At a first glance, the idea of parenthood and having children is pretty insane. Parenthood is demanding. From the moment of conception till their death, and particularly till they are out of your house, your life is theirs. Grab your bucket, because you better be ready to pour out a lot of love.
Just for starters:
1. The house’s tidiness goes down the drain.
2. The precious hours of sleep suffer constant interruptions, as well as the moments of intimacy.
3. House halls are transformed into lego minefields.
4. The moments of tranquility are few; you never know what your child will do next.
Still, from a Christian standpoint, life itself is a gift. If those who want and choose to have kids are lunatics, God was the first lunatic of all (only He has a much bigger bucket). If we received life as a gift, it only makes sense (in a common-sense sort of way) to make one’s life a gift. Or is this just crazy talk?
The experience of joy, paradoxical by trade, bears the appearance of insanity to those who haven’t the eyes to see it. It is the celebration of life, along with happiness and thankfulness, even in the moments of trial and sacrifice. It is the joy of a life fulfilled in self-giving in love. Far from causing rifts in the relationship, (surely there will be moments of difficulty and tension; this is inevitable in any relationship), it is the glue that allows true bonds to form and consolidate.
Take a look at this Coca Cola commercial (if only all their commercials transmitted the same values!) and you might get an idea of what I am getting out:
This, however, is not the mainstream vision of family life that is often transmitted. For many, put simply, family life is hell. Just to give you an idea, let’s take a look at this ad propagated by Durex, a provider of contraception. (Evidently, we share this video with the sole goal of forming a critical judgment of it.)
In the second video, “Protect Yourself”, life with children is presented as a constant nightmare in which any and every attempt at reaching peace, relaxation, and pleasure are plagued by the animalistic cataclysms inflicted on them by their children.
1. They nullify the pleasure between husband and wife.
2. Under their reign, your home begins to look more like a battlefield than a place of rest after a long day of work.
3. Not even the simplest moments of pleasure – that warm cup of coffee in the morning – escapes their monkey-like endeavors.
Alas, contraception, we are told, offers us the answer to this plague of unhappiness, to this sickness, to this natural flaw, which is having children. Protection, here, is understood as the protection of what is most important and essential to human life – the search for gratification.
Don’t get me wrong, family life can feel quite purgatory-like sometimes and there is no doubt that it limits you, but many times our happiness lies precisely in how we embrace those limits.
What I find most striking about this contrast, is that relatively speaking, we have the same situation but two completely different mentalities. One a glorified version of egoism, the other an adventure of generosity. When you saw the look of concern break out into an ecstatic expression of joy on the father’s face (first video), what did you feel? Is such a joyful generosity not contagious? Perhaps this is what we as Christians, as apostles, need to transmit to a world sickly obsessed with its depressing egoism.
I wonder if too often, we try to convince and persuade by using statistics, psychological studies, etc. All of these have their place; however, the goal of an apostle is always the heart, not just the exterior behavior. This is because the roots of all moral weakness or blindness live in the brain but is rooted in the heart. A heartsick with egoism will rarely accept arguments that demand of it a conversion. As such, one must not only be aware of the disagreements at hand, but also the reason why these disagreements exist. Why does this person have difficulty accepting certain teaching? What experiences or influences have led him or her to believe such and such?
The questions underlying so many polemic issues today are: What brings happiness and fulfillment to our lives? What does the human heart desire? What can fulfill this mysterious organ that never ceases to impulse towards somewhere, towards something greater, towards a horizon unseen and untouched? Christ, by words and actions, reveals the answer in his Incarnation, his Crucifixion, and his Resurrection. The horizon for which the heart longs is love, an infinite love. This love is not, however, utter self-gratification; it is, rather, utter self-giving in communion.
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