The Vocation of Fatherhood
As a proud Texan, it is more than a little ironic that my daughter has a New York birth certificate. Having spent all of our married life in Texas, my wife and I would have gladly welcomed our daughter before we moved to New York to attend seminary. However, as God would have it and for reasons unknown to us, we had to wait for this particular blessing until we left home. A friend of mine once remarked that the most important things in life are often those things we have little or no control over. That is a hard lesson to learn especially when what we want seems to be good and selfless. Yet, God wanted us to wait, so wait we did. And now, having moved to New York to attend seminary, we have been blessed with a determined and cheerful daughter.
Having a daughter has prompted some reflection regarding my vocation. "Vocation" is a word often associated with seminary. If I remember correctly, in an admissions essay, I wrote that I wanted to attend seminary to "explore the priestly vocation." I am not sure if I am any more certain of what that phrase means now than I did when I wrote it! Rather, I chose to attend seminary because I'd already made up my mind that if I was extended the grace of ordination, I would not refuse it.
This is the only way it works. A person chooses to be baptized into Christ without really knowing what that will mean in his life, day to day. We accept the responsibility of following Christ (no easy task!) and believe God will provide the grace to ensure it happens. I had accepted the vocation of "father" when I married my wife. All we needed was God to grace our love and marriage with one of the profound blessings of marital union, that of bringing new life into the world. I had no idea how to be a dad seven years ago when I married my wife, but now that I have a daughter the learning curve has been steep! Slowly, at times painfully, I am becoming conformed to this vocation. By God's grace, hopefully I'll have it down by the time my daughter is an adult.
My darling baby girl has taught me the "already-not-yet" nature of following Christ. I am already her father, but at times not yet ready to be her father. I fail miserably and hope she is able to forget at least a portion of my shortcomings. Similarly, by virtue of the grace of my baptism, I am a Christian. Yet, I fail miserably and am not worthy to bear the name that is above all names. I am already, and not yet, a true Christian. In this way, God's blessings meet us where we are and then propel us forward, to a place closer and more intensely connected with His activity in this world—activities such as raising children to know, love, and depend upon Him.
A priest on campus always calls me "dad." This is a daily reminder that God not only chooses which blessing to give but the timing of the blessing as well. The moniker "dad" reminds me that God has a plan for me, and He will give me the grace that matches the gift and the challenges that come with it. I accept this vocation and the abiding grace that comes with it even though I am still working out the details. Now, if I could just do something about that birth certificate!
Joshua Trant is in his second year of the Masters of Divinity program at St. Vladimir's Seminary. Joshua and his wife, Heather, welcomed their daughter, Tabitha, last August. Being a native Texan, Joshua sometimes wonders how New Yorkers have survived so long without decent BBQ brisket.