Monday, November 26, 2012

Community, Family and the Effects of Negativity

Jenn and I have spent our past two summer’s working summer conferences at the institution we minister at during the school year (for lack of a better description, it’s event hospitality on a college campus). This means two things: firstly, we spend a lot of time with a handful of student workers (working “in community” for 10-weeks) and, second, we don’t have much time for other summer activities (not a complaint, just a fact of the job). Having said that, you truly get to know people when you live and/or work with them, having to spend so much time together. Jenn and I have loved this time with our students and have zero complaints from these summers, but the negativity of one person could easily make future summers very difficult to get through. This was seen during our week of vacation…
Vacations, or times of isolation/relaxation, are completely necessary if you’re going to thrive as a person. So, this past summer we took a week long vacation with some of our closest friends (that we unfortunately don’t get to see very often). The week started well divvying up meals, bills and plans; however, halfway in, due to our sarcastic natures and jovial peskiness, we began getting annoyed with one another. After a moment of explosive (albeit, pregnant) rage, we had time to talk to each other about how these derisive ways of being can truly start to wear on one another. Having this conversation has led to a deeper sense of friendship among our vacationing comrades and allowed each of us to scrutinize the way we speak to others (even if we’re “only joking”).
Now this blog is starting to sound like a self-help essay on how to pull negativity out of your life… I digress. The core of what we discussed on vacation is that, as Christians, if we are to live out the gospel with the entirety of our lives, there is no room for cutting down others with “good-humored” mockery and sarcasm.
Now, as a father, I’m even more aware of how my words can be either hurtful or life giving; the way I speak to my son can dramatically affect the way he views God, himself, and those around him. This re-realization brings 1 Corinthians 13 into a clearer context, not just talking about love between a man and a woman (as you hear this read at almost every wedding), but connecting love into the being of our words. “If I speak in the tongues of men and angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong, or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV, italics added). If I tell my son that the dreams God has given him are good and I fill him with the confidence in himself that he needs to go after those dreams, that is love, and it will have lasting effect on his own views of himself. If I tell my (proverbial) daughter that all she’s going to be when she grows up is a stripper, then all she will hear for the rest of her life is the resounding gong of those wounding words. If I continually degrade women, or verbally attack a certain race or ethnic group, then my son will only have a living example of how to be a bigot and a pig; but, if my words directed towards others are filled with love, then he will know that each person is made in the image of God and should be treated in loving ways.
I’ll end this contemplative entry with Paul’s own words to the Romans, hoping that, as we speak to one another, God’s love will be shown in both word and action: “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Romans 12:9-10 NIV)

Monday, June 25, 2012

My Best-Big-Brother Speech: transitional patience and momentary celebrations.

In the aftermath of my oldest sister's wedding (which was wonderful, by the way), I texted her and jokingly asked if she was pregnant yet. We chuckle, pass our thankful/congratulatory words, and I die a little inside; because, I've started, along with a long line of hecklers for years to come, to push my sister and her husband into their next phase of life without giving them time to enjoy what has only just begun.
Now many of you may think I'm looking too much into these typical words joked by typical people, but I am not called to be typical.

This brings me to a conversation I had at the reception: a friend of mine has recently graduated after many transfers and jests about never graduating. Instinctively, one of us in the circle (I can't remember if it was me or not, but it probably was) asked, "so, what's next?" I think being a part of the school system, always having another level to get to, has forced our minds to continually move to what comes next in our lives. In doing this, we can no longer enjoy what achievements we have made, or, if we do, they are short lived due to the snide comments of fools such as myself. "When are you going to get a real person job?", "When are you going to find a nice man/woman to spend your life with?", "Are you getting married?", "When are you having a baby?", "Are you going to have more (before the first one is even out)?"

This is my moment to back-up all of you single people out there: there is nothing wrong with you if you're not married by 22 (or 30, or 50, or 111). God has plans for you as a single person, just as he has plans for people that are married. Marriage it is not the only way God can use a person; in fact, Paul would argue that it is not even the best way God can use somebody. I get so frustrated when I hear comments that suggest otherwise. And if you're a couple that doesn't want to have kids, don't have kids. Travel. Spread love to people that are lonely. Listen to what God has called you to as a couple. I digress...

As I am a married man and I am about to have my first child (<---see!), I've learned that I don't want to spread this impatient disease to that child, but I want to help them celebrate their milestones and discover who God is calling them to be. This is part of the reason that Jenn and I have decided to, even after finding out, not to share the gender (or names were thinking of) with anyone. We want to enjoy the secret, while we have it, and be able to introduce our child to the world as the individual they are to be. I hope that, for my newly married sister and brother-in-law and my gestational child, they learn to ignore the impatience of those around them (specifically of their families) and learn to celebrate the moments that only come once.

Logan and Dan, I'm so excited for you to begin this leg of your journey together. I'm also proud to be able to celebrate, without hesitation or expectation, your happy and blessed marriage together. As the bard sings, "If you need me, call me no matter where you are, no matter how far."

Saturday, April 14, 2012

First Thoughts On Becoming a Parent

So, for those of you that have missed the news, Jenn and I are having a baby. 
Here’s our first sonogram (labeled, in case you're not sure if it's an alien or a baby):

 <---- It's a baby.

I digress…

As I consider the implications of becoming a parent I realize that, despite having four younger siblings and knowing about babies relatively well, I know very little about actually being a parent outside of what my own parents have, and haven’t, done. While that is a pretty good start, it still leaves me shaken by the idea of being responsible for a life, a human being.

I think about faith and cultural background (as I listen to the St. Patrick’s Day station on Pandora), family and holidays (not to mention how much travel will change), what life living on a college campus for them will look like, and even down to hoping that they have all their toes (and maybe some extras—that’d be cool). If it’s a girl, do we disregard the princess stereotypes that happen with little girls? (To answer that question, yes… we’re not reinforcing that idea, and if said onesies are bought for her, they will be used as dishcloths, or to dress the garbage in our kitchen.)

Or the opposite (which I may dread even more); how do I show a little boy what it means to be a man, a true man, of God? Ted Smith, a professor at Vanderbilt University, says, “I think we form men in ways that give many men large needs for differentiation, for setting ourselves apart as better-than.” Author Margot Starbuck, goes on to say, in her book, Small Thing With Great Love, “The better-than he’s describing, familiar to many, is anti-Christian. It is contrary to the pattern of self-giving love that God established in Jesus.” And now it’s up to me (and Jenn) to exemplify that self-giving love (whether or not it’s a boy or girl).

Taking away the first few years as a baby and toddler, which I am mostly looking forward to/not too concerned about, it’s when this person becomes their own person that I focus so much of my mind power on. Not out of concern, as maybe I should be having, but out of a fear that I will have failed as a parent in preparing them for the lives that they are being called to.

My continual, humble prayer is that God prepares Jenn and I as parents and, even more so, that this child knows how much her, or his, parents love them, despite mistakes that I know we will make, maybe even because of those mistakes.