The good father: the fearful romance of marriage and children...

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At first, just the weight of responsibility of marriage is overwhelming. I remember waking up the second night of our honeymoon, looking at my dear Mary Lee sleeping next to me, and thinking "the rest of my life!"

Other than following Jesus, I'd never before consciously made a decision about the rest of my life. But now I'd said my vows and I would be responsible to care for my bride and the children God chose to bless us with, and there would be no running. No getting out of it unless I was willing to face the wrath of God and suffer shame before everyone who loved us.

So I lay there thinking to myself... 

"the rest of my life." Not "the rest of our lives." I was the husband. I had asked Mary Lee to marry me. She hadn't asked me to marry her. Just like our first father Adam with his wife, Eve, I would answer to God for my care for my bride and the lives she mothered into this world.

It wasn't a sad thought. I didn't lie there regretting my wedding to Mary Lee there beside me. Not at all. Mary Lee and I had read lots of novels together and were quite romantic, so for years this marriage had been our hope and dream.

But the weight of it!

Back before the death of the postal service, people used to write letters, put stamps on them, find a big steel mailbox, and drop them through a small slot there in the top of it. At some point everyone learned that once you'd mailed a letter you couldn't get it back. The mailbox didn't have an "Undo" button. If the letter was angry or unwise, you lived with it. G. K. Chesterton said mailing a letter and getting married are some of the only romantic things left in our world, and their romance is you can't take them back.1

Making fruitful love is the same sort of romance. When you and your wife make love that is open to God's blessing of a child, you are declaring your love for each other in a way that is utterly romantic. It's also intensely opposed to our snug and safe world fixated on security. A mother carrying a child in her womb is not secure. A father working to stay ahead of the hungry mouths of his household is not secure. A newborn wailing for his mother's milk is not secure. Not secure as the world sees and feels security, that is. But trusting in God, the threesome of father, mother, and child are more secure than Fort Knox.

Once you have married and had a child, you are hopelessly committed to this faith in God and you can't take it back. You can't drop your wife. Despite what all the pagans and faithless Christians say to the contrary, marriage is for life. You can't drop your child. Despite Plan B and IUDs and abortion and fathers and mothers who walk out on their children, fatherhood is for life.

So yes, you're right to feel the weight you now bear. Like me (after Mary Lee and I had our first child), the weight of it all may bring you to tears of fear—not pain. Fatherhood will show you your sins and weaknesses like nothing else. It will do a better job of it than even your dear wife who seems to have perfect pitch about those things. (And she's right to do so. You wanted a "helpmate," didn't you?)

Also like nothing else, fatherhood will drive you to God. Loving your sons and daughters, you'll plead with God for their souls. For their holiness. For their safety. For their happiness. For them to marry well, meaning pleading that God will give them Christian husbands and wives.

And as you plead, you'll know why everyone else chooses only to have a child or two. You can manage a child or two. You can spoil a child or two. You can't spoil eight or ten of them. After we'd had five children, Mary Lee said to me that the third was the most difficult because after the third we were outnumbered.

Bear the weight. Ask God to help you bear the weight. Help your wife bear the weight. As the years roll by, most things will lose their glamor and joy, but you'll never regret getting married and God's blessing of a full quiver of precious children.

In all the land no women were found so fair as Job’s daughters; and their father gave them inheritance among their brothers. (Job 42:15)

  • 1. "Posting a letter and getting married are among the few things left that are entirely romantic; for to be entirely romantic a thing must be irrevocable." Heretics.
Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and big lots of grandchildren.

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!