One Sunday morning when I was in my early 20s, my mom came up to me after church and said something that stuck with me: “I notice you always pray to Jesus. You should think about calling God ‘Father.’” I thanked her for her input but it agitated me a little. I was more comfortable keeping things on a first-name basis with the Lord and starting all of my prayers with “Dear Jesus.” I didn’t like the way it felt to address God as my male parental figure. I already had a father-son relationship and it was complicated.
I have a brother and sister who died in a plane crash when they were 10 and 14 years old. Although I only have one memory of them, I definitely felt their absence growing up. My father will tell you that he still does.
I did not enjoy going to church last Sunday. I took my three kids to the service by myself because my wife wasn’t feeling well. The journey started out well enough — we were in the car and only running 12 minutes behind when we pulled out of the driveway. But it was all downhill from there.
“Color with me, Daddy,” my oldest daughter said. “I prefer to draw a picture, but I don’t what to draw,” I said.
A lot of folks like me hit their 20s or 30s and suddenly realize all the things their parents got wrong. The blame rolls in. Our insecurities, troubles with romance, inability to develop healthy friendships, whatever — all of it comes back to mom and pop. If only they hadn’t done this or that, we would be healthy and whole. When my parents divorced after years of trying to keep it together, I didn’t know what to do with their relationship. In the back of my mind, I knew there were bright moments, but I simplified things by seeing their relationship as one big mistake.
Yesterday, my wife and I had visitors over, and my newborn son started crying — probably because he was tired and needed to go to sleep. We tried to play it cool while attempting to calm him down. We even gave our visitors a shot at soothing him, but none of it worked. He kept on crying, so I finally left the room and went upstairs to console him. It took 30 minutes, and it required a lot of creativity.
Last night, my daughters were in the living room where my newborn son was sleeping in a bouncy seat on the floor. I went to the bathroom after explicitly saying, “Please be quiet around your brother.” I should have just taken the baby to the bathroom with me.
Right now, I’m looking across the room at my son, a newborn baby boy curled against my wife’s chest. She’s nursing him, which takes a lot more effort than you would imagine. And speaking of effort, there are a host of other little tasks that somehow manage to take up nearly the whole day. We don’t mind it, but we’ve come a long way since our first two children were infants.
Last weekend was pretty intense at our house. One of my six-year-old’s front two teeth was ready to fall out, but she was terrified of the pain she might feel if it did.
The other night, I visited my daughter’s kindergarten classroom and sat in her miniature chair as the teacher gave a recap of the class progress so far. In that little chair, I learned something my daughter doesn’t know yet: she’s being ranked.
My wife is seven months pregnant, and we’re getting into that phase of pregnancy where something as simple as moving around can be challenging for her. I have no idea what she’s going through, and this pregnancy is showing me that I’m similarly incapable of understanding God’s work in saving us.
I’ve had some stressful rehearsals as a worship leader in my church, but last Sunday took the cake. While my wife and I were on the stage practicing with the band, my daughters were running around the sanctuary pretending they were queens in Narnia. I noticed they were up in the balcony at one point, but I didn’t pay much attention to them. But then over the sound of the music, I thought I heard someone screaming.
When I was growing up in south Mississippi, there were some Pentecostals who sold peanut brittle door-to-door and in grocery store parking lots. At one point in my childhood, I remember having a positive view of them because — well, they had sweets. But my dad took care of that really quickly.
This morning, I got down on the floor and played with Lincoln Logs for the first time my life. We got them for our daughters for Christmas, and my youngest daughter wanted me to show her how to put them together. In no time, I got lost in the process of building the perfect log cabin with her. I think there’s something beautiful that was going on with that.
Last year, I went trick-or-treating for the first time in my life. Up until that point, as a matter of principle, I never even handed out candy on Halloween.