When I was in college contemplating marriage and motherhood, I was told over and over again from numerous sources not to waste my life on a husband and children. I was told that if I really wanted to make a difference in the world I should seek success in a professional career. I was told I would be fulfilled only if I “found” myself and made a great deal of money. I was told it didn’t matter who raised babies, any competent adult would do. What I was told and what I felt was true was very different. Now, many decades later, I’m so grateful I listened to my heart.
The decision I made to marry and have my first child was a choice made with faith-filled naiveté, hope and youth. Twenty-four years later, the decision I made to have my last child was made with faith-filled reality, wisdom and age. I certainly knew about all the work, risks and problems involved with my choice, but I also possessed a deeper awareness and understanding of the potential joys and rewards. Even then, all those considerations dimmed in the new light that this decision was not just about me any more. My inner spotlight was now focused outside myself. Interestingly, I discovered that my life had become more important as my own needs became less important.
Life eventually teaches us what is most meaningful and what is most meaningful is the love of family. That’s it. A career is a means to sustain life, but it isn’t a meaningful life. The love and service we offer our spouse and child is the most important work we will ever do and the best way to find our self by losing our self. We might get detracted and focus on commitments that matter less along the way, but ultimately life will teach all of us that our greatest joys and sorrows, regrets and rewards will always come from home.
This doesn’t mean family life is easy. On the contrary - real families are full of victories and failures, triumphs and tragedies. Spouses who are loved and adored sometimes return that devotion and sometimes they don’t. Children who are nurtured and protected sometimes grow up to be strong, well-adjusted adults and sometimes they don’t. There is not always a direct correlation between the quality of our love and the outcome of our marriage or parenting. There is a direct correlation between the quality of our love and the individual growth of the man or woman who does that loving.
So for all you working hard at the sacred craft of soul care - don’t give up. There is no clear easy path through the overwhelming and conflicting commitments we have to our spouse, children, friends, church and community. Yet, we must never forget that our heart-felt acts of service and small daily efforts do matter. The eyes of God see everything.
There is nothing more important to do with our lives than offer something beautiful to our spouse or child . . . whether it is a back yard rope swing, forgiveness, a finger paint masterpiece hung on the refrigerator door or most important . . . our unconditional love.