On Becoming a Father
by Jeff Younger, father of James and Jude
I feel that my sons, James and Jude were gifted to me. I received them not as a man but as a father—as a life’s work in the human spirit, not for glory, and least of all for convention, but for them, to take from the dust of the earth two giggling, crying, innocent human souls that did not exist before, and go with them into heaven. It took some years to understand what that really meant.
My sons were given to me only in trust. Yes, trust for their bodies: fed, rested, and healthy. Also for their minds: educated, reasonable, rhetorically skilled. Mostly for their spirits. My sons are born into a time of a general and universal fear, now so long sustained that the only relief for most men is a sloughing retreat into nihilism and materialism.
There are no more problems of the human spirit. The human heart has been reduced to emotions. The human person has been reduced to a biological machine that exists solely to satisfy innate, immutable, unconscious desires. The possibility of a human nature binding us all in spiritual community, is almost completely forgotten. My sons’ secular community will never teach them this old wisdom.
My sons must learn from me alone the problems of the human spirit, of a soul in need of healing, in conflict with the nous, the true heart, the eye of the soul, that desires God. It is I, their father, that shouts against all civil authority: my sons are men, and wonderfully and fearfully made.
I have had to set aside my own fear. Until then, I had labored under a curse. I had acted not out of love but vanity. My griefs had been of a kind for fools. My victories had been defeats. My heart was but a hydraulic organ not a sacred conscience given by God.
In setting aside all fear, I knew for the first time what a father is: a holy martyr for his family. I could calmly decline to accept the end of my sons’ lives as men. I knew the privilege and dignity to endure, sacrifice, and to be made low. My heart was elevated the lower I made myself. I became an unworthy guide along the narrow way around the dark wood.
I helped my sons to endure and to prevail, and so I became a father for the first time.