I wrote this a little over 10 years ago, but often find myself remembering the depth of the experience and reliving it to a degree just by reading it again.
A couple nights ago, my four year old daughter (I have 6 kids from 4 to 20) asked if I wanted to watch her do a dance. She had one of her sisters put on a song for her, and she put on a little ballerina thingy over her pajamas. It was just the two of us in the family room while she danced for me, and the pride and the emotion, and the realization that all she wanted to do was bring joy to me was almost too much to contain. I cried and smiled and enjoyed the moment as much as I have enjoyed anything this week.
I have thought about that a number of times since then, and she has mentioned it too, “do you remember when I danced for you?” I well up inside with emotion again, but it is not all about that situation anymore. I have realized that my heavenly father, my father God delights over me in the same way. The depth of feeling I have for my daughter is nothing compared to his feeling of joy over me.
This is perhaps something that only fathers will be able to relate to, and mothers to some extent. I could not have come close to understanding what I am so poorly expressing, until it blossomed in my own heart many times over as my children have grown up.
What a blessing it is to have children, and what a blessing it is to be loved by God.
Since I was young, the principle of “if you're not growing, you're dying (shrinking, stagnating, etc.)” has been part of the way I see life—a challenge to push on when things become routine and unchallenging. For me, this is important, because I am one that can quickly settle into the “best” way to do something, and then fall into the rut of always doing it like that. At times I need to step out of my comfort zone and do something different, or take some continuing education that challenges the way I do things, or see things.
However, not everyone is like me. We all have our propensities, the ways that we drift or dive into unhealth. I've noticed recently a subset of people for whom the axiom, “if you're not growing, you're dying” is questionable. I would describe these people as non-homeostatic livers (not the organ, but “how they live”). Now, before you tune me out, let me explain. Do you remember in science how homeostasis was the description of keeping everything in balance for the sake of health? For example, our bodies are made to have a core temperature of around 98.6. When that starts to change, homeostatic mechanisms serve to resist the change and keep things at 98.6. So when you are outside and not wearing a coat and the temperature drops to 30, you feel cold, which compels you (perhaps) to get a coat and conserve heat. If you don't, you begin to shiver, which produces movement in your body which creates heat, and so on.
So, people who are non-homeostatic livers don't have the corrective tendencies that are needed to keep them on a healthy track. They may drift into fantasy and forget their responsibilities in the real world. They might feel like it is too hard to get up for work, so today they will sleep in. They may be so overwhelmed by what is going on in life, broken marriage, struggling finances, behavior problems with kids, that they loose sight of where normal is, or just can't manage to get there because they are so totally depleted.
For all of these non-homeostatic livers, the best thing they can do is find a way to level out, to find balance, to persevere, to be responsible for a long time in the same direction doing the same things to keep steady. For these people, at this time in their life, growth is maintaining equilibrium for an extended period of time. It may be to grow the muscles of responsibility. It may be to ride out the crisis without doing something that leaves life long regret. And it almost certainly will be incredibly difficult.
“If you're not growing, you're dying”. Strictly speaking, I suppose that is true, but not in the way we usually think about growth. In the end, it turns out that focusing on “steady as she goes” for some people, during some seasons in life, is exactly the growth they need.