Monday, January 30, 2012

On Fatherhood, Again

I'm a father again.

My second child was born this past weekend. A daughter. Her eyes are bright, and while she is petite in size, she is strong in heart and grip.

When my son was born, I was struck with how much one's capacity for love could miraculously increase in a single moment. As much as I had loved before, the love of a parent transcended all prior experiences, as if a house that had been seemingly explored suddenly produced a hidden door yet to be opened. With that door opened, my heart was flooded with a deep captivation for the tiny boy I held in my arms.

Could I love that much again a second time? How would the addition of a new life into our family potentially alter my affections? Yet instead of a love that must be divided between multiple recipients--as if I had to split my current capacity for love 50/50--I am finding my love exponentially multiplied beyond what I could have predicted. Instead of 50/50, love increased to 150/150; my love for my son and wife actually increased with the addition of a new family member. Instead of sharing smaller pieces of a love pie, the pie miraculously grew.

Much like the Grinch's heart at Christmas, my own heart has grown three sizes in singular moment.

This kind of love calls for spontaneous tears, an already all-too-familiar phenomenon in my life.

An ancient theologian, Richard of St. Victor, once made an argument for the plausibility of the Trinity that went something like this: God is love, and a perfect being experiences perfect love. Perfect love requires the sacrificial giving and sharing with another perfect being, and that this perfectly shared love would necessarily be shared with a third to appreciate and experience the love of the two. When two perfect beings are perfectly loving and perfectly sharing that love with another, it is like a divine triune dance.

This Trinitarian dance reminds me of the love shared between a family--the love of a father, a mother, a child, sharing and giving and sacrificing and loving. Maybe this familial love is a glimpse of the Trinitarian dance we'll be invited to join in the kingdom. Paul's prayer in Ephesians 3 reflects this sentiment as he kneels before the Father "from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name."
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
The climactic request of this Trinity-soaked prayer is the paradoxical appeal to "know this love that surpasses knowledge." Maybe having a son and daughter is a glimpse of this unknowable love. Maybe I have somehow tapped into the Trinity's dance, that this God has shared a piece of His eternal fatherly love and granted me stewardship to share it with the children He has given me.

I humbly embark on the journey of fatherhood again, grateful for the guidance of the Father who gives every good and perfect gift. Especially kiddos.


  1. Beautifully written. The verse from Ephesians 3 is a verse that I pray for little ones while we wait for their "arrival". It is overwhelming for me to think of what the world would be like if we could fully grasp the truth of those words. Congratulations to you, Katie & Copeland on the arrival of Eloise.

  2. Sweet Joel...congratulations on your new addition to your beautiful family!

  3. Joel, What a great word picture you've written here. It is amazing how your love capacity grows to accomodate each child the Lord gives. I sure love you and miss you too!
    Jill (and Tim :)

    1. Jill, thanks so much for the comment, we love and miss you and all the Sayles!

  4. Congrats Joel. I'm quite positive the love will overflow plenty in your house. Keep chasing my 5 count :))