So today is the first day in my self-imposed month of discipline, in which I spend an hour every night reading and answering the question: how was my discipline today? I don’t really know how to summarize how the day went. I am inclined to say it went well, because in some sense I feel that the shell is cracking that my hardness is softening and a small ray of light is sneaking in through the cathedral ceiling.
I had a restful evening with Lauren. We sat down in the bookstore and I read books as she sat on my lap. There were inane books; they were books about princesses. We had a silly conversation on the way there in which I explain the function and purpose of the human lung. I explained that the lungs are like two big balloons which fit inside your chest. I explained that when you breathe, you fill the balloons up with air and when you exhale you empty them. This was trenchant for Lauren because I had recently patched a hole in an exercise ball as she watched. She was fascinated by the fact that I had created a patch. When I was explaining this to her, she said that she learned nothing new, but I knew better. I could feel in her silence, that I had impacted her worldview and I know she will never look at breathing the same. Simply because I have shared something with her â€” real parenting is a desision.
From this, I was convicted in a very real sense just how much of her worldview Iâ€™m actually forming. It truly surprises me to think that the way she views the world is, in part, a reality that I have constructed. She is so precious, and this time is so important and informative in her life. I feel that this is the most important time in her life, when her Dasein is formed and where my impact is the greatest.
Sadly, it is a time where disappointment is first entering her world. Like the time when I brought her to see the fireworks, but she didn’t see them because we were too late. There was a similar incident, when we were in the restaurant yesterday after she swam by herself for the first time and we told her that we would take her to a restaurant because she had done so well. Inside the restaurant, she noticed that there was another boy who is smaller than her who was dining there. And she asked the question how, being as small as he is, could this little boy possibly be worthy of the same honor that she was. We had to explain to her that there were many different motivations that led people to bring their children to the restaurant and her view that this restaurant was a special place for people who achieved the same special thing came crashing in on her. It was a terrible thing to watch. She didn’t cry, she didn’t complain, she didn’t whine, she just looked into my eyes for a good long three or four seconds as I watched reality form and set in her brain. It is moments like this which convict me to the core and apprise me the importance of my role.
It is for this reason that I’m convinced it was the right thing to turn down the deployment. Five months away. Five months without that joy, the joy of loving and raising my children â€” when they need me most.
Last Sunday in church I had a big revelation, an important revelation. In talking with the guest pastor, I realized that most of the joys I seek are empty joys that seek and depend on others. They are stolen joys. They are not joys that I own myself. They are not joys that are complete in themselves. They are joys that require observers.
This is a major revelation for me. Observers. How often it is that I share great experiences with unseen companions that sit in my brain. You see, these are the people from my past and from my present who I wish to impress. They come with me everywhere, and I cannot shake them. For example, when I met the president, I didn’t enjoy that moment in and of itself. I enjoyed it because I pictured others picturing me. I pictured the fact that I could explain this experience to others. I pictured me checking off an experience on a list and adding it to my war-chest or trophy-closet. Just the same when I stood in front of the Eiffel Tower, I did not enjoy the aromas of Paris, beauty of seeing a structure like that in the midst of the classical architecture surrounding me. No, the same observers were there, they were there for me to impress. Yes, they would know that I was standing there in Paris. If I would’ve had a FaceBook account at the time I would’ve had my picture taken there and my profile picture updated to reflect this new reality. It was as if the world cared that I had just taken in this scene.
I’ve carried these observers with me for very long, and they will be with me much longer. Perhaps they will never leave my side. But a crack has been exposed in the foundation that they hold in my conscience. I realized that when I hold Lauren in my arms and feel the warmth of her skin against me and looked into her eyes and see the love that she has turned me into realize that her comfort is provided by my strength — that is joy. That is my joy, and I need no observers.