by Christopher Marlink
June 12, 2014
Rob Schwarzwalder is the kind of guy you hope to work for when you sign on at an organization like Family Research Council. He’s a man of deep faith and conviction. He’s stubbornly gracious with his interlocutors, often affording to them unrequited courtesy. To his friends, Rob is encouragement personified. Think of the character Faithful in Pilgrim’s Progress, and you’re about there.
I’ve had the pleasure of working for and with Rob at FRC for a number of years now, and he’s someone I’ve come to admire and value as a friend and mentor. Rob has embraced the character of his heavenly father, who has adopted us all into his family (Eph 1:5), by becoming an adoptive father himself.
Rob was gracious enough to answer a few questions about the adoption process, and to share what he’s learned about fatherhood along the way.
CM: Rob, for some men, fatherhood catches them off-guard. Not unwelcome, but perhaps unexpected. You had the experience of becoming an adoptive father, which entails a significant process, and a kind of fierce intentionality. Describe your reaction when you got the news you were going to be a father?
RS: We had had a couple of fall-throughs in which the birthmothers who had committed her child to us changed her mind, so I was somewhat guarded. Actually holding them at the adoption agency and then driving home with them in car seats behind my wife and me was surreal (but joyous!). My wife had prayed for twins for about 16 years, so of course our hearts were full of praise.
CM: How can family and friends best encourage those couples struggling with infertility and perhaps going through the adoption process?
RS: Don’t give trite, dismissive advise (“Well, you’d probably get pregnant if you’d only relax”) and listen a lot. Encourage the couple with the fact that Jesus was adopted (his Davidic lineage came through His adoptive father Joseph) and that all Christians are the adopted children of our Father. So, adopting places you in good company. -J
CM: Do you have a favorite Father’s Day memory?
RS: Going to an Outback Steakhouse and watching my then-two year-olds come close to obliterating our table with grease, sauce, napkins, etc.
CM: How has fatherhood changed you?
RS: It has filled a vast empty place in my soul. It’s forced me to recognize the depth of my selfishness and also that I have reserves of physical and emotional fortitude that surprised me; and it has made me more fervent in prayer than I otherwise might have been.
CM: What fatherhood/parenting myth would you most like to see suffer an ignominious death?
RS: Two, actually: That you are doomed to repeating your father’s mistakes and that you must always be the source of complete wisdom and even-temperedness – saying, “I don’t know” and apologizing after getting angry count for a lot. That’s not to excuse anger, but to remind that anger is almost unavoidable – the key is to strive against it and, when you fail, take responsibility for it.
CM: What do you and your children enjoy doing together? Favorite pastimes or hobbies?
RS: All kinds of things – hiking, watching movies, church activities, throwing the baseball, wrestling, etc.
CM: If you could give new dads a piece of advice or a bit of wisdom that’s been helpful to you, what would you say?
RS: (1) The best gifts you can give your wife and children are your love for Jesus Christ and your time; (2) everyone who has ever had a child thinks he’s an expert, so take un-asked for advice with a grain of salt; (3) read Christian parenting books with discernment – there is no mechanical template for raising children, only principles that must be applied with wisdom and grace per the needs of the child; and (4) boys need to wrestle and rough-house – accept no substitutes.