How many couples, a year after having their first child, are still reckoning with that feeling of having one’s wings clipped? With our third child now six months old, I can still sort of feel some nubs on my back, but referring to wings seems far fetched in and of itself. This hemming in, however, does not strike me as being unique to becoming a parent. I suggest it is more generally associated with aging and the various passages one passes through over the years.
In youth, many feel some sense of a wide open future. That openness erodes over time as one chooses a college, signs up for a major, enters a particular vocation, gets married, etc. In each of these choices, “If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice” (I can’t remember who Rush was quoting, I can only remember the song Free Will). By the time a person is even in his thirties he often looks back at his college or high school days as a time of wide open vistas.
Most people, at some meaningful emotional level, experience a real sense of loss as they realize that they are ever more hemmed in by past decisions, that there are fewer and fewer forks in the road ahead, and that the forks are further and further apart. I’d like to propose, however, that this reaction is misplaced, or at the least needs to be displaced over time.
First of all, how many of you know a perpetual college student? Not someone actually in college, but someone who makes choices to continue to live that wide open life that many experience in college? Have you ever met someone like that who is 40 or older? Do their lives seem wide open, fresh with the enjoyment of new experiences? In my experience most who have made their choices in such a way as to ensure their options are always open in the end have been hemmed in by the years as much as those of us who change lots of diapers.
The point is that there is for most people a certain narrowing in that takes place throughout life. The goal, it seems to me, is not to despise or avoid this, but rather to seek to ensure that the narrowing in focuses one ever more on a path of righteousness rather than a path of dissipation. What the particular path is will vary person to person, but the point is simply that we can actually view this narrowing in as a good thing. As we make decisions, we become ever more bound to a particular path. Praise be to God if that path we are bound to helps us in our mortal weakness walk on level ground ever before Him!
One can see hints of this at several points in the Bible. Whether in Paul’s admonition that it is better to marry than burn, or in that Ecclesiastes sense of one’s days passing quickly as God keeps us busy with our work and relationships, there is this notion of being bound that serves the purposes of God. Perhaps the focal point of which all this is merely an echo is our being bound to Jesus.
So if you are discouraged by a lack of freedom, when that sense is not coming from chains around your wrists but rather from the normal responsibilities of home, work, or church, perhaps reflect on the blessings of God that can be found in such tedious normalcy. Better to be bound to what seems boring for a time, waiting to experience God’s blessing, than to be open to paths of sin and dissipation.