A few qualifications before I begin. I want to get married at some point. I want to have children. I think those things are blessings, and it’s my fond hope that I will enjoy those blessings some day. Binding myself to a friend and companion to go through the joys and sorrows of life together sounds like on excellent thing.
On the other hand, I think we can be too obsessed with family.
The Protestant Reformation brought many good things and one of those was the belief that ordinary life could be holy. Home and family belong to God, too. This is a true and valuable teaching. But one can become too attached to family life, imagining that holiness is primarily a familial thing.
You must love your husband and your children. You must also love that person you don’t get along well with at church. And the people you see on the bus. And your next-door neighbor. And that guy in the waiting room at the doctor’s office whom you will never see again.
The surprising thing, I think, is that you ought to have the same love for each. The love you have for your children, tender and self-giving, is the love you ought to have for your cashier at the grocery store. Love, perfect Love, is all Christ’s Love. Some people may have more claims on your time and attention because of proximity and responsibility, but all are persons of infinite value.
When you get to the Resurrection, it’s not as though you’ll greet your family and go set up your home with them and focus your time and attention on them. You will love and value every person with a deep and abiding love which will probably put to shame the most passionate lover or the most tender mother on earth.
I think that realization has got to transform how we live our lives. If I live to ninety and never get married, never hold my own children or my grandchildren, I don’t intend to be pitiable. If you can find anyone to love, to give your time to, to advise, guide, or comfort, you have children. The more and more perfected in the practice of love you become, the more cherished each individual you meet becomes to you, the more joy is yours and the less you could ever be said to be “all alone.”
If you make yourself available to others, you’ll have your share of sanctification. The midnight calls you answer may not be a hungry infant, but they may be a friend in trouble or lonely. You’ll spend your money. Somebody always needs something. Your time won’t be your own, because if others have needs, how can you put up your feet and do nothing?
All of life is an exercise in love, and all our earthly loves for husband, wife, father, mother, brother, sister, son, or daughter are mere doorways into Love. I don’t despise those things, of course, because they are part of Love, but it’s worth remembering that they are the beginning and not the end.