In my experience, there are two phrases that require a man to reevaluate the person he is and the person he wants to be. The first is, “I do.” The second is, “We’re expecting.”
The Lord uses family as a refining fire in our lives. It comes with all the warmth and joy of a well lit fire. It also burns in just the right places to remove our weaknesses. Having a family highlights our strengths and exposes our shortcomings. At least, it has been so with me.
Every day has been a growing experience for me, but I would like to highlight four particular moments that grew me quickly.
I remember reflecting on what I had just done. My wife of just a matter of weeks was sleeping. I was wide awake and deep in thought. The words kept ringing in my head, “I do.”
What I was feeling was a mixture of weight and joy. In one instance I would think, “I get to spend the rest of my life with this gorgeous woman!” There was the joy. In another, “Every single thing I do and say will directly affect her.” That was the weight.
As a married man, I was then entrusted with a powerful responsibility. I would never again make a mistake that would only damage me. My wife would share in that. From now on, I would have to weigh every decision carefully. There’s more than just me on the line now.
They say that when you pass the first trimester your risk of miscarriage plummets. We were just past 13 weeks and beginning to breathe that sigh of relief when my wife’s cramping started. She was having a miscarriage.
We already knew what our little one was going to be like. We had dreams about her. Don’t ask me to explain how, but I can picture her face in my mind. To say we experienced grief is an understatement.
After hearing the news, I was faced with a difficulty I had never experienced before. I had to decide how to mourn while also comforting my mourning wife. Do I stay strong so she can come to me for her strength? Do I mourn openly so she doesn’t feel alone? This was the first time in my life I ever had to put on a brave face and be someone else’s rock.
That season taught me a valuable lesson. I can be honest about how I am feeling without being controlled by my feelings. What I wanted to do was spend the days melting in the corner. What my wife needed me to do was carry her on my shoulders. I don’t care how much you can lift or trash talk. This is what makes a real man.
I wrote a song about that season that really captures what I was going through. You can read the lyrics here:
The next pregnancy was full-term and successful. There is nothing that can prepare you for the first time you hold your baby in your arms.
My wife had a Caesarean so they kept her in the operating room and ushered me to the room we would be staying in. It felt like I was in there by myself for hours. In reality, it was probably only a few minutes. Then they brought her in and put her in my arms.
I stood there, staring down at this helpless new human, feeling a mixture of fear and awe. That’s when it hit me. This child is totally dependent on me. She can’t even do the basics without my intervention. From this point forward, it can no longer be about me. I must lay myself down in every way necessary to give this precious child what she needs.
Boys tend to grow up considering themselves above others. Family life kills that mentality quickly. It turns us into men who place others above ourselves.
Let’s skip ahead to the birth of our fourth child. It was epic. The plan was for my wife to have a home birth with her midwife. I am here to tell you the midwife did not make it in time.
You heard that right and, yes, your conclusion is correct. I caught the baby with my own two hands. It was terrifying! We went through marriage counseling before we said our vows. I can assure you they did not prepare us for that.
I tried to act natural, but I’m sure I looked very unnatural. This experience reinforced a valuable lesson for me. I am not above the “dirty work" of life. I am not too good to get into the mess of life. In fact, it is in the mess where life happens.
Step into the fire
I began by saying that family is a refining fire. Because of that, many men hesitate to pursue marriage or children. If you are the type of man who cannot set yourself aside and serve someone else then please stay single. Otherwise, don’t be afraid to step into the fire. It will make you a better man.