My name is Jared Zimmerer, and I have come to find out that I am a bit of an anomaly. Not in any outside the law kind of way, like the outliers I used to watch on the old westerns, but more in the light of the fact that my life does not correspond with most of the men my age. I am thirty-two years old, I have been happily married for nearly eleven years and have been blessed with six beautiful children, all of whom God has placed in my protection. This kind of life didn’t just fall in my lap. No, in fact I still look back over the past several years in awe and amazement. Yet it seems apparent that when I look to most of my peers, those young men in the same age bracket, I don’t seem to fit in. Not that I desire to be a simple puzzle piece in the mural of secular society, yet my heart aches because I want to share with them the awesome power of grace when a man’s vocation is set, the road before him is cobbled and ready to be trudged, and the blood, sweat, and tears of manhood makes sense.
Being an outlier of the stream of society isn’t bad at all; in fact, I have found that more happiness lies in fighting the current than in floating aimlessly downstream. Yes, it takes a while to get used to the comments like, “You know how that happens, right?” when telling others of being proud of having six children. It becomes commonplace to have gawking when walking through the supermarket with the entire family and the first thing people ask is, “How old are you?” Yet it is in these moments when I feel most at peace with my decisions and in my vocation as a husband and father. Many people try to stand out in some way their entire lives; however, they struggle to do anything really different. Many rebel and get tattoos and piercings, but everyone has those these days. I have found that in living out my calling within the parameters of the divine truths taught by the Catholic Faith, I have achieved the indescribable feeling of happily expressing my individuality.
Leonard Sax wrote a book entitled Boys Adrift. He observed that the majority of males today have an issue with “drifting,” which basically entails not choosing a path in life and just skating by with the bare essentials of bachelorhood. While each must find their own vocation in due time, many young males are choosing to disregard the beginning process of discerning what path to choose, causing a lack of vision. In my self-proclaimed anomaly-hood I might seem odd to many of these guys; however, in full confidence I must shout to the world, they don’t know what they’re missing.
As a devoted husband, I have experienced profound joy in dedicating my life to another. Not the fleeting pleasure which the world offers, that which Christ overcame in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11), but rather the inexpressible joy which can only come from God, a lasting and concrete emotion of the soul. Oftentimes men feel that in giving their life to another they lose something of themselves. In my experience, we gain much more than we ever might miss. Each and every day I get to wake up next to the love of my life and the person who I can sincerely call my best friend. When times are tough, I have someone to go to and share in the struggle. And because of our faith in Christ we both have the opportunity to work out our salvation with each other in mind. In one of my favorite movies, Rocky, after Rocky finally went the distance with Apollo Creed, who was it that he kept calling for? “Adrian, ADRIAN!” At the height of his boxing glory, Rocky only wanted to share the moment with the woman he loved. I get to experience this exact feeling with every emotion I have.
I come from a decently large family. There are five of us kids and an eighteen year spread between my older sister and my youngest brother. Growing up and changing diapers was just regular life for me. I think in hindsight this actually prepared me for two things. The first was not being afraid to be different, because not a single one of my friends through school was also changing diapers. And the second was experiencing what it was like to have someone around who completely depended on you. Many today shy away from children, even married couples, yet because of my upbringing where kids were always around, I fell in love with the idea of having my own. Having six little ones, four boys and two girls, who each express their love in unique and unrepeatable ways, pulls at the strings of my heart on a daily basis. Knowing that these children have been given to me by the Creator of the world, who is entrusting me with their eternal souls, rouses a passion within me to not only be a good man but a saint. The sense of drive and purpose kids give to a dad is like handing a man a weapon and giving him the wherewithal to go out and save the world. I get to feel like a superhero every single day.
As one could probably surmise, my wife and I are not using birth control. We have decided to use the Church’s gift to married couples called Natural Family Planning. I don’t withhold anything from my spouse, being open to life at all times and allowing God’s plan to be realized, all the while using the reasoning He gave us to decide when to abstain and when not to. So, when people ask the famed question, “You know how that happens right?” I can politely put my arm around my wife and with a sly grin reply, “Yep, I sure do.”
Being an anomaly is not the Ripley’s Believe it or Not that many young men might think it is. Living the Catholic Faith, holding down a job, loving a woman like there’s no tomorrow, and having the privilege of being a superhero for my children gives me something worth dying for. The Venerable Fulton Sheen once explained that a train is most free when it stays on the track. If a train is to derail, chaos ensues and lives are lost. In true Sheen fashion, in this simple yet incredibly articulate analogy he sums up the ideals of living a moral life. The rules and stipulations of morality are not prison chains, but rather finished tracks which we can ride to new lands and adventure. The non-stop openness to a relationship with Christ is that track which we can ride to glory and honor. I have found that within living out my purpose, that of a Catholic husband and father, joy abounds and peace of heart reigns supreme.