My wife, Liza, will tell you I wasn’t sure if I ever wanted to have kids, but that’s not precisely correct. I always wanted to be a father. I mean, it wasn’t something I passionately pursued for much of my life. I guess it was more of an assumed given that one day I would have some children I was responsible for, but, still, that given never went away, and it wasn’t something I was actively against.
However, I can see how I gave my wife that impression. You see, before we ever got married, Liza was diagnosed with a medical condition that meant having children would be difficult if possible at all. We both went into our marriage knowing that and completely fine with it. We even made a deal to give ourselves five years together before even considering children so that we could enjoy our time with one another before adding that stress.
We didn’t make it five years. After just a couple, Liza was desperately ready to try to have a child, and her doctor encouraged us to not wait any longer than we had to. So, we began trying. Besides the normal behavior necessary for this process, for Liza it meant a great deal of additional thinking and worrying. Also, lots and lots of praying and pleading with God to graciously grant us a child, and eventually, it also entailed, countless doctor’s visits, tests, monitors, injections, and pills.
For me, however, not much changed. Honestly, and it pains me to say this, I was just going along with what she wanted to make her happy, not believing it would ever happen.
Whereas Liza was focused almost a hundred percent on trying to have a child, my focus was elsewhere. I was in seminary for the first three years of our marriage. Then I was in a job that required a lot of travel, some of which meant being gone from Liza for a couple of months in the summer. I also had never been on an international mission trip until my mid-twenties, and once I did, I discovered a great love for it. I had so many places I wanted to go and so many things I wanted to do, and I knew a kid would change all that. But I wasn’t ready for change.
Liza and I never really talked about any of this, though, at least until it was almost too late. While we were both dwelling in the same house, it was like we were living two different lives in pursuit of very different goals. We both felt some measure of rejection from the other, and a distance began to slowly grow between us. We regularly shared physical intimacy, but spiritually, emotionally, and mentally, we both felt alone.
In most conflicts, each party bears some of the blame, but I want to be clear that throughout this time in our lives, the vast majority of that burden fell on me. Liza ceaselessly prayed for me and for us. She tried to create more connections between us. I was the one who was most often resistant or who would find other things to do with other people or who just didn’t want to deal with things. Ironically, I was just acting like a child.
I’m not completely sure who mentioned the word “divorce” first, but I’d bet it was me. Oddly, as difficult as it was, we found it easier to discuss the end of our family than we did the struggle we were having to grow it. We didn’t want to approach that lightly. We of course knew God’s stance on it. So, we sought Him. I’m ashamed to say this was one of the few times I had done so on the issue of our marriage and family throughout that whole time.
Long story short, God changed us. More specifically, He changed me. It wasn’t so much that God brought me around to Liza’s side. Rather, through prayer and study of the Scriptures, I finally understood there weren’t two sides. We had become one. The problem is that we weren’t acting like it. I wasn’t acting like it. I wasn’t loving and leading her well, or hardly at all, really. Change wasn’t overnight, but through lots of talking, praying, and even crying, Liza and I saw the hurt we had caused each other healed by our gracious and loving Heavenly Father.
As I reflect on that now, I’m glad we were unsuccessful at having a child at that time. I wasn’t a very good husband. How could I hope to be a very good dad?
I tell you all this so you can understand why, for me, I feel a little weird about Father’s Day. After seven years of struggle, God did eventually answer our prayers and miraculously give us our daughter, Story. Then, a little over three years ago, we adopted our son, Haven. So, despite what I may or may not have wanted at one time, I am a dad, and I love it. I would have it no other way. Now that I’m on this side of things, I am shocked and disgusted at my pride and selfishness that could have kept me from the experience of the gracious gifts my children are to me.
They’ve changed things for sure. There’s so much I was so devoted to back then that now doesn’t even get a measure of my attention, but, for the most part, I don’t miss it at all. I still get to travel a fair amount, at least an international trip or two a year, but now they’re the ones I miss. Last year, though, Story and I got to travel on a mission trip to Costa Rica together. I’ve always thought there is nothing greater than sharing the things you love with the people you love, and that trip showed me how true that is.
Still, Father’s Day feels weird. It’s supposed to be a day to celebrate me, but I don’t often feel worth celebrating. I still wonder how good of a husband and dad I am. I think I’m better, for sure, but there’s room for improvement, without a doubt. I guess that’s true for all of us, though. After all, isn’t that why we need sanctification?
So, on this day, I let Liza, Story, and Haven celebrate me how they like, but for me, I focus on something different. Father’s Day isn’t a time for me to bask in the glory of my own fatherhood. Rather, I see it as a time to reflect on God’s, to remember all He has done to grow me and discipline me as any loving Father should, and to rejoice in the gifts and blessings He has given me that allows me to be known as a father, too.
Chris Kinsley and his wife, Liza, have been members of Brook Hills since 2003. He serves on our staff as our Communications Director, leads a small group, and teaches in Preschool large group on Sunday mornings. He’s also a Story Coach and the Director of Media for Arc Stories, a company committed to purveying and telling great stories.