By Nathan Breland
Who knew how this little curly-haired bundle of joy could have had such an impact on me and my wife? He surely has. And it was even more fitting that he made his appearance on Thanksgiving Eve, right in time for Thanksgiving, because he has truly been a major reason for our family to give thanks.
Becoming a parent has filled me with a renewed sense of purpose and focus in my life that was, in many ways, sorely needed. It’s not that I was adrift on the boat of life without any sense of direction – yet marital and parental responsibility cleared my daily life of the many distractions that came with my previous, pre-marital life. In hindsight, I can see how they were far from essential to fulfilling my highest calling.
Gone are the days of trying to advance my “career” in order to feel my college degree wasn’t a complete waste of time.
Gone are the days of thoughtless social gatherings where I didn’t really invest myself in a way that would make such gathering intentional and purposeful.
Gone are the days of blindly pursuing some vague notion of “self-improvement” but in the end being too consumed with my own sense of insecurity and comfort to actually improve.
It’s like the kid gloves in the boxing match of life have finally come off and the punches are actually landing flesh to flesh and making a visible – if not bloody – impact.
When your life’s purpose can stare you back in the eyes and scream ‘Papa!” when you’re falling asleep during storytime, overcoming limitations and striving for excellence becomes much more than just a good idea. I realized that as a father, I am literally living with the consequences of my own triumphs or my own failures, seeing the impact it will have on my son. There is no motivation quite like it. And what greater gift is there in life than to have an extraordinary sense of meaning and purpose? To me, it seems like the most fundamental yet profound thing to give thanks for.
Let me share just a few examples of how my life has hit the fast track, filled with gratitude since becoming a father:
I started to take our family’s financial situation much more seriously. I finally looked up what a “Roth IRA” is and started investing in one. Previously, I never appreciated it enough to even Google it. I guess it took fatherhood to teach me to appreciate financial responsibility.
As every second suddenly became so precious, my time at work became essentially “Daddy training time” where I could invest myself in improving not only in my professional skills but also in my mindset and self-discipline. I never realized how much more efficient and effective I could be when I truly appreciated time.
Almost instinctively, I started to make more effort to invest in my extended family relationships as I realized the role each would have in my son’s life. I initiated weekly online family calls that focused on sharing spiritual growth and insights. I found a wealth of wisdom and insight I simply overlooked before.
As I looked around my community and neighborhood with my new “Daddy lenses”, I also recognized that as a committed father and devoted husband, I am in a minority demographic, unfortunately, but as such I have the opportunity to be a role model and mentor for others. When I interact with younger friends or associates, I feel a joyful obligation to share my love and guidance with them, and I’m proud to share about my own journey and experiences in pursuing a God-centered family.
Most importantly, I am making more effort to grow in my own spiritual life. I may not have as much time for prayer and reflection as I would like, but I make those moments even more intentional and utilize time during my commute to work or meal times to offer my thoughts for God’s higher purpose.
To conclude, fatherhood has not been easy, but maybe that’s the point. It has certainly helped me grow in new and unimaginable ways, which is certainly something I can be grateful for.