The Avett Brothers – Go to Sleep
[Avett Brothers today, in honor of getting to see them play here in Arkansas this Friday!]
Earlier this week, my men’s small group met together at the early hour of 6 am. We’re currently going through an amazing book called “Longing for God”. In it, we thumb through the giants of Christian thought and practice and reflect and respond to what they stood for.
While studying Martin Luther, we read “the key to faith for Luther is anfechtung, a state of hoplessness and helplessness.” I admitted immediately that it is difficult for me to identify and relate to this (a thought that deserves it’s own post), in which case a member of our group quipped, “Well, you are about to have a child!” (Cue laughter from the entire group of guys. ) Despite the fact that it was just a silly, little joke (and yes, that’s really all it was)…I still wasn’t laughing.
You see, my wife is nearly 6 months pregnant. Our son is due in January and I couldn’t be more excited about being a dad, about the prospect of bringing up a solid man. This is something I’ve always hoped for, always longed for. Every chance I get, I soak up advice and wisdom. Unfortunately though, nearly all of my talks with current dads have left me annoyed, bothered, chafed, disheartened, exasperated, and frustrated…and that’s just A thru F. Here’s what those talks generally look like:
Me: If there was something you could share, one nugget of wisdom or advice or truth that you could pass on to me, a soon-to-be Dad, what would it be?
Man: Enjoy sleep while you still can (cue laughter from group of guys…again).
Really, that’s it? Sleep? You see, I wouldn’t be so tiffed and miffed about it if that weren’t the same response I’ve gotten from just about every man I’ve encountered. Sleep? Really? Is that what we men value more than anything else? Listen, I know I’m gonna lose sleep. I know nothing will prepare me for how exhausted and deprived I’ll be from the workload of caring for a newborn. I get it…as much as one can “get it” without actually going through it. But that’s the one liner every man wants to go for? That’s the wisdom, advice, and truth that is going to assist another young man to raise a young boy into this world?
Maybe I’m naive. Maybe I have the same “lost hope” of a young 20-something entering law school in hopes of changing the world. But I’m fine with that, and I know that hasn’t stopped Zach from pursuing law. Maybe a few years from now I’ll be hoping to permanently delete this post from ever existing. Maybe some young man will ask for my advice as he’s in the middle of his wife’s pregnancy and I’ll smirk and spout off something about waking up at all hours of the night. Maybe…but probably not. How can I be so sure? Beacuse I’ve already been down this same frustrating road once before.
Four years ago, I was on the verge of marrying my high school sweetheart. Me and Amy had dated for six years and knew it was time to tie the knot. I’d been dreaming and praying and hoping for this day for a long time. I’d always wanted a wife to love. To really care for and treat right and grow old with and all that sweet romantic stuff. I’m not one of those men who wanted to relish in their ultra-masculine promiscuity and eternal longing for singlehood. I wanted to be married, and Amy was the one I wanted to be married to.
Before the wedding though, I constantly seemed to encounter men who felt the need to give me all the “warnings and trappings” of marriage. All sorts of “ball and chain” talk. Just like the newborn discussions, most were all in fun and jest. Most probably actually liked their wives and the fact that they actually had one, they just for some reason believed the most valuable thing they could bring to the table was a little “reality” check. Apparently reality bites.
Not for me, though. The reality of marriage has far surpassed my vision of what marriage would be. We have grown and pushed each other on more than anyone could hope for. We have experienced God’s love and each other’s love more than we knew was possible. And we did all of this together. Sure, marriage is difficult. I got it. I’m gonna lose some sleep? Check. But give me something more. Here’s a little illustration that may bring it all home:
Say you’re climbing a mountain. You’ve been waiting to get to this peak for days. You looked at photos of it online before you ever made the trek out. You’ve read books and guides about not only the safest path, but the most enjoyable one as well, even the one with the best view. This is the mountain you’ve lived your life to climb. About 2/3rds of the way up, you encouter a climber on their way down. You look at them with wide-eyed wonder. They’ve already been there. They’ve already done it. You look them in the eyes and ask them, “So…what can you tell me about it?” You’re forgetting all the books and maps you’ve seen now. This is someone standing right in front of you who’s all sweat and tested. They take a deep breath, smile a little crookedly, and respond, “Well…your legs are gonna be sore.” What? My legs are gonna be sore? That’s it? I already knew that. I didn’t climb this mountain believing I’d have fresh legs on the way down. I climbed it hoping I’d see something up there I’d never seen before. I climbed it hoping I’d grow and stretch myself. I climbed it hoping that one day I could bring my son on this climb. I climbed it believing I could one day give him the guidance to walk this path himself.
Men, I realize the easiest thing to say isn’t always the most sincere. But push beyond that. Don’t settle for locker room cliches of what being a husband and dad are. Especially you solid Christian men. You who want to love your wives as Christ loved the church, who want to Father your children with the same love the Father has for us. If you have the opportunity to guide someone up that giant mountain, don’t just go to sleep on us and throw out some tired response. Rise up. Wake up. And in all sincerity, man up.