What I Learned My First Year Being a Parent
I DIDN'T WANT TO BE A PARENT
For almost a decade, I battled a long term gambling addiction. During that time, I chased after the desire of my heart to make my life better through gambling winnings. I knew it was what I wanted in my life. Every decision I made during my addiction served that purpose.
I worked at a casino to be near gambling. I sought out anything I could to feed my addiction. From late night home games to finding bookies throughout the area and travelling states away to play cards after I signed myself off of the casinos in Missouri. Everything I did, every choice I made was for myself.
Then one day, I realized what a horrible turn my life made. One desperate suicidal night, I gave my life to Jesus Christ. Jesus then started turning my life back in the direction He wanted it to go. Jesus showed me that my life wasn’t about serving my own desires, but rather to serve God and others. I found that when I started doing those two things, they became my desires.
I love God. I love showing Him my love in any way I can as well as thanking Him for delivering me from the addiction that ruined so much of my life. When I started to serve others, I found my life taking another wonderful turn.
It’s easy to love God and worship Him when He loves me so much. However, when I started to love those that didn’t exhibit love back to me I found myself strangely accepting. The world teaches us that we should look out for number one. However, the Bible teaches us to look out for others before ourselves. I accepted that, even whenever I showed love to someone who didn’t love me back, it gave me even greater appreciation for the love God shows me. There is no better example of loving someone who can’t love back, at least not at first, than your own child.
Children can hug, kiss and show love and affection for their parents. However, Godly love – which is to give all you can for another – cannot be shown by an infant or a toddler. They do not have the capacity to love the way God does. A child relies on their parents, but doesn’t love them in that way.
When I was in my addiction, I never wanted a child. A child would ruin my ability to do what I want, when I wanted. It wasn’t until I started reading my Bible that I realized God wanted me to have children.
MAKING THE CHOICE TO BE A PARENT
The Bible says to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28, 9:1, 17:20), that we are to teach our children Godly ways (Prov. 22:6; Psalm 132:12; Duet. 4:9), and that when we have children we are blessed (Psalm 127:5, Deut. 7:14).
Sure I had heard some of that before, especially be fruitful and multiply. However, I wasn’t applying God’s Will to my life before salvation, but now I was in His kingdom and wanted to show my love for Him. His Word was clear that He wants His married couples to have children. I did not find one verse that said otherwise.
So, when my wife and I first started discussions about children, we were faced with these verses and had to make a choice. Would we choose God’s Will or our will?
We had to choose because we had so many concerns in our heart. They are probably the same concerns any couple contemplating becoming a parent. Are we financially ready? Is our life going to be over once we have kids? Should we wait, so we can enjoy more freedom in our marriage before tying ourselves to children?
However, God loved me so much. He delivered me from addiction, blessed me with a wife, a ministry, and a future. Who am I to blatantly disregard His will? We decided we would desire children. In fact, we have chosen to have as many as God allows us to have. Once we made that choice, God didn’t take long to bless us with a pregnancy. We were very thankful because we realized that just because we wanted to have kids didn’t mean we would be physically able to or wouldn’t have to wait.
Thirteen months after my wife and I were married, we had our first child –a daughter we named Maya. This past week we just celebrated her first birthday. I have done a lot of reflecting this past week about her life, the choice we made to have children, the verses God’s Word had about parenting. I wanted to share two major things I learned in my first year of parenting.
I WOULD’VE NEVER BEEN READY
During my limited research asking couples about choosing to have, limiting or restricting child birth in their relationship, finances came up as the number one reason why they are making their choice. However I have learned that no matter how ready you think you are, it won’t matter.
Family finances change with the weather. What if I had set up a savings account and said, “Okay, when we get this account up to $10,000 we can have a child?” Would we have had enough? What if the pregnancy or the child had complications? What if they didn’t? Would $10,000 have been more than we needed? If so, shouldn't we have tried sooner if we were financially ready? Would that money be enough if one or both of us lost our jobs after we got pregnant?
You can’t predict your finances in the future. You can have a good idea for how much you’ll make, but not how much you’ll need to spend. And that doesn’t account for any wild cards. What if the child was allergic to something and you had to spend extra money on special formula for them? What if they get older and are awesome at something and you need to pay extra money for lessons or school to improve their future in that area?
One thing I realized in my first year as a parent was that my trust was in the Lord and not money.
We can’t predict what cost are needed, but we can predict God loves us and wants to care for us. If God’s Word asks us to have children, won’t He also supply the need? My wife and I learned early on when unexpected bills came that we needed to trust the Lord to provide the need.
If we would have waited to have Maya until we were financially ready, we would’ve been trusting ourselves to supply our child’s need instead of God.
IT IS THE GREATEST BLESSING
The day Maya was born, I was unsure what to expect. I had never changed a diaper, never put a child to bed, and was never in charge of a child for an extended period of time. Yet, it all changed in an instant when she was born. Something I absolutely did not expect.
From the moment I saw her, I was alert, attentive and excited to watch over her. I was willing to change her diapers but reluctant to even hold another child with a dirty diaper. I thought I would be very reliant upon my wife for all things Maya related, but I found myself wanting to hold, bath, sing, teach, and stay up with her. In a moment, life had changed dramatically.
It was so much better than any poker tournament win, any sports betting streak, or any time I spent chasing the past desires of my heart. I wanted to love Maya. I wanted her to know God. To find Jesus. To discover her gifts and talents and to find her purpose in God’s kingdom. I had this thought about what a travesty it would’ve been if I had chosen to spend more time with my wife alone than to spend time with my wife raising children.
Every moment since has been an absolute blessing. Every milestone, every hug, and even every meltdown. Yes, each moment as difficult as the circumstance may be, has caused me to show my love for someone else more than myself. Waking up each day knowing my goal is to make sure Maya’s needs are met before mine, allows me to understand God more and makes it easier to love others in the world more as well.
I learned in my first year as a parent that every time I chose to show my love, it blesses me more. Seeing Maya’s face when she gets the food she likes or a new toy tops any moment from a self-serving life.
The Bible says it’s a bigger blessing to give than to receive. Each day I give more to Maya than she gives to me. However, each day I get a deeper understanding for that lesson. Love is to give. Being a parent is a life of giving. Giving allows me a glimpse of the love God shows me and shows me just how much He desires to give to me as well.
Even though part of the reason we became parents was because God’s Word instructs us too and we wanted to please Him, we found out isn’t wasn’t us blessing God, it was God blessing us.