Last week The Atlantic ran an interview with a woman who decided to walk away from her career in the early 1970’s and instead devote herself to being a stay-at-home mom. They asked her if she thought her children would take the same path she did and she talked about one of her sons who doesn’t want children. She explained that he has a job he loves and he believes that, “children are too much work.”
This man is right; children are a lot of work. We have four kids under eleven, and I read this not long after our three-year-old daughter woke up at 5:55AM. Our oldest kids went to bed that night around 10:00PM and one of them woke us up at 3:00AM because she was throwing up. That’s just one twenty-four hour period in our life and have been many others like it. There have been many long and exhausting days, and every single one of them has been worth it.
If you sat down and did the math, there aren’t more joys and blessings than frustrations and difficulties in parenting. Instead, the blessings and the joys are so great that every frustration and difficulty pales in comparison. It’s worth getting up before 6:00AM on a Saturday to get a hug and hear, “I love you Super Daddy.” It’s worth patiently disciplining your children to see them do the right thing in a hard situation. It’s worth trying to have family devotions when no one wants to so that one day your child asks a question and you can see that they are getting it.
When I do premarital counseling with couples we have a night where we focus on what Proverbs says about marriage, words, and anger. I always start with Proverbs 14:4, “When there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox.” People often wonder why we are starting a discussion about marriage with a Proverb on oxen, but this short verse has a lot to say about the way we view any hard thing we deal with in life.
A farmer with no oxen has a trouble-free life. He won’t have to shell out money up front for the oxen. He doesn’t have to refill the feeding trough and there is no disgusting clean up. There are also no crops. To have an abundant harvest, the farmer needs oxen to plow the fields so he can plant. This means he has to make the initial investment to buy oxen and then his barn now will be neat and clean all the time. He has to do the hard work of making sure they are fed and cared for. He will have to do the disgusting work of cleaning up after them. When harvest time comes though, he will have an abundant harvest to show for all his hard work.
The main point of Proverbs 14:4 is this, everything good in our lives comes with hard work. We know this principle from our own jobs, don’t we? The phone rings off the hook, but on the other end are clients who want to buy something. Getting the big project done right takes many hours and means making a lot of hard choices, but putting in this time and effort could lead to career advancement. A career that is going somewhere will be a career that involves hard work, but the hard work is worth it for the sake of the rewards.
A happy and loving marriage doesn’t happen accidentally. For marriages to grow, a husband and his wife learn have to learn how to carve out time for each other, work through difficult situations in a loving way, and forgive when they other person wrongs you. This takes a lot of work, but navigating the misunderstandings with grace, investing time in talking to each other every day, and refusing to get revenge when wronged creates a beautiful and loving marriage.
One thing I have noticed as I have gotten older is that friendships take time and work to cultivate. When you’re in school, friends are everywhere and you have plenty of time on your hands to just hang out. Once you’re an adult and marriage, work, and kids get added to the equation friendships take more intentionality than they did before. They require making time for each other and often going out of your way to have time to get together. If they have kids too, it means trying to corral them all in a restaurant or working to get your house clean so they can come over. This is all takes time and effort, but in the end, the friendships reward you in ways that make what you expend seem like nothing.
Getting enough exercise and caring for our physical bodies seems to be more trouble than it is worth sometimes. It’s not easy to make time to work out when there are a hundred other things going on that day. Then the workout itself is hard. To make progress physically you have to push yourself past what you think you can endure. Few people find this fun or enjoyable. The alternative is worse though. You can choose the pain of working out or the pain of not being in shape. Enjoying good physical health has great benefits, and they come through hard work.
At every turn, you are going to face a choice today. You can go the path of least resistance or take the hard road. The path of least resistance always seems to be the best choice, but there are few rewards at the end. Taking the hard way means expending more time, more energy, and facing more frustrations, but the joys at the end of the path of hard work are worth it.
“The Joy and Pain of Consistent Parenting“
For Further Reading:
Every Good Endeavor by Timothy Keller