At 16 I fell in love with a girl. Then she dumped me.
Then we got back together (yay).
At 21 I married that girl (woman? young woman?...woman, I should probably start calling her a woman).
Then, somehow, we ended up with this...
I've been trying to figure out how to do this whole marriage and family thing each day since.
If I could talk to 22-year-old me, that long-haired-punk, and tell him one thing about FAMILY it would be this:
1) You are choosing to live for the sake of others.
When you decided to get married you did it because you couldn't hold back this romantic love you had for this gorgeous girl...WOMAN. Then you got married and you thought this was about meeting your needs, like she was supposed to fill all the gaps you had in your own life. Then you became responsible to care for another human being that was completely helpless without you and your wife.
And you're (only) 22 years old!
When it comes to your spouse, you understand her pretty well, and she gets you too, but you've got a long way to go still. If you understand though, that this is about giving your life to her, to lift her up and help her thrive and understand her deeply and make sure that she sees the very love of the God-of-all-things through YOU...then you will stay calm, you will tell her you love her and make that clear to her each time you're together. You will ask more questions, because she is endlessly knowable. You will not feel the need to fight with her, to yell, or get your point heard and known because it's not about you. Lift her up, every day.
As far as the parenting thing is concerned, nothing about this is supposed to be convenient.
You will wake up in the night, you will take longer to get ready to leave the house, you will have a stroller with you for the next 4-10 years everywhere you go, you will change your shopping habits and viewing habits and you will change plans with friends because your primary responsibility is to raise a real live human being to live in this world.
Parenthood is not convenient, parenthood forces you to change.
You will think differently, you will talk differently, you will care about what happens around the world in new ways, you start wondering about the quality of teachers and school systems, and where our food comes from, and why some kids shows are so annoying while others are genuinely good entertainment for you. You will want to get other people in on this journey, you will realize you cannot do this alone and if you are the only influence in your kids' lives they are toast!
You will start to wonder what the role of the church really is in the lives of our kids. You will notice how easy it is to pass them off and have them filled up with doctrine and passed back to you and see no need to do anything faith-related on your own time with them.
And perhaps most amazingly, you will begin to realize that these little people have all the potential in them to change this messed up world. They have more hope and creativity in their pinky finger than you have ever known. Your role, from this moment, young parent, is to teach them as much about the way of Jesus as you possibly can. Not just through telling stories and at Christmas/Easter, but through your way of life.
Teach them the good news, that it doesn't have to be this way.
The best thing you can take into your young marriage, and fresh take at parenting is recognizing that you are alive to serve others.
What a glorious life to live.