The Secret of Life

What's the most important thing in the world? The question crosses my mind every once in a while, especially now that the reality of fatherhood is quickly approaching--even invading--my life and my identity. As the anticipation builds, I can compare it to the anticipation of a marriage engagement. This date ominously sits on the horizon, drawing closer and closer but not necessarily any clearer. It's a unique change in life, for it does not have its chief dependence on status, vocation, ability, preparation (it's coming whether you're ready or not), or education. It heralds a change in you that goes deeper than these categories. It heralds a shift in your very identity, down to its very fabric. You will be called "daddy" by someone else. While the title bears with it more responsibility than you've ever had before; like no mere title, it cannot be defined by any set of responsibilities or achievements. It can only be defined by a relationship. A father is one who fathers someone else. As such, it is not something earned or achieved. You can do nothing more than to receive it--it is in the category of grace. To paraphrase Thomas Merton; the love of this relationship depends not on the desirability of it's object but loves for love's sake.

So what's the most important thing in the world? On what will this relationship hinge and in what way would I hope that my son may one day walk? I believe that the secret of life is the reception of love through grace... to push aside the categories of production and achievement, and receive again the love that cannot be earned, the love that is defined in relationship--the kind of love that exists between a father and his son.
"The great temptation is to use our many obvious failures and disappointments in our lives to convince ourselves that we are really not worth being loved. Because what do we have to show for ourselves?
But for a person of faith the opposite is true. The many failures may open that place in us where we have nothing to brag about but everything to be loved for. It is becoming a child again, a child who is loved simply for being, simply for smiling, simply for reaching out.
This is the way to spiritual maturity: to receive love as a pure, free gift." -Henri Nouwen