My daughter asked me last night through sobbing tears, “Daddy, everything was better before we moved. Why did we have to move to Ghana?”
I answered, “To rescue children from slavery.”
“Why couldn’t someone else do it?” she asked me.
This is an interaction that would have deeply troubled me a few years ago. I would have grieved my child’s unhappiness and questioned my own sense of calling in the work I do. I would have felt that I was wronging my child by seeking to help other children. These precious young tears would have ripped me apart.
But last night they didn’t bother me a bit! I could hold her and give her comfort and love and compassion, without any inkling of doubt, despair, or regret. How is that? The truth is that my daughter is thriving in a hundred ways, even in her temporary unhappiness.
I want my kids to be happy, but that is not my deepest yearning for them. I want them to be brave, so I let them experience fear. I want them to be compassionate, so I let them see suffering. I want them to be strong, so I let them struggle with burdens. I want them to be grounded, so I accept that they will have moments of disorientation in their lives. I want them be creative, so I let them be bored.
Building these qualities into them requires hardship and discomfort which feels in the moment like unhappiness. So be it. Her tears do not disturb me like they used to because my goal is not to give her a tear-free childhood. My goal is to help her grow into a magnificent wonderful incredible woman full of strength, courage, compassion, faith, and creativity who can stand fast in the storms of life. These tears don’t threaten that goal. They are a path to the goal’s achievement.
So I held her tight and rocked her and listened long and carefully to her struggles. I answered her questions gently and tenderly, but with unwavering conviction in our mission and full assurance that neither she nor I are the center of the universe. Also, I simply do not believe that a life of self-focus, ease, and comfort will ultimately make either of us happy in the long run.
I read a quote this morning from Tim Keller, “I can think of nothing great that is also easy.”
Daughter, you will be great.
Here is a song I like. It gets me.