There is a beautiful confluence now, where the project that defined my 20s is reaching a culmination, while at the same time I am preparing for a new phase of life that will bring new challenges and opportunities. In many ways, I feel I have gained skills and lessons in the earlier part of my life that I will need to take into this next part.
That’s what is most difficult: not knowing what to expect. And because I don’t know what to expect, I can’t really prepare for it. This is hard for me, because it forces me to relinquish any thought of controlling or planning the situation.
In some ways, it’s like traveling to a new country, filled with the excitement of going some place new and the curiosity of what I will find. But in many ways it’s not, since I don’t think that anyone has ever had anything in their experience that can really prepare them for what it’s like to be a parent.
In Judaism, it is said that creating new life is the power we have most akin to the divine. We can literally choose to bring forth a being where before there was none. And with great power comes great responsibility.
But it’s not the responsibility that concerns me. I know I’ll be able to respond and provide for my family. What’s more difficult is the deep chasm of vulnerability this will carve. For the rest of my life, I will be worried and concerned that this little being manages to survive and thrive. And even though I can do my best to create the most nourishing situations, there is much that is out of my control.
This reveals what is profoundly true of all of us: that really, even though we do have this power to create, we are at the mercy of forces far larger than ourselves.
To use the metaphor of God, we could say that God has given us the free will to create whatever we wish with our lives, and in so doing, relinquished a part of His/Her omnipotence.
When we create new life, we too are being asked to give up control. We can choose to fight this by trying to shield and protect our creation in every conceivable way. These attempts not only smother the child and constrict the expression of his potential, but are doomed to failure since we could never anticipate every eventuality.
The other option is to align ourselves with the divine. We understand that the worry and anxiety for our child’s well being is a reflection of our love, which is only a reflection of the love that God has for His/Her creation.
And as my father has taught me, just as there is nothing our children could do that would cause us to stop loving them, there is nothing, absolutely nothing that man can do to destroy God’s love, not even death. This is message of the mystics from all the traditions, the ‘good news’ of the gospels, something that is literally too good to be true.
Having children also brings us into deeper contact with the vast mystery that underlies all existence. This tiny child raises so many questions: why has this being incarnated into this particular family at this particular time? Where will this little life go? Why does this innocence have to go through all the difficulties, trauma, and suffering that it will face?
Some people don’t appreciate that uneasy feeling that comes along with a good mystery. But we should realize that if it wasn’t mysterious, it wouldn’t be much fun at all. The tension and possibility that the “dark side” might win is what generates vitality and the dynamism for the forces of “good” to actualize their potential.
Looking into the mystery of how we can do all this gives us a taste of the divine essence, whose mystery is far more profound than we could ever imagine. Perhaps having children is the closest window we have into this.