Good morning on this the twenty eighth day of November, in the year of our Lord 2016.
I’m very unclear on why the schools and childcare facilities have off today, but it means a long day of trading off who’s watching the kids so that both my wife and I can get our work done. On the plus side, it also means trading off playing with the children, which is much more fun, at least when no one is screaming in anguish that some trivial thing went wrong. When it comes to children I don’t mind the drudgery of cooking food and doing dishes and laundry and cleaning excretory organs and such, but people’s displayed emotions tend to influence me a lot, so all of the anguish and heartache over practically nothing (“oh no, the lego piece didn’t go on. Aaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhh!”) is the hard part for me. But when no one is screaming, it’s great.
Not that it’s all that significant either way; the joys and the pains of parenting are both incidental to the real reason to do it: to participate with God in the act of generous creation. God made us out of nothing, and we make children out of ourselves and our environment. In so doing we become God’s creation of our children, and so by God’s gift we participate in God’s creative action. In a real sense part of God’s gift to us is to incorporate us into himself. The incarnation is the most striking aspect of this, but it is foreshadowed in our ability to create out of something (only God can create out of nothing). And this is of course why we must all take up our crosses and follow Christ; we are by God’s gift incorporated into God, and carrying his cross is, in Christ, part of God. There’s a fascinating thing Jesus said about how there is more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over 99 who had no need of repentance; it seems like even God can fear, though for us not for Him.
And it is participating in this that is the point of parenting: creating new people so that you can then give more to them. We feed them and clothe them and teach them how to speak and think and ultimately how to be human; and all this we do not because they have given anything to us, or because they will give anything to us, but because they can receive it. It is not strictly true that the love of God is unconditional. It is not conditional on what we have done or on whether we will do anything for God, but it is (necessarily) conditional on whether we are capable of receiving it. This is also why it is utterly pointless to ask whether any created thing has a better lot than another created thing. The infinitude of God’s love means that every created thing will be given the maximum it is possible for it to receive; and there is no point in asking why you won’t be given what you couldn’t receive even if you were given it.
Incidentally, this incorporation into God is also why evil is possible; because it is given to us to be God’s goodness to each other, we can reject this incorporation into God and thus his goodness will not flow through us. This privation we call evil. It does not mean that we can prevent God from being good to his creation, only that by rejecting our role of being some particular goodness of God to his creation, we can make him have to give it in some other way, probably at some later time. As it has been said, “all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” Or as Freidrich von Logau put it:
Gottes Mühlen mahlen langsam, mahlen aber trefflich klein,
ob aus Langmut er sich säumet, bringt mit Schärf ‘er alles ein.
Translated by Wadsworth as:
- Though the mills of God grind slowly;
- Yet they grind exceeding small;
- Though with patience He stands waiting,
- With exactness grinds He all.