If I had to make a list of life shaping events, no doubt two moments from February 2010 would be somewhere near the top. The first was the day we found out Brittany was pregnant with Reid. The second was the next day: we moved out of our apartment and into our first home, which we still live in today. These two days were some of the most exciting and joyful days of my life. I’m sure these events could bring to mind other words to use besides the combination of exciting and life shaping. “Sure these are big events, but life shaping? They seem rather normal to me.” Precisely. These events were life shaping and exciting because these two days were the days I settled. They were exciting at the time but it’s upon reflection that I realize the importance they have had in my life. It wasn’t the act of buying a house as opposed to living in an apartment that was settling, but the commitment that I had made at that point to settle in for the long haul. Before this, I had been in school for 25 straight years. We had been married only four years and we were making our third move and we had no children. I traveled often on weekends, stayed out late and up late with friends, spent money only on myself and had deep thoughts about changing the world in the near future. I had to make it somewhere, because if I could make somewhere I could make it anywhere.
The future is bright for a seminary graduate with a lovely wife and lots of big dreams. Though seemingly unbeknownst to me, I made some decisions that altered all my thoughts about changing the world. I say unbeknownst because I thought I made the decision to have a child and buy a house, but what I had really made the decision to do was to lay down roots. I decided to settle. Not settle and give up my desires, future and happiness, but to settle in to an adult life of regularity, normalcy and the ordinary. I gave up my options and freedom to settle into a life of regularity which ironically has brought me more freedom and happiness than I could have ever known. That’s the great thing about the good life and settling down. You lose some of your life but you also gain your life. I went from wanting to change the world in important places and ways, to realizing that more world changing happens daily in my house than I ever thought possible. Daily times of reading, prayer, meals, baseball throwing and hitting, playing with toys animals, trips to the zoo, cleaning the house, making a budget, shopping for kids clothes, trying new recipes, and talking in bed or early in the morning while the kids sleep is changing the world because there are fives lives being formed and shaped in these moments: not so much in each individual moment but through their regularity and quantity. Not because they are family date nights but because they are Tuesday and Wednesday. I don’t need to give them another name or have big plans for these days because we want to make them special. They are special and great because they are days. God created days. He calls them days and gives us tasks to do each day. That’s a wonderful gift to be enjoyed and no need for me to try and make more than God created it to be. By enjoying it for what it is, I am doing as God said, which has eternal implications for my family and myself. To say that doesn’t contribute to changing the world is to miss much of why God created us.
In trying to take dominion or to make an impact, we can miss the command to enjoy all that God has made. From a grand narrative point of view, taking dominion, which is to say taking all of the natural resources and creativity of the world and using them to build a society is astonishing task that God has given. But like most things in life, the ground level view is entirely different. Taking dominion for an individual is filled with lots of small, ordinary and monotonous work. Filling the earth with seven billion people requires two people committing their lives soley to each other and having children, which if they are so blessed by God will be on a really high end ten people. That’s our contribution to filling the earth: out of the billions here and that have existed God has seen fit to use me to bring three into world and hopefully even more! But how blessed am I in that? How blessed am I that I have the privilege to give and spend my life with this one person? How blessed am I that out of the billions that have lived and will live, God would grant me these three children to give and spend my life with? My hands are so filled with blessing, responsibility and joy that I wonder if I really knew how blessed I am if I could take anymore.
My desires for change in the world and for my life to be used in that process haven’t changed a bit. What has changed is that I now have the freedom to do so within the boundaries that God has given me. By settling down, my freedom and desires have only increased, but I have an actual place to make an impact and faces to go along with it. The place is my home and my small Mississippi town. Before settling, there were no faces to the people I wanted to help. Now I see them everyday in my home. I read with them and to them. I take walks with them. I talk about deep and important things. I do normal and monotonous things. I have fun and laugh. I see growth and maturity. I know failure, frustration and sadness. I know what the travails and joys of life are because I’m settled. I can’t run from them because I’m settled. I have to prepare and deal with them because I’m settled. I’m glad I settled down and I’m thankful for the ordinary things life.