It was Thanksgiving yesterday and we had a quiet dinner at home, just the four of us. Our two older children are on their own nowadays and so things are less rambunctious than a decade ago.
Somehow our conversation got around to talking about God, which isn’t a surprise in our Christian family, especially since I have a passionate interest in the truly deep questions.
And so I started talking about the Judgement Day. You stand alone before your Maker and give account for your life. Pretty scary stuff — at least is for me when I think of my own mortality and shortcomings. I think it is natural to focus on that.
The Judgement Day really isn’t mysterious. No one will show up and say “gee whiz, God, I wished someone would have told me what I was going to be judged on.”
Everyone knows what they are supposed to do in life.
It isn’t difficult and it’s not a mystery. They are supposed to grow up, get married and raise a bunch of kids. This is basic biology — it is how we came into existence. Procreation is pretty basic. Caring for others is a fundamental joy. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you were born or what language you speak. We grow up, find a mate, breed, and raise offspring. If we fail at this, we cease to exist. You don’t need a preacher to tell you this.
Now, I know that there are some people out there who think they are really smart and they’d be glad to tell you why this is all bunk and a conspiracy to keep people down. Their thinking is not original, it all goes back to Engels writings on the family and they are just re-hashing it and I’m not here to convince those who won’t be convinced.
Even if you never read the Bible, you already know what you are supposed to do in life. You grow up and become an adult. An adult is a person who has successfully transitioned from a status of dependency to a status of a provider. And adult takes care of themselves and others.
An adult is not a dependent, and it has nothing to do with age. I know a fifty year old man that still lives with his Mom. She cooks and cleans and I really don’t know what he does. That’s sad state of affairs for a male who has already lived most of his life. That is not an adult (and he is of perfectly sound mind and body). And I know teenagers who are on their own, feed and house themselves, and generally contribute to the support of others. That is what an adult does.
That adult then pairs off with a member of the opposite sex and breeds.
And those children grow into adults. And those self-supporting adults will pair off again and replicate the process all over again.
This is man’s purpose in life.
And along the way, a lot of very interesting things happen. When you get married and raise a bunch of kids, you become a different person. Getting married, staying married, and raising children is a painful process.
I mean, first a man gets married. And then he realizes that he can’t just go and do whatever he wants any more. He’s got to consider the needs and desires of his mate. Like, for example, walking out the door. I used to walk out the door without a moment’s hesitation. I could grab a jacket and the car keys and that’s all I needed.
Have you every tried that with a woman? Good God I shocked.
“Wait, I need to get my makeup.”
“Wait, let me put this away first.”
“Wait, I need to change.”
“Does this look good on me?”
Holy cow, I didn’t know life could be this complicated. Patience is easy if you don’t have to practice it. But pairing up with your mate makes patience a new and scary proposition.
And the woman has new things to deal with as well. Like a man who farts in bed and then pees on the toilet seat and thinks that’s just all perfectly normal. And it is perfectly normal. She just didn’t know that when she signed up for this marriage stuff. She has to respect this this strange and vile beast.
And so the refining process gets kicked up a notch. Some people call it character building. I don’t call it that because it sounds too religious. But it sure changes you.
And then here comes the kids.
Crank out a kid and you don’t sleep for the next three months. I mean, seriously. You thought getting married cramped your style, try having a kid! And then maybe you want to go out to dinner and the little thing goes with you. Which is all fine until he stands on the bench seat and starts sprinkling salt from the salt shaker down the back of the man behind you. And then throws a fit when you take the salt shaker away. And at that point Pop’s says I need to take this child for a walk and you go look at the lobsters in the aquarium until he gets boredand they you stroll outside for a while while Mom finished up here dinner. Or vice versa.
Pretty soon you realize that it just isn’t worth it to go out to dinner. Boiled hot dogs and Mac and Cheese start making a lot of sense.
Then you crank out another kid. Holy mackerel, double the fun! Another three months of no sleep. Dirty diapers. Really stinky diapers. Momma is frazzled. Nerves are short. And the man still has to show up for his Day job.
Oh you didn’t realize that someone still has to to work, right? And it’s going to be you, Dad. And no, that doesn’t give you a pass for burping the baby at three AM will Momma tries to get some more sleep. Suck it up, buttercup. Didn’t your Momma every tell you that life’s not fair?
Babies wake up when we are sleeping. Why? I don’t know, that’s just another mystery of life that I’m going ask about when I get to heaven.
So there’s the patience thing again. And the sacrificing for others.
Then the third kid comes along and now Pops has to make some really hard decisions. Is he really going to allow Momma to make three different breakfasts for three crying kids to make them all happy? No. He’s not.
But every man knows that making a decision is dangerous territory – I mean your partner will likely have a different opinion on the matter if for no other reason than to let you know the really calls the shots. But you have to man up. You have to lay down the law. It’s a huge point of change in a man’s life when he asserts his authority as the head of the household and says “There’s only one breakfast in this house, and that’s whatever Momma wants to make. It’s either oatmeal or eggs, but we are all eating the same thing or you are going hungry.” It takes some real balls to make that call and stick with it.
But you’ve changed again. It turns out that patience and serving others isn’t always about giving them what they want. It’s about giving them what they need which, in this case, is direction and leadership to hell with the opposition! You are a braver man than you were the day before.
And so it goes through life. You sell your Jeep and motorcycle to buy Momma a mini-van. You life in suburbia instead of way out in the sticks. You take a job that you don’t like because the alternative — not having money for food — is an infinitely more uncomfortable choice when you are raising all the kids.
And by the way, this isn’t just for the benefit of the parents, it’s for the kids, too. This is why you need to have a bunch of kids. A single child risks becoming a spoiled little wretch. Me may never know what it is to be told, “life’s not fair, suck it up,” by his parents when his brother stole his bowl of fruit loops. Having a bunch of kids changes them, too. They have to deal, daily, with fighting and sharing and all kinds of petty selfishness. And slowly they mature. It’s tough, but it makes them whole and healthy human beings.
And then the kids become teenagers.
I tell my kids, “I know you can’t believe this, but I was your age once.” And I know they don’t believe it. Yes, in an intellectual sort of way they, do, but what they really don’t believe is that Dad and Mom went through rejection by schoolmates, or periods of self-doubt, or did really bone-heading things that we are still ashamed up. But we did.
The difference is that we didn’t have iPhones to memorialize our moments of idiocy forever. These kids are doing anything that we didn’t do, but I just thank God the didn’t have phones recording everything back then.
And so when your precious young thing does things that should have required a complete frontal lobotomy to allow, you hug them and hold then and tell them you love them. You will tell your child that there is absolutely nothing in the universe that they could do that would ever keep you, Dad, or Mom, from loving them with every ounce of your being. And they will know whether or not you really mean it.
And this isn’t hard to do when you have spent all of their lives pouring your entire being into them every step of the way. You have laid down your life — there is no greater love than laying one’s life down for another. These are not words you are saying, you a baring your soul to your child in the most personal way. If you have gone through the process of sacrificing your life for your children then that is who you have become — a self-less person who does lay down their life for them and you will never ever forsake them.
And your kids know it, too. They will make it through that moment. And in that moment, too, they will understand that God loves them just as much, and the God won’t abandon them just because they screwed up.
Parents are always the first evangelists and pastor and teachers and apostles and prophets. You are that to your family — it is not something that can be delegated. It is not only a responsibility, but an honor that came through sacrifice.
But you cannot become what you must become without all the sacrifices of raising your children over the years. Something happens inside of you when you have lived through the crucible that life is. You changed. You changed against your own will. No one likes to die — and getting married and raising youngsters is a process of self-abnegation and sacrifice unlike anything else in the universe.
And this is on purpose. It is supposed to be this way. It is what changes you and what will give you the gold on the Judgement Day. It’s not something you would ever choose to do, knowing ahead of time how hard it is. But it produces a priceless gold in life that is truly without price — it is of infinite value.
This is what happens if you just go through the process and do what your parents did, and their parents, and so on all the way back to Adam and Eve. Yes, it sucks. Adam got evicted from a very nice garden. But he had to keep going. He didn’t dump Eve, he stuck with her even though she was the one who gave him the apple. Their first born was a murderer. Their second son was the murderee. They didn’t say “well that didn’t work out so well” and then got divorced and stopped having kids. Through sacrifice and faith courage blossomed. They grew stronger inside. Nothing is easy about life and it wasn’t supposed to be that way.
No man without children can ever understand the unspeakable joy and pride they bring. No man who has not laid down his life for others can understand this. It is priceless.
And so at the Judgement Day, it isn’t about your drinking or swearing or cigarettes or busting some guy’s head open. Yeah that may come up. But by the time you have gone though this process a lot of that will have been dealt with.
The focus is on the big thing: you pared off, bred, and laid down our life to raise adults. That is the focus of your judgement Day. And if you do this you will come through like gold, refined in the refiner’s fire.
It is a hard road. You mimic the life of Jesus Christ — he gave his life for others. So does a father and a mother. You can do this, too. Join us.
And have a great Judgement Day.
Fritz Berggren, PhD
29 November 2019