That, in my humble opinion, is an entirely reasonable fear.
Once upon a time, I thought (or perhaps merely hoped) that simply having a statistically above-average number of children would be a sort of automatic piety-booster for me, a jump-start to personal sanctification. I mean, how could I spend most of my waking (and some of my would-be-sleeping) hours tending to the pressing needs of others, and not end up less selfish for it? Well…quite easily, actually. Rebekah touched on the topic in this ye olde (but goode) poste.
The terrible truth that I understand more fully than I care to admit is that I can all too easily feel this crowd of children pushing me, not toward a more pious dependence on the giver and sustainer of life, not toward a life of selfless good deeds, but toward the Other Edge instead.
I should have known better, even all those years ago. Doing what has to be done, simply because it has to be done, is not a magic formula for personal piety. If I’m not careful, in fact, the hodgepodge of daily duties combined with periodic crises (of childrearing and of life in general) becomes the perfect recipe for resentment and even despair. And too often, I’m not careful.
Yet I’m afraid—do I really want to go through what it takes to get there? goes even deeper than the constant war that must be waged against crankiness. It goes down deep, to the basement closet of a mother-heart—the door that we daily hurry past, shuddering, never opening because we’re ashamed of the horrid things that lurk there. I’m afraid—what would happen to our family if we got another kid like the complicated one (to say nothing of the potential for more complicated complications)? I’m afraid—because after a miscarriage, there’s no such thing, ever again, as a blithely-contemplated possibility of pregnancy. I’m afraid—because as my children grow, I realize anew just how little control I have over Outcomes. I’m afraid—because I go through long dark stretches where it seems like every day, my head sinks just a bit lower under the waves, and how many times can I reasonably expect to add more ballast and go under and yet come up again?
I’m afraid—because I forget that what it takes to get there is, after all, never anything more or less than the cross. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. Perfected for all time—safe in the Shepherd’s hand; while yet being sanctified—treading this via dolorosa. To wish for an easier way is only human; even our Lord himself did mention it wistfully once.The answer, however, remains the same.
What it takes to get there may prove to be every miserable thing in that basement closet of mine. And more. But through it all, I will yet remember to sing, even shout, that greatest of triumphant rallying cries: Killed all the day long--More than conquerors!
Find me a trumpet, someone; I’m going to learn to blast out that anthem til the quivering closet slitheries cower and realize the pitiful limits of their wretched reach.