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The Real Work of Parenting

Parents, what is the meaning of life? What is it that you really want for your children? What is the heart and soul of being a human being on this planet? Do you know what it is? How can you help your children know it/have it/ live in it? A recent story in the Wall Street Journal points us to the truth.

Heather Lanier had her first child in 2011. While pregnant she read all the research, ate the perfect diet and avoided all the risks--not even a drop of caffeine passed her lips. When her daughter Fiona was born at full-term she was only 4 lbs 12 ounces. The baffled pediatrician concluded “your daughter has a syndrome.”

Turns out it was an extremely rare chromosomal deficiency occurring in one out of 50,000 births. Your odds of breaking into the NBA are better than that. It was devastating. Yet Lanier writes, “The therapists who saw a daughter as ‘abnormal’ missed the light in her eyes--and a deep lesson about love.”

Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins has tweeted that it’s immoral for a pregnant woman to knowingly carry to term a child with Down syndrome because according to Dawkins, disabilities decrease happiness and increase suffering. The assumption here is that the meaning of life is to avoid pain, that the meaning of life really isn’t available to the “abnormal”.

Today Fiona is only the size of a 3 year old. In the winters she attempts cross country skiing. Her verbal ability has exploded and she has completed kindergarten. Lanier writes:

On the day I learned of my daughter’s diagnosis, I was being handed a gift: the knowledge that the point of life isn’t to achieve things. It also isn’t as Richard Dawkins implies, to avoid suffering. It isn’t even to “be happy.”...The point of this human life, I believe is love. The ridiculous and brave and risky act of love turns my heart into taffy, stretches across the broad spectrum of human feeling. I hurt, I long, I exalt, I rejoice. And yes my chest sometimes aches from the work of raising a rare girl. But the ache in my chest is a cousin of joy.

Love is the meaning of life. Your kids won’t find it in good performance or high rates of self-esteem. They will find it in love. Love connects us with each other and more importantly love connects us with God. Jesus called it the greatest commandment: to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself. If you are a parent your greatest task is to “pursue love” (1Corinthians 14:1) and to help your kids pursue it. Love is the meaning of life and it’s the only thing that can make us normal.

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