living within my limitations

Friends on Instagram people keep sharing these 2009-2019 posts, typically featuring a picture of them then [bad] and a current pic [good]. The text reads variably, but usually people identify some significant life changes, some highs and maybe some lows.

Here’s a simplified version of what mine could read:

2009-2019: Change and stability. I started seminary and parish ministry with youth; I continued a degree program to pursue an M. Div; I traveled a lot; I met an amazing woman and we got married; we bought a house; Silas joined our family; we moved to San Francisco; I was ordained; Kaile started grad school; Maelin joined our family; I lost a job; I got a new job; we moved to the Silicon Valley; Kaile got a job and finished grad school; we prepped for baby number three. Phew! It has been a full decade!

As I reflect more seriously on what the last ten years have contained, I realize my responsibilities have increased significantly. Soon I will be bound not only to my wife and our two boys, but also to a N E W B O R N!

The more I’ve lived as a married person – and now with children – the more I’ve recognized the limitations I have. Let me break down my experience of being a dad in terms of what feels like a day of accomplishments. If I’m caring for the kids all day, it means I keep them fed and somewhat content in life as much as is possible. A superb day means I also did laundry and we vacuumed together, and the dishes are done.

I used to have so much time for all the little details of life like choosing a matching outfit and changing my socks. Now I have two three kids.

Today is my reminder that having time for the details of life now feels like such an extravagant luxury. Here’s an example. For weeks I’ve thought about doing a tiny project with my bike involving glue, yet alas! each time I tried the opportunity evaded me. Essentially I needed to slightly modify my front bike rack so the bag would be more secure. Kid you not, it only involved super glue and two nickels but I’m not McGyver or anything. And for real, it took all of two minutes to do it.

But that’s the kind of life I lead. Because B A B I E S there’s just less time for, well, everything. 

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The only reason I did my McGyver project is my kids happen to be at preschool and I happened not to have work today. 

Any other day, that little two-minute task was just way lower of a priority than keeping a three year old from hitting his brother, procuring cheerios for breakfast, negotiating with a four year old that we only watch a program at night, and a long list of other parenting strategies. Oh yes, and I do in fact have a wife. And a job. And a few dreams, ambitions, etc. 

All of this is an exercise in limitations. 

Financially, I’m limited. I can’t just go get every last item that crosses my mind. Logistically, I’m limited. There are places I need to go and time frames in which to stay. Emotionally, I’m limited. I only have so much energy to listen, process, and engage. 

The refreshing angle on all this is I’m learning fully and deeply what it means to live within limitations. It’s so deeply satisfying to recognize my status as a human being and to live happily within that status, not seeking a state of being beyond my station. There is indeed a season for all things, as the wise writer of the ancient book of Ecclesiastes in the Hebrew Bible declared, a season for all things under the sun. 

I miss some of the freedoms I once enjoyed, and I must say, it’s tiring being a dad. It’s the unsexy work of giving tiny humans years upon years of the focused attention that once went to you and your priorities – or at least a large percentage of it. My old friend Gary said this: “the first 18 years are the hardest!” Ain’t that the truth. 

Living within my limitations means I discover every day what it means to feel the uniquely human joy of instilling value into my energetic offspring. Living within my limitations means I get the quiet joy of serving in my vocational role while somehow maintaining margins for my family needs. Living within my limitations means quality time with my life partner – and with friends and family – is just that much more valuable because it’s in short supply.

Living within my my limitations means a lot more real living.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

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