Friday, July 15, 2005

A nod to the new parents in my circle of friends

by Steven Simpson
850 WORDS OF RELEVANT :: 06.21.05

This is where God lives. And sometimes I hate that.

It's 4:17 a.m., the morning after we brought home our first baby. By "first," I don't mean we plan on having more someday; I mean that there are three more at the hospital that belong to us. My wife had quadruplets three weeks ago, and since the babies were premature, they come home one at a time, when each can handle eating and breathing on his or her own. Emma Grace made it out first, since she goes through a bottle of formula like a frat boy chugging beer.

Having a newborn baby home has been a tremendous blessing ... and a total nightmare. On the one hand, having four healthy babies has been a miracle. Since quad pregnancies are high risk for mom and the babies, anxiety filled the 33 weeks running up to the birth. When they were all born healthy and beautiful except for some typical preemie woes, we rejoiced along with a host of family and friends.

But I'm not rejoicing right now. My wife woke me up at 3 a.m. because the baby needed to eat and our dog was freaking out because some diminutive creature making earsplitting sounds had invaded her territory. I grumbled, rubbed my eyes and went to do what I must. I chilled out our dog, told my wife to go to bed and finished feeding the baby. Since she needs to take some medicine at 5 a.m., I figure I'll stay up instead of sleeping just long enough to get started on a really good dream. Something involving the Caribbean, room service and lots of sleep.

See, I'm not good at this stuff. Don't get me wrong—the love I feel for my children has motivated me to do things, like changing a diaper that looks like a Hershey bar exploded, that I previously thought unbearable. But I hate it when anything messes with my schedule. Make me do something that interferes with my daily workout, and I get pissed. Mess with my sleep, and you'd better bring a weapon. But I can't be like that anymore. I have four little helpless people and an insecure dog depending on me. If this is hard with just one, I’m dead once all four get home. I'd buy stock in Red Bull if I were you.

But this is exactly where I need to be. I accepted Christ at age 7, but I have a feeling that this is where I become a Christian. I have to do something hard just for love rather than glory, money, pleasure or even some spiritual epiphany. For maybe the first time in my life, there's no kickback. Of course, loving my children and watching them grow in wonder and discover awe are huge rewards, but it's gradual. I can’t stand doing something painful and difficult with no immediate gratification. Even when I exercise, I get the immediate removal of guilt for the pizza I ate the day before. When I take care of my kids, I do it just because.

And that's what's going to make me a Christian.

I've been working for The Man in some form for a long time. I was president of my youth group by age 14, an InterVarsity leader in college, a youth pastor by 22, and now I'm a Christian psychologist who writes and speaks in public about Christian things. But if I'm honest, I mainly do that stuff for me. I usually check myself and give God the glory by the end, but I begin most things because something is in it for me. I like the adrenaline rush of tackling tough issues in the name of Christ. It makes me feel cool and smart. I feel neither of those things right now. I feel overwhelmed, jittery from too much caffeine, and my ears are ringing from the last time Emma was screaming.

Yup, this is where I become a Christian, because I can’t pretend I’m doing this for someone else while I lap up all the glory on the sly. I have to do this only for love. I always imagined that God had some Great Thing for me to do before I croaked. I was pretty sure it was writing a best seller or keynote speaking that changes lives. I was wrong. If I can survive being the father of quadruplets, that will be my Great Thing. Not quite as sleek and sexy as having a book crawling up the best-sellers list. Not nearly as hip as speaking at conferences where people tell me how witty and wise I am.

Thank God, because all that other stuff would only make me more full of crap. Even if I accomplish a Great Thing for God, changing a diaper in the middle of the night will do more to make me a real Christian. Jesus sacrificed Himself for the glory of God and the love of humanity. He didn’t do it to make money, to look cool or to feel smart. Learning to sacrifice for my children will go a lot further toward making me like Him than becoming a pithy, popular sage who dispenses edgy Christian wisdom.

Oops, 5 a.m. Gotta give Emma her medicine. I get to do something that isn't about me right now. There's something freeing about that. I don’t have to stress about getting my book published or my next speaking gig. I get to forget about my career for a while. I get to forget about me for a while. I’ll hold Emma Grace in my arms, look into her beautiful eyes and feel a deep, potent love that I’ve never felt before.

This is where God lives. And sometimes I love that.

Dr. Stephen Simpson is a psychologist and the Clinical Director of Fuller Psychological and Family Services at Fuller Theological Seminary. He lives in Southern California with his wife, Shelley, and the quadruplets. Simpson is now addicted to caffeine and bouncy seats.

Recommended Reading:
Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
Devotions for Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas
Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas
Devotions for Sacred Parenting by Gary Thomas

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