I was watching Miriam and Bella at the park this morning--watching them watch the other kids. This is something I remember so vividly from my childhood. I would stand or sit on the side and watch the others, absorbing, yes, judging, wondering why at every move the other children made. And now I watch my children doing the exact. same. thing. all the time. The poor things get it from their dad, too. It's delightful, though sometimes exasperating.
But it made me think about the circle of life (cue: Elton John). How we human beings keep on reproducing, at higher or lower rates, and perpetuating these same ol' genes. When it happens in the ordinary course of things, a man and woman end of up raising more little people who are surprisingly like themselves. And as those children grow, as much as they may resist it, they start to notice, "Wow. I just sounded exactly like my mother."
Then my thoughts turn to the self-imposed fear of reproducing that seems to have settled on my generation. The sort of dull fear and despair over this whole circle of life thing. Since having Bella, the most common question I get from strangers is, "Are you going to try for another one? A boy, maybe?" As if it would require heroic bravery for us to dare to reproduce again, to cast the die one more time, to make that dangerous gamble.
The assumption behind this fear is that we are stuck in an irredeemable circle. I can only hope against all hope that my children will be more wonderful than I. A man and a woman must prepare everything perfectly for those two or three children so that those children will somehow escape the pain or failures or disappointments of life, so they can be shielded from its difficulties as much as possible. And then, of course, they must be shielded from too many siblings, who will draw precious resources and college funds away from them. Fear that my faults will be seen again on earth. Fear of 18 more years of motherly boredom, seeing the same diapers, behavior patterns, and frustrations every day. Fear of even being bored or afraid, because that makes me a bad mother.
All of this mulling, which I see awakening in my two girls (and, yes, we'd love to have more, boys or girls, in case you were wondering).
Why do these fears, however understandable, have no grasp on my heart? (I say that in all humility and honesty. They have no grasp here.) It is because of the profound grace of hope. I know that my children, however many we are given, will in all likelihood bear my foibles and darker secrets in their little DNA. But I also know that my redeemer lives. I have seen growth away from sin and sorrow in myself and in my husband. I know that the one thing necessary in life is unconditional love of God--and no failure, no boredom, no routine will ever separate these children from him. I can delight in the circle of life, in seeing myself in my children (and my mother and father and grandparents) without fear or despair, because God has not been afraid to bring them into existence.
As Edith Stein wrote in one letter, "Be patient with yourself; God is." I might embellish that a bit for these purposes: "Do not despair of yourself; God doesn't." Armed with that conviction, we become free to ... well, reproduce. Life and its delightful, biological mess overcomes death and sterility. Yes, there is pain, but it is not the final word. That is why Christians who believe in the presence of Christ risen, Jews who believe in their election, Muslims who believe in Allah's promises, and the poor (most of all, the poor) who see where true riches lie love life and more lives.
Hope is a thing with very chubby legs.