Making Someone Who Lasts

My enduring legacy is sleeping in the nursery. /

Almost nothing we invest ourselves in or make lasts forever. One exception is our children.

No boy or girl has pre-existence before the moment his or her father and mother come together and meld their God-given capacities as divine image bearers to create new life. What did not exist before—a unique human person, of body and soul—comes into existence.

There's something incredible about the human person. Like the creation of heaven and earth, we each have a beginning. Yet where heaven and earth will pass away (Rev. 21:1), we have no end.

Once our being begins, it goes on forever, beyond physical death, either in resurrected union with God or in estrangement from the source of our life.

I can build a pyramid, paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, or craft a poem cherished in human hearts for thousands of years. But eventually skyscrapers, paintings, and poems fall apart, are destroyed, or are simply forgotten.

Not children. Not these unique eternal treasures that we bring into existence as co-creators with God.

Some of us have this co-creative privilege as natural parents, while others have the privilege as adopters or sponsors or mentors. And most everyone has progeny in whom to invest lasting lovingkindness.

I have seven children. None of them existed before my free choice, before the love my wife and I share, and before our cooperation with God in their beginning.

This is one reason we surround the mystery of marriage with beauty, ceremony, and “until death do us part” vows. This unique marital vocation—to bring eternal souls into being as participants in God's creative powers—is part of what prompts us to elevate marriage, place sentinels at its gates to guard our aspirations for it, and consecrate our unions in sacred and beautiful places, constructed by us or by God.

Sex is a powerful creative good and bond precisely because it participates in the triune love of God, which seeks always to make more room in the cosmos, more space for those with whom they can be in relationship.

I can design and build the most magnificent structures, live on for centuries in the hearts and minds of others by what I write or paint or sculpt or film, but the main work I do that will outlast the stars is the work I do in begetting and raising my children.

My four daughters and three sons will go on and on and on. Even my marriage will end—but me, my wife, and my children are eternal.

The Rev. Kenneth Tanner is pastor of Church of the Holy Redeemer in Rochester Hills, Michigan. His writing has appeared in Books & Culture, Huffington Post, Sojourners, National Review, Christianity Today, and Real Clear Religion. Follow him on Twitter @kennethtanner.

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Also in this Issue

Issue 4 / September 4, 2014
  1. Editors’ Note
  2. What Steadfast Looks Like in a Revolution

    How in three years an evangelical pastor went from America’s first national hero to “the first of villains.” /

  3. Immortal Jellyfish

    A startling exception to the great biological rule. /

  4. The Gospel of a Splendid God

    The good news is better than we imagine. /

  5. Wonder on the Web

    Links to amazing stuff

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