My son is now 12 weeks old, and to be honest, I have enjoyed very little of that time.
There is an uneasy mix of emotions that come with the birth of a child. First, there’s excitement. Then the anxiety builds, as if the reality of what’s coming slowly dawns on you. But no warning from friends or family could possibly prepare you for the greatest challenge. And no, it’s not the caretaking or the parenting. It’s the tiny things like refilling water bottles repeatedly, making midnight runs to the supermarket, and never truly having a moment to yourself.
So it is with most milestones. For instance, we strive for promotion and recognition at work, and are met with longer days and tired eyes as a reward. And when we retire, hoping for “the good life,” we somehow end up less healthy and less fulfilled. In all things, we anticipate a blessing to come with change but are often provided with more work and trouble instead. Matt Chandler, head of the Acts 29 network, sums up this problem succinctly: “All disappointment is born out of unmet expectation.”
This is important to understand because the gap between our expectation and reality is where sin lies. When our hopes for health, safety, comfort, and success aren’t met, we then trick ourselves into thinking that because we worked hard, our imagined reward should be provided. After all, we deserve it. I know this because I do this every day. I come home after 10 hours work and am thrust into the role of father. Secretly, though, seconds before I get home, my expectation is that I’ll be able to relax without doing more work. It’s crazy, but it’s true. Yet this isn’t exclusive to parenthood. It can be trivial, like sitting down with a good book and being irritated when a spouse or friend asks for help with something. Or it could be something more serious, like hoping someone at your place of worship won’t show up anymore because you’re tired of dealing with him. The feeling you get when he ultimately does arrive to worship isn’t just disappointment, it’s resentment. And it’s a dangerous place to be.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever read is in Gary Thomas' Sacred Marriage. “Marriage isn’t about making you happy,” he says. “It’s about making you holy.” From this perspective, the Christian life is framed in an entirely new way. The stuff we’re doing here—this tangible, gritty, dirty business of providing and caring and being patient with those who we'd rather throttle—isn’t meant to delight us.