So I have this very old friend, who became a father a little over a year ago.
Today I watched a slideshow of his baby's first year in review. I started crying and couldn't stop. Real honest to goodness tears of joy. It was a spiritual moment. Since then I've been examining why this touched me so deeply.
Nursing, diapers, sticky handprints, potty training accidents, laundry, school lunches to pack, agendas to find and sign, notes to teachers about missing homework (science fair from right after dinner til after bedtime last night), kisses, grins, hugs, searching for dry boots, baby toes to munch on, snack after snack after snack to feed little ones, an ear always on what they are up to...and through my day two things jumped out at me.
It isn't that I think a person can't have a full life without children, they most definitely can, and they certainly have time to do a lot of really wonderful things, but unless they devote themselves to a life of service there is something MISSING. There is a level of self sacrifice in parenting that I think is integral to our spiritual development. And this isn't to say that those who are childless are selfish...but they have to search pretty hard to have a relationship with anyone or anything that puts them in the same place of losing that sense of self...and then having to find it again WITH someone else attached to them
There is a special kind of mindfulness that every parent develops, no matter what our religion, we need to learn to pray while holding a child. We need to learn to recognize God's presence in the midst of a dinnertime tantrum, as well as hear God's voice in the whispery breathe of a sleeping baby.
I grew up thinking that people who were deeply religious had lots of kids because they were supposed to spread the faith through their children - the statistics of it all.. As an adult I see it differently. I think that FAMILY is at the centre of a lot of faiths because of the vital lessons we learn through the act of becoming a family. There is nothing mundane about raising a child.
And then I thought of this friend in particular and the warm and generous person he is and his search for spiritual meaning in his life - a search he's been on since I met him over 20 years ago. He's finally found it, that spiritual PLACE and sense of belonging. Its so obviously been grounded in him, nurtured, and is growing strong and lush within the shelter of the FAMILY he's been blessed to help create at the same time.