Monday, April 07, 2008

Spiritual Fatherhood

In the hopes of offering a neat and tidy, pre-packaged guide to the FAQ about affording a large family, I grabbed the last copy of Scott Hahn's CD, Be Frugal and Multiply, courtesy of St. Joseph Communications / Lighthouse Media off a local parish CD rack.

What I found, however, was less a how-to list of cutting corners, clipping coupons and living within one's means than a reflection on God's awesome gift of life-giving love through marriage and the special role bestowed upon husbands and fathers. Certainly, there are plenty of tried and true as well as some bold new ideas on frugality out there. But none of them, not a single one, has any value when taken out of the context of the WHY behind openness to a family whose size is designed by God. Again, do not hear me saying that God is holding a reproduction competition and the family with the most children wins. To believe that is to believe that God doesn't love and need families of all sizes in His plan. But in order to understand how the Church's teaching on marriage often becomes the reality of super-sized (by secular standards, at least) families; we need to look at that teaching and how we, as husbands and wives, can apply it to our own domestic churches. In St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians, we read,
"Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord...As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands."
Taken alone, which it often erroneously is, this can sound terribly oppressive, patriarchal and perhaps, even, demeaning. When read together, with the rest of St. Paul's letter, however, we see that this is only one half of the teaching. The second half (speaking to husbands) instructs them to
"love your wives as Christ loved the Church."
I'll go out on a limb here and assume that Jesus' love for us, while we were still sinners, revealed in the mystery of the Cross is still fairly fresh in your minds from Easter. Not a small act of love, but rather a very generous one, don't you think? Jesus tells us,
"I came into the world not to be served but to serve and to lay down my life for my bride."
Christian husbands and fathers are called to sacrifice everything for their wives and children. As Christopher West jokes, "Now, I ask you, who has the better deal here, ladies?"

Real men know that for fatherhood to be authentic, it will inevitably require of them struggles and temptations of this imperfect world. It will be fraught with spiritual battles for the souls of those entrusted to them. And only by their own firm foundation in Jesus Christ will they be able to align themselves with Him and carry their families to the victorious cheers of Calvary.

When seen through the eyes of Christ, driving the less exotic--yet dependable--late model vehicle, sharing a romantic dinner at home with a nursing baby or passing up tickets to a professional sporting event--to instead meet the eyes of the child who scored the winning basket no longer seems such a sacrifice. Living out authentic spiritual fatherhood, as a man who seeks to love his family with the heart of the Father is, in the end, what will separate the men from the boys.

Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance. ~Ruth E. Renkel


Becky said...

I love this post. It's so important to hear the whole scripture. So often only the first half is quoted. In an Orthodox wedding the whole verse is read. It's so powerful.

Laura The Crazy Mama said...

I have a "progressive" aunt/nun who hates this passage and hates reading it (I think she might refuse) at weddings (she's the one who is asked to read the readings at every one of her niece/nephew weddings). I never understood that because I felt the same way about it as you write here. I feel like our hubs' are asked the much harder task!

Lisa@UnexpectedJourney said...

Wonderful post. I agree, our families need fathers who are real men who will sacrifice whatever it takes to get them to heaven!

I also love that quote you ended with!

Sarah said...

This is a great post! I've listened to that CD before too, and reading what you wrote made me want to go get it again. Thanks for the fabulous insight. :)

Easter A. said...

Great post, Jane!

"Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance. ~Ruth E. Renkel"

This is so true! My dad is an example. Though he was a lawyer, he worked for the poor so we lived a simple life when I and my siblings were growing up, but, we learned so much from him and we now try to apply the many good lessons in life he taught us.

Thank you, Jane!

darci said...

this is beautiful. thanks for sharing that. isn't it funny, today it seems like you have a 'big family' if you have more than two kids. with just our third we were asked many times, "oh was this planned?" lol. God ALWAYS describes children as a blessing, NOT a burden. darci :)

darci said...

hi. thanks for dropping by my blog. we are JUST starting the adoption..had our first homestudy meeting on friday and have three more. it sounds like it's about an 18 month wait..ahh!! i feel so impatient already, but it's God's time, not my own. I'm really enjoying reading your blog although i have to have time to sit down and really read, kwim. it sounds like you are in the middle of adoption too??? darci

Jena said...

I have been on a bit of a blog break.....
I just heard of Christopher West this weekend and was pleasantly surpirsed to see a reference to him in this eloquent post....
I very much agree with this post and and blessed that my dh is embracing this truth....