The things I will tell you

A couple good friends asked me what I was thinking about when I posted the last post, “The Things I’m not going to tell you.”

They’re pretty wise people.  In fact, I was wondering the same thing myself.  I’m quite clear on what I meant.  I wasn’t as clear about why I was feeling so intensely.  I thought I’d say a little more about that topic.  I’m all for artistically done ambiguity.  But I’m also all for calling a spade a spade.

So this is what I was trying to say, and why I was feeling so intensely about it:

Failure to treat parenting as a full time vocation is a profound act of cowardice and quite possibly the root of more evils than I could possibly list.

I was most specifically focused on a couple good friends who are raising their children with out the childrens’ biological fathers.  One of the dads has just gotten somebody else pregnant.  And I want to kick him in the teeth.  A lot.

But I also want to tell him, I want to scream at him, that being a dad isn’t something you can do part time.  This doesn’t mean he has to be married to the mom.  It doesn’t mean he has to have custody.  But it does mean that caring for his daughter can’t be something on his to-do list.  It has to be that the fact that he is a father has to be written on the top of the page of every to-do list he ever writes.  The fact that he is a father has to be the filter for everything he’ll ever put on a to do list.

If he doesn’t do this, then he, and everybody else can use whatever words they want.   All the words in the world won’t change the fact that he’s not a real dad.

We make so much of teary reunions when dad’s finally get it.   And in doing that we imply a message:  “If you get your head out of your rectum, in a few years it’ll be like you had all that time back.”  And honestly, I have to say, I think that’s dead wrong.  A child more loving than me might be able to forgive an absentee father.  But forgiving isn’t the same as having those years back.  I don’t think we send that message enough “You’ll never have those years back.”  And much more importantly “Your child will never have those years back.”

As for why do I feel so intensely?  At first I was going to play the “Jesus is Lord of the lost and forgotten card.”  But that’s actually just a cover.

The harsh truth is this:

That could have been me.

I married my wife when she was like 7 months pregnant.  I spent half a year trying to justify and rationalize how I was going to fit impending fatherhood into my life.   Being a dad was well on it’s way to my to-do list.  Probably a bit above the chain of monogous relationships I was gunning for.  Probably a bit below the idea of being a philosophy professor.

Like so much righteous indignation, much of this is truly aimed at the parts of myself that I don’t like, the pieces of me that would have been so capeable of standing on the dock and watching the boat pull away.

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

One thought on “The things I will tell you”

  1. ok.

    Though i would never accuse you of being a “conservative” or “traditionalist” without overwhelming evidence, i’m beginning to see the signs of a ‘black’ and ‘white’ emerging from the grey. Kind of like watching the pretty colored lines separating themselves during a computer defrag.

    It isn’t always a bad thing to say, “this is good, that is bad”. In fact, that’s my biggest frustration in this age of relativism. We’re all really trying to make sense of what’s good and bad. Even the person who’s so deluded as to think that there are no absolutes is still absolutely sure they don’t exist.

    i want this to be a world where people aren’t trying to follow rules or contructs built on lies about human nature. Your own testimony above is anecdotal evidence of how the “broken” system works. i was there myself.

    Who doesn’t still struggle with it?

    Like

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