I completely understand why people chose not to have children. Now before you think me harsh (given that I have 4 children of my own and how dare I say such a thing), let me be clear - I love having a family. I do not love parenting. It's hard, daunting, thankless, and most of the time if you are anything like me you have very little clue as to how good or poorly you are doing at it. Multiple times every day I make a parenting decision and immediately afterwards I am asking myself if I just helped my child grow in self-control, being grateful, prioritizing, being more honest, charitable, or forgiving - or if all I have done is increased the wedge between us, agitated them for no reason, increased their feelings of being alone in a world where no one understands their plight, and all those typical teen-aged and pre-teen feelings that I remember having.
It's a job that you have to do for 20-30 years before you have much confidence on how your work will turn out. I have even told my children that I am not trying to create happy children. Rather I am trying to create a happy 20, 30, 40, 50, and 60 year olds. Of course I am not trying to create unhappy children either, that's not required. And my children are happy primarily when I am giving them things, letting them do what they want, or generally leaving them alone - but in order to create that happy 30, 40, 50 year old I have to do more than that. I have to ask them, and often make them do things they never want to do. I have to not give them things that they really want, and part of me really wants to give it to them. I need to make decisions that seem completely arbitrary and even punitive to them which are not and no explanation in the world will allow them to see that these decisions have purpose and are actually rewarding.
It's a non-trivial undertaking to raise a child, or two, or three, or four, or more. Especially in todays world where values that are required for a happy life: charity, forgiveness, honesty, integrity, modesty, self-restraint, reverence for God, thrift, humility, and others are marginalized, mocked, or completely forgotten. The devil has never been as crafty as he is today, he has never had a larger army than he has today, he has never had more weapons than he has today. The war is real and casualties are falling in numbers every day.
The scriptures teach that there is opposition in all things. Therefore, with this increase in wickedness there must be an increase in righteousness. But I have to admit, I don't see it. Perhaps the wickedness increasing around us is counter balanced by an increase in power from the unseen world. Perhaps there is power from armies unseen by mortal eye. Perhaps it is true that those that be for us are more than those that be against us but as I look out my window it is difficult to remember that, and I worry.
I worry for my children, I worry for my friends, I worry for myself, I worry for my mother, I worry for those in my ward, I worry for coworkers, I worry for grandchildren I don't even have yet, I worry for friends who no longer call me friend, I worry about my job, I worry about our country, I worry about my wife, I worry about my sisters and their families, I worry about my deceased father even, I worry about my salvation. And I worry because I fear - I fear my children will suffer, fall away and not be able to return, I fear my friends will abandon me, I fear that my talents aren't real and will fail me, I fear my mother is lonely, I fear my ward struggling in ways that I am unable to help with, I fear my coworkers will lose their jobs, I fear my grandchildren will struggle in a world worse than the one we have now, I fear that friends are friends merely for convenience of circumstance and that the value I place on our relationship is unreciprocated unwarranted or even faked by them, I fear that I may not have what it takes to be a successful business man for another 25 years, I fear that our country will fall to instability like so many other countries of the world where violence and hatred reigns, I fear that I cannot protect my wife from the trials of this world sufficiently, I fear my sisters families might suffer trials like our family has suffered, I fear my father when I meet him again will find me wanting and be disappointed, I fear I have not sufficiently repented or demonstrated my faith to allow my Savior to save me.
And so... what do I do?
I keep going. I wake up every day. I get dressed. I breath in and out. I hold on to those I love. I try to push all of this to God and trust in Him. There is no other answer in the world of men. No other answer that brings any measure of peace. No other answer that can reassure me. And even though I am as fallen and small and frail as any other man, I have to look to the heavens for relief. To look elsewhere is to despair. Even the beauties of this world are external. They bring but a brief moment of joy that is gone almost as quickly as it came for they are not mine. These wonders of the earth bring no lasting relief from the cares of this world. They can remind, they can inspire, they can provide a small moments solitude, but they cannot heal my soul.
I am not at home here. But it is where I must travel for a time. I simply pray that Him whom sent me on this journey will, in the end, save me from its natural path. For where it goes I want no part. My heart cannot bear the weight of it forever.