Two months ago, my beautiful wife, Megan, gave birth to our perfect little girl, Zelie Anne. Born 6 pounds 11 ounces and 22 inches long, every bit of her was precious. The moment I held Zelie in my arms, my life was forever changed. Sure, Zelie has certainly thrown our daily routines for a loop. My wife and I get less sleep than we used to and have fewer date nights out on the town. Preparing meals is trickier, and the laundry piles up pretty quickly. My golf game has suffered a bit, and I have less time to read and watch sports than I would prefer. Life has certainly been altered in these ways, but that was expected for the most part. However, a much more deep and profound change has occurred—one that somewhat caught me off guard. When I became a father, it was as though a curtain was pulled back and my eyes were opened to an entirely new reality. In this reality I have found the reason for my hope.
Let me explain!
If you have had the privilege of becoming a parent, then you know what I mean. This adorable, beautiful, pure, innocent baby is mine. Zelie trusts her mother and father entirely. She depends on us for her every need. When she is hungry we give her food. When she is tired we rock her to sleep. When she is cold we wrap her in her blankie. And what a joy it is to do this for her (even if it is three o’clock in the morning!). Zelie is completely vulnerable, and there is nothing I would not endure to protect her. She is entirely dependent, and there is nothing I would not do to provide for her.
Recently Zelie and I have discovered our new favorite activity together. When we go over to Grandma and Grandpa’s, we sneak away from the crowd and all the attention (Zelie sure gets a lot of attention at Grandma’s) to sit on the front porch in their rocking chair. This is such sacred time for Zelie and me. We listen to the birds chirping, watch the animals scurrying around, wave at the neighbors walking by, feel the warm breeze, and, of course, rock. Sometimes we sit silently, sometimes we sing, and sometimes we pray. I spend time on the porch looking into Zelie’s beautiful eyes, just thinking.
I think about the future. I wonder about the personality and temperament she will develop. I wonder what sports she will like to play, what instruments she will learn, where she will go to college, who she will marry. I dream about the first time she will see the beauty of a sunset on a warm summer night, or feel the peace of staring at the ocean while the waves crash on the shore, or the first time she experiences the triumph of climbing a mountain and gazing for miles over the landscape.
I also think about the state of the world she has been born into. What type of technological or medical advances will she live to see? Who will be the politicians leading our nation? In a time of unprecedented terrorism, countless mass shootings, and rising racial tensions, what type of world will Zelie experience? More than anything, I wish her success, health, happiness, and prosperity. However, the reality is that she may face hardships, failures, illness, and poverty. And much of this I cannot protect her from.
This finally, leads me to think about Zelie’s father. In these moments, I am confronted with the troubling reality of my own faults and failures. My beautiful baby girl was born into a world full of grief and violence and suffering. And worse yet, she has been given a father who, despite his best efforts, will love imperfectly.
For some time I grappled with this combination of hope and fear for my daughter. It was within this context that I had a profound encounter with the reason for my hope.
It happened on the day Zelie was baptized. Believe me when I tell you, much to my surprise, this day was more powerful and profound to me than the day Zelie was born! But that shouldn’t be such a surprise. On that day I was reminded that Zelie isn’t just the daughter of Tom Pagano. She is also the daughter of another Father, God the Father.
Our Father is King (Zechariah 9:9), Creator (Genesis 1:1), Savior (Psalm 3:8), Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8). Our Father is compassionate (Exodus 34:6), generous (Psalm 132:15), mighty (Zephaniah 3:17), wise and strong (1 Corinthians 1:25), and his kingdom has no end (Luke 1:33). Our Father is a Giver (1 Timothy 6:17), Helper (Hebrews 13:6), Healer (Psalm 30:2) and Miracle Worker (Psalm 77:14). And the best part is, this Father loves us in a way that is beyond what we can comprehend. He will let nothing, absolutely nothing, separate us from his love (Romans 8:37–39).
This truth overwhelmed me on Zelie’s baptismal day. Zelie is a daughter of the King and an heir to the kingdom of God—a kingdom that extends far beyond this world. No matter what Zelie experiences in this life, she will always be the daughter of a King whose love for her endures forever (Psalm 126). If God is with her, who can be against her (Romans 8:31)? No sickness or disease, no hardship or trial, no failure or disappointment can separate her from the love of God the Father.
This reality overwhelmed my heart with love. As I reveled in this love, I began to realize that my experience with this love was not entirely new. Something about it was familiar; I had experienced this before. I knew this love. And in that moment, the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to the reality that I’ve experienced this beautiful love as the recipient of it. As a child—a child of God. In becoming a father, I began to understand that this is the love that God the Father has for me, his beloved son. In that moment, I truly experienced the words of St. Paul to the Galatians: “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”In becoming a father, I began to understand that this is the love that God the Father has for me, his beloved son.
We are all children of a loving God who wants to protect us and to provide for our every need. And the even greater news is that my love for Zelie is just a drop compared to the Father’s love for us. He loves her in a way that I never could.
So, this is my hope: that I may love Zelie to the best of my ability every day of my life. I hope that my imperfect love is a reflection of the perfect love of God the Father, and that Zelie allows His love to consume her heart entirely. I hope she lives every day in the immeasurable peace, joy, and consolation that only the love of our Heavenly Father can bring. And finally, I hope that one day, Zelie and I will enter through the Heavenly gates to dwell in the love of our true Father, together, for all eternity.
This blog is an excerpt from the Book: Beautiful Hope (https://dynamiccatholic.com/beautiful-hope-hardcover)
Tom Pagano – resides in northern New Jersey with his wife, Megan, and their two children. He is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville where he earned a degree in Business and Theology. Tom works for a philanthropic consulting firm and in his free time enjoys reading, playing golf, and spending time with his family and friends.