives with a new perspective on life. The Christian’s new gaze is fixed on his living Savior. He is a child of God, born by the Spirit, focused on Jesus.
In verse 4, Peter explains that the Christian’s inheritance is imperishable because it is “reserved in heaven.” The word “inheritance” teaches us that the hope found in our resurrected Savior consists of an entire package of blessings. God is prepared to give his reborn children an inheritance that is beyond this world, and since it is beyond this world, it is not subject to factors of decay.
In verse 5, Peter further explains that Christians themselves are preserved by the power of God as they await their ultimate salvation. For God’s children, not only is there an eternal inheritance, but there is also a temporal preservation. Verse 5 follows from verse 4. The truth of God’s future blessing demands the truth of God’s present care. Peter is not promising that Christians will be kept from all persecution, but he is promising that each reborn soul will be present on the day of God’s final salvation.
Now, the Bible and a good mirror are similar in that they both give a true reflection of yourself. Sometimes, like a mirror, the Bible’s message is pretty ugly. But for Christians, the Bible also has a positive image to reflect. On this particular night, God’s Word revealed to me these three positive images. It affirmed my identity in Christ, confirmed my inheritance in heaven, and assured my protection in time.
And these truths helped a blanked Bible study teacher address his parental paralysis. As I dwelled on 1 Peter, I began to realize that each of these truths addressed a different form of anxiety that was present in my life and that these anxieties were working together to mess me up. Before, I had been frustrated because I could not articulate my problem, but these verses helped me to realize that my problem was difficult to articulate because it was really three problems in one.
Problem 1: I was a dad numbed by the passage of time. Though I am overjoyed at seeing my newborn daughter, she makes my first daughter look so old. I am only twenty-nine, but I feel the passage of time more and more every day. Humans especially feel time’s passage when we go through major life transitions. I think many would say that the passage of time is depressing, but I think that it is more accurate to say it is oppressing. In fact, time is by nature oppressive. It hangs over us and will not be ignored. It tells us that an end is coming. It reminds us of death. I am not exaggerating to say that I hate time. I really hate it.
But Peter tells me in verse 4 that I have overcome time. I have an inheritance that will never fade away. If my inheritance is located in the eternal realm of heaven, I am moving toward an experience that time cannot rob. Time is only a factor for the perishing. Where relationships do not end, time does not matter. Though my present experience with time is very painful when I consider my family, such a struggle is not the ultimate destiny of Christians.
Problem 2: I was a dad numbed by the fear of evil. As I go through life, I not only grow more aware of time, but I also grow more aware of evil. And I am most acutely aware of the dangers that evil poses against my family. My little girls are so defenseless, and there are so many ways that they can be harmed . . . natural evils, wicked men, demonic forces. And furthermore, I know from the Bible that they themselves are tainted with sin. They are pre-programmed for self-destruction. The most important thing in the world to me is that they be saved from the consequences of sin, and it terrifies me to imagine what evil would do to them.
But Peter tells me in verse 5 that Christians are protected by the power of God. Now, the connection of verse 5 with what precedes is very important for a dad. The ones described in verse 5 are the same ones who, in verse 3, were reborn by “His great mercy” and who, in verses 1 and 2, “are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God.” In other words, if God has chosen my daughters for his mercy, they will be preserved and protected for the day of salvation, and no manner of evil will interfere. As a father, I need to rest in the merciful purposes of the Father even when I am confronted with my own fears for my children.
Problem 3: I was a dad numbed by a frustration with himself. As I go through life, I am not only bothered more and more by time and more and more by evil, I am also bothered more and more by my own weaknesses. I am a fragile vessel. Yet I am entrusted with this beautiful family. I am entrusted with modeling the Father’s discipline and love, with imaging Christ’s passion and leadership, with reflecting the Spirit’s submission and power. I am the single greatest influence on two little hearts, and yet I am frequently of little heart.
But Peter tells me in verse 3 that I am born again. I am a new man. Though I am weak, I am no longer identified by weakness. I am, rather, identified by “the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” Though I am a sinner, I am regenerated by God’s mercy. This truth tells me that I am equipped for fatherhood. It would be arrogant to say this of my natural capabilities, but it would be equally arrogant to neglect the power of God’s Spirit in my life. Though my sinful nature is a legitimate cause for sober reflection, my new nature is a greater cause for hope.
James 1:23-24 states a truth that, on that night, I found to be true. When I needed to see myself clearly, I saw myself in God’s Word. The only thing left for me was to take it to heart, to be a “doer.” I needed to do these truths by laying down my anxieties about time, evil, and myself. I needed to put my numbness to rest by resting in God’s promises. So I closed my Bible and then closed my eyes.