Don’t get me wrong. The wisdom of our parents’ generation is a wonderful thing to be respected, observed and considered. But this time I say they’re wrong.
Halfway through college, I made the infamous phone call. Most college kids make it. Every parent dreads it. "Mom, I met someone. I think she’s the one." Of course the preceding is usually followed with a stern and loving admonition echoing the deep-seeded American Dream: "Get a degree. Get your master’s. Get a car. Get a job. Get a better job. Make lots of money, then get a family."
For more than a few years, most people have listened to the advice. Men and women are waiting longer to get married and have kids. They want to establish a stellar career, to accomplish their goals in life, and to live out their dreams.
The problem is, a whole generation of our older brothers and sisters and younger aunts and uncles are all finally settling down to have kids. Now they can’t. The growing numbers of 35-45 year olds pursuing fertility treatments and adoption attest to the desperation to catch up with their biological clocks. Apparently I’m not the only one who noticed. Newsweek ran a cover story on it a few months ago.
So I met a girl. She was the one. We started our friendship, and worked very hard at getting to know each other. No games. No secrets. No nonsense. I knew within a week that I wanted to marry her. Within a few months, we started to hear God speak. He didn’t speak in a deep booming voice with a British accent, but in one of those overwhelming life episodes when one is at peace with God. He started reshaping my heart. Every time I opened my Bible, or went to church, or turned on the radio, the message was the same. There was no running from it … I didn’t want to fight it. She didn’t want to fight it. Our hearts had been molded and shaped together. We had a calling. So we announced our engagement.
The message we heard over and over again rang, "God wouldn’t call you to get married. God wants what’s best for you. God gave you common sense for a reason." As I patiently recalled my childhood teachers reminding me of my lack of common sense, and recalled the crazy things that God called Gideon, Abraham, Moses and Elijah to complete, I chuckled silently. Never did these great men of God let "common sense" get in the way of what He told them to do.
After nine months of courtship, we were married on the July 4. We had a small wedding, with a very small bill, and lived simply so we could continue attending school. God provided. Our first apartment was only $125 a month. We got what we paid for (occasionally I think the money we saved on rent was more than spent on roach spray), but it was providence nonetheless.
A few months later, God spoke again: "Children are a blessing from the Lord." We couldn’t afford it. We weren’t "ready." I didn’t know anything about being a father. I had never changed a diaper. I had never bought a diaper. I didn’t have a good job. Did I mention that I couldn’t afford it? But in the process, a very wise man told me, "If you wait till you can afford to start a family, you’ll never have one." So we obeyed.
We dropped out of school and moved back home to be closer to the grandparents. On the next July 4, on our first anniversary, we became the proud parents of boy-girl twins. Just a few weeks ago, God bundled up our third blessing in the wrinkled pink body of a little boy. I’m now a 23-year-old father with three kids under age 3.
I never finished college. I never got my degree. I never got a good job. I’ll probably never make a lot of money. But I did listen to what God told me. I even listened to part of what my parents told me … the stuff about putting family first.
When I wake up in the morning, I kiss the most beautiful woman in the world goodbye and trudge off to a menial entry-level job in a ridiculously low pay scale. When I come home, I’m met at the door by a gassy, meatball-shaped baby and two rambunctious and raucous toddlers who climb, drool, kiss and hug on me before we sit down to dinner. This is what I call success.
Of all the deathbed confessionals and regrets I have ever read or heard about, never once have I heard, "I wish I would have concentrated more on my career. I wish I would have given more time to my job." More often the regrets that plague a dying man tend to reflect a desire to have spent more time with his family. If a person determines his worth by what he does, where he works, how much he makes, then he will be sorely disappointed when all is said and done. Life is not measured in terms of a career. Life is measured in terms of love. A truly successful person may or may not happen to have a good job after completing a degree, and may or may not even have a lavish income. He may or may not even have a spouse or children. But the degree of his success will be determined by his love for those closest to him.
Not a day goes by that I don’t wonder where I would be if I hadn’t made the choices I did. I’d probably be bouncing around in the belly of a whale like others I know who rely on their common sense to make decisions. I could be a world famous musician, or a promising journalist or graphic designer, climbing the corporate ladder. I could have been a lot of things, but instead, I am happy.