Wednesday, July 16, 2008

This life which is not your own . . .

I'm pretty darn certain that God sometimes smiles and, yes, even laughs.

And I say this now because of the contrast between life as a I know it right now and life as I once knew it as a university student. You see, when I was a university student (a period of time which consumed most of my 20s), I was also single. But for a few odd dates and eventually getting engaged to the woman who is now my beloved wife during my last year at school, I was essentially quite monkish while pursuing the academic path. Of course, as I often joked with other single friends, it's one thing to voluntarily choose a monk-like vow of singleness, it's quite another to have it thrust upon you! And for much of that time it felt thrust upon me. Especially once I was working on a PhD (and thus working on the end of my 20s!), I really began to feel a longing to settle down and have a family -- of course, I would have to have at least one date, right? Anyway, though single, I was not altogether content with that circumstance.

Now as it happens life as a single student also had its perks. For instance, my time was my own. There was no one in my life who was making demands on my time and schedule. Apart from my obvious responsibilities as a grad student, I was free. Not to mention the fact that, technically, I had more expendable income. (Granted, most of that "income" was from student loans, a rather depressing and anxiety-inducing topic all its own deserving its own post-entry.) Ostensibly, some might say I had it made. Answerable to no one, I was a bachelor, a single guy in his late 20s who had all the time in the world.

Why did I hate it so much then? Well, like I said, I wasn't so crazy about being single.

Now, as a husband and a father, very little of my time is my own. My routines are largely determined by the responsibilities these relationships entail. Not to say that I resent this -- not at all! -- but simply to say that life then and now are very different. And the crazy thing is sometimes, at least once in awhile, I long for a time when I had more me time. I guess that's not so crazy. No doubt everyone feels that way on occasion. But I look back on my university years and envy, at least in part, the freedom I had. Therein lies the rub: I find myself now wishing for more of what I had then, even though then I wanted what I have now. Nuts, eh?

As much as I love my family, and I truly, deeply do, like anyone else I can experience that need for space, a space within which I can't hear -- or don't have to listen to -- the loud noises of my daughter and the sounds that are a part of family life. Nothing abnormal about that, I think. And truth be told, I hardly long to return to my student days. My goal is to have something in between the two.

But in thinking about the difference between my life then and my life now, I think my life now more clearly reflects on what God's will for our lives is. That is, he intends for us to be ensconced (great word, eh?) in relationships of sufficient depth and intimacy that we have our inherent selfishness squeezed out of us. To have all my time -- and indeed my life -- to myself is to deprive myself of experiences which draw me out of myself and closer to the other -- whether the otherness of people or the otherness of God.

Truth is, my life has never been and never will be my own. It doesn't matter whether I have one hour or ten hours of free me time in a given week, my life and my time are God's. It's hard to practice that sometimes, however. But married life and life as a father definitely provide solid training ground in that holy reality. Certainly, these aren't the only relationships where God can teach us and shape us and make us into who he wants us to be. They are where God has led me, I'm glad to say.

In the meantime, I do wonder if God laughs when, having received from him all I was longing for when a student, I find my longings momentarily regressing. Who knows? All I know is that I don't have much time to worry about it!

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