A thousand years in your eyes are merely a yesterday. (Psalm 90:4).
My life’s paternal mission is to enable my children’s eternal salvation. From an infinite perspective, it matters little if they attend an Ivy League school, win an Olympic race, or govern a country. Eternal salvation remains the only real prize, for “what profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life” (Mark 8:36)?
Consider a center-beam balance scale, the kind we might see Lady Justice holding while perched atop a courthouse. Imagine upon each scale rests a sparkling jewel. Both jewels are of identical shape and size, only their mass varies. The mass of each jewel represents a unique sum of years. The jewel on the left of the scale possesses a mass that represents an average human life; the psalmist proposes eighty years “if we are strong” (Psalm 90: 10). On the right scale rests a jewel with the infinite mass of eternity, easily raising the mass of our life to the sky.
The infinitely heavier mass indicates the superior value of eternal life compared to our temporal humanity. When we consider the quality of our time in heaven with our Creator, it becomes evident that our life goals should lead us not to a perfect temporal life, but eternal life with God. The infinite magnitude of heaven outweighs the insignificance of our worldly lives, but do our actions and daily priorities indicate this reality?
At times I prioritize worldly efforts over those that would lead me to salvation. Perhaps I’m not alone in this confession? Our material world promotes these irrational devotions, enticing us to grasp at fleeting ghosts of joy. If I had a nicer car, larger house, or worldwide recognition, I might secure happiness. These falsehoods permeate like tentacles into well-intentioned hopes for our children.
As a parent, it was difficult to watch the summer Olympics without daydreaming about my children as future gold medalists. I sometimes went as far as to frantically question whether I’m doing enough to develop my children as future athletes (I am not). I briefly struggled with a false justification for lusting after fame—happiness. Surely those that are successful in our world are happy. My daydreaming was symptomatic of a false hope that afflicts my spirit like a dormant virus, a hope that worldly success brings happiness. The problem with this hope is that it lacks truth. Fame and worldly success cannot bring you lasting happiness, for “God alone constitutes man’s happiness” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica).
If I hope to enable lasting happiness in my children’s lives, then I must strive to evangelize them, not coach them. I must shepherd my children to “love the Lord their God with all their heart, with all their soul, and with all their mind” (Matthew 22:37). If I can foster an environment of love that cements the greatest and first commandment into their being, then I will have given them my best effort towards eternal salvation (Matthew 22:38). I must prioritize my time, treasure, and talent towards boosting my children into perfect unity with God.
My spiritual defeats and worldly demons invoke moments of personal fear and insecurity. This modern world offers abundant affliction for the Christian soul. While I am tempted to gather my family and establish a mountain hermitage (especially in the Phoenix heat of mid-August), I realize that God calls us to evangelize. My family can best evangelize by living in the modern world, bearing affliction like Christ bore his cross on the road to Golgotha. We must hone our talents that God bestowed upon us, using them to bear the message of Christ. While I prioritize resources towards my children’s salvation, I also need to develop their talents and care for them in accordance with societal expectations. I should not, however, let that need overwhelm my greater mission, to actively participate in their salvation.