“John Calvin” and “teething children” are not words often (ever?) juxtaposed together. Calvin, the theological titan of the Protestant Reformation, was a tightly-wound mass of sheer intellect and fortitude. Though he left vibrant writings on the spiritual life, he was not much at play and was not to be played with. His personal discipline resulted in few extra-curricular interests beyond writing and preaching. Historian Bruce Gordon begins his stellar biography of Calvin with this:
John Calvin was the greatest Protestant reformer of the sixteenth century, brilliant, visionary, and iconic. The superior force of his mind was evident in all that he did . . . He saw himself as an instrument of God, and as a prophet of the Church he brooked no rivals. He never felt he had encountered an intellectual equal, and he was probably right. 
Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion was not only an important development for the French language, but the massive bestseller provided Protestants (both then and now) with a celebrated and substantive account of Christian theology. Calvin wrote eight editions of the Institutes in Latin and another five translated into French. According to Timothy George, “The Institutes of 1559 [the final edition] is a massive work, roughly equal in size to the Old Testament plus the Synoptic Gospels.” 
It would be natural to envision the stern theologian crafting his tome with little to no communication with the outside world. After all, who has the time to write their magnum opus in two languages while also preaching multiple times every week, working on other writing projects, pastoring people, and carrying on a city-wide reform effort? Certainly Calvin had the luxury of silence and solitude?
Probably not, and here Calvin leaves us such an encouraging example. Timothy George reminds us that, “For most of his life Calvin’s house was full of little children.”  When Calvin’s wife Idelette died in 1549, she left him two children from her previous marriage. He assured her he would care well for them after she passed, and he did. Beyond these two, Calvin’s brother Antoine and his family, including eight more children, also lived with Calvin. Other friends and relatives would stay periodically at Calvin’s “modest dwelling.”  Despite the picture often painted of Calvin as the stoic intellectual, “we should not imagine that . . . his life was free from the rush and bother of daily domesticity.” 
Though I shared in this mental concept of Calvin, one line from a biography changed it forever. T.H.L Parker said that Calvin’s numerous writings, counted among the most important in Christian history, were “not written in an ivory tower, but against the background of teething troubles.” 
Picture it: John Calvin navigating toys on his way up the stairs to work on Book 3 of the Institutes. John Calvin putting down an uprising over a poked eye. John Calvin leaving his work at the table, undone, so he could comfort a teething child. No, we don’t have first-hand accounts of these events, and yes, he had others who helped in these areas. But with rambunctious children in his home throughout his life, it’s not too much to imagine it was part of his daily experience.
What do we learn from this somewhat shrouded side of Calvin’s life? First, we never get to a place where serving the Lord is convenient. There are always demands, always responsibilities, always needs, always busyness. Like Calvin, we should work hard in the midst of these seasons, knowing that we can’t finish everything or please everyone. Instead, we serve Christ alone and seek his approval above all. Find ways to worship and serve in the mundane (or frantic) rhythms of life, as these are usually the fields ripe for harvest. Challenges are no excuse to give up. They are Kingdom opportunities to embrace.
Second, though none of us will have the influence of a John Calvin, we all have important and valuable callings from the Lord, no matter our state in life. And the Lord’s work should be done in even the humblest of places. The playroom and patio, not the platform, are where our most important ministry moments will come. Only God knows the counsel Calvin provided children in his home. But, if you’re a parent, you can have the same influence on your children that he had on his. If you do not have children or if they are grown and out of the home, your service to your family or to your church or to your community is precious to God and it will ripple out further than you can imagine. As we balance unrelenting schedules and responsibilities, here’s what we learn from Calvin: steadily love the Lord, do work that honors him, take care of those God has entrusted to you, and give your life to making him known.
 Bruce Gordon, Calvin (New Haven: Yale University Press), vii.
 Timothy George, Theology of the Reformers, Revised Edition (Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2013), 193.
 Ibid., 191.
 Ibid., 192. Originally in T.H.L. Parker, Calvin: A Portrait (London: SCM, 1954), 72.