Monday, October 02, 2006

Every Other Month

As we come up on the one-year anniversary of meeting Jada, I've
reflected a lot on all the things I'm thankful about. One thing I'm
not thankful about, though, is being sick so often. This weekend, I
caught yet another cold, making it six times I've been sick in the
past twelve months. That's every other month!

On the other hand, maybe I ought to be more thankful. Being sick
pushes a lot of buttons for me. I'm not as sharp at work, I don't get
as much stuff done around the house, and I can't wake up early to get
a jump on the day. In short, I feel less productive as a person, and
since I unhealthily put a lot of self-worth in such things, I struggle
doubly when I'm less than 100%.

In other words, being sick is a lot like being a parent. Your
professional ambitions and individual concerns now have to be balanced
with your responsibility over a tiny, helpless person. Travelling
light and being on time are out of the question. Friendships are
harder to maintain, service opportunities harder to commit to, and pet
projects harder to find time for.

Today's "Baby Blues" cartoon captured the sentiment perfect. The dad
comes home from work to find the mom buried under kid-related
detritus, holding one child while two others fight with one another.
She says, "I managed to comb half my hair and fill an ice cube tray."
The punch line is something like: "When you should suggest ordering
take-out."

A good friend of mine had his first child ten years ago. I lived with
him at the time, and a few months into his fatherhood, I asked him how
things were going. Like me, he was used to being hyper-productive
with his time, so he said, "It's hard to look back on the day and
realize the only thing you did was change 12 diapers and feed 6
bottles."

But drivenness to perform, when it becomes a means to gauging your
self-worth, is just as self-destructive and un-Christian a habit as
drunkenness or lust. One of the things I'm grateful about as I look
back on a year of being a dad is that I've spent lots of time with my
daughter, and discovered in those moments that I can be content
outside of "accomplishing" something. It's a lesson I've had a lot of
opportunities to learn in my first year of parenting.

And it's a lesson I feel I learn anew every time I get sick. Even
before Jada arrived, my first thought when I would get sick (OK, to be
honest, more often than not my second thought, with my first thought
being, "oh no, not sick again!") was to consider that God might be
forcing me to slow down and accept myself and my life apart from what
productive things I could do.

And so every other month, on average, I have had the double dose of
being a parent and being sick. Together, they really drive my usual
productivity down. And perhaps, as I reflect on the six times this is
happened over the last year, together they are God's means of driving
home a lesson I am slow to learn, a lesson I really need to learn for
the sake of the quality of my life and the health of my soul.

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