Confessions

Ducky: Transitory Thoughts On My Son’s Birth (Week 3)

Baby Beadle Day #15:

Today was one of those days where the realization of one’s actual community of friends is realized. I mean, any community that espouses community language, and is obsessed with talking about it, surely doesn’t actually have said “community.” If I go about telling everyone how much I love my wife, and all I do for her, people will begin to look at my persistence in trying to convince them of my love as essentially trying to convince myself. But today was different. Lauren and I had dinner with a great friend whose story and arc of experience very much informs some of the things we have been going through. It was refreshing, illuminating and convicting in the best way: from the deep well of friendship.

As we rushed to see Declan, then immediately run to pick up some new furniture we needed for the house, it seemed as though we were finally coming into alignment with God, after a severe cosmic-size chiropractic intervention. After all the tears, pain, struggle for control, anger and frustration, I am left with one thing: joy. More specifically, we have become more acquainted with what the Apostle Paul called, “Joy unspeakable and full of glory.” He is finally above his birth weight, almost to the gram number necessary to come out of the incubator, and is responding with smiles and tears when we touch him. Declan is doing great!

But how does joy become unspeakable?

Is it like Christmas morning for an eight year old, where you toss and turn all night in expectation for the next morning; so you wake up at 3am fully convinced your parents will understand, and they do because they love you? That kind of joy seemed to take up residence in the younger years, but as we got older, we became slightly hardened and a little more cynical (cynicism is a defense mechanism, btw!), and the mystery and expectation of life became a little less interesting. But ever since Declan was born, something began to change and break open. The hard shell that had begun to slowly crystalize over our hearts was completely destroyed, even to the point where we thought we might not recover from our vulnerability. I now see why joy becomes unspeakably full of glory: We have become accustomed to passing over things in silence.

The holiness of hope, which flows through suffering, has felt more than we could bear at times but (as I keep saying) we choose to trust.

It is in the moment where we lose control that the Lord is inviting us into the life of the cross, and it is in that moment where everything is the hardest it could ever be, and yet there is something more glorious coming about, chiefly–resurrection. It struck me, like a line-drive to the face. Many people I know have experienced something similar and left the faith all together, but it was precisely that moment that the complete call of the cross was most evident to them and to us, and I am immediately reminded of one thing: the call to pick up one’s cross and follow Jesus is not easy, in fact, it is incredibly difficult. But if we hold on and receive, it will become more than “ok,” it will be glorious.

Shalom,

Jon

 

 

Baby Beadle Day #16:

He who aspires to be great, should aspire to be the least, bit in aspiring to be the least, he shouldn’t become full of himself.

Have you ever aspired to do something?

Of course you have, you are like me: American. Everything we do, from university to career, is to do something. I can remember first becoming a Philosophy major after a botched attempt at being an education major. Most likely, I should have chosen english as my major but I chose Philosophy. and when you are like me, when people ask you what your major is, you wince on the inside as the words come out of your mouth, “Phil…oooo…sooooo…(please don’t judge me)…phyyyy….” The reason I wince is because I know what the next question is going to be, which is follows: “So, like, Jon…that is oddly fascinating, so like, what are you going to do with that?” What am I going to do with that? After trying many attempts to give a clever answer, which usually would lead me to say things I thought would be impressive, but because we aren’t really taught the value of philosophy in American public education, are not actually even close to making sense. So, I relent and just answer the question like this: “Here is what I am going to DO with this degree. I am going to become a good person.”

(Drops mic)

(Stilled by the silence)

(Totally kidding)

I kid, but people genuinely don’t know what to do with my answer. Why do we even ask the question? It could be because we have given up on the idea that university was for the shaping and making of incredibly moral and powerful individuals. Now, it is just about making as much money as possible, because here is the deal, college is about living it up just enough to get the right grades; to get the best job; to have the best looking wife; to get the best looking car; and the biggest house; and the 2.5 kids who practice yoga and kayak with you on the weekend. This is the american dream. If you don’t understand, just visit the rate-my-professor website, where the reasons people give for anything having to do with how easy or hard it was is completely based on the work given, not the ideas imparted or learned. But that is not what the time is about, it is about becoming someone.

I watched my son take a sip of milk today with his pacifier, and that taste is to prepare him for the day when he needs to feed like a normal baby. He is gaining weight very fast, but learning how to eat on his own is the most important hurddle for him to jump before he comes home with us. He didn’t interact with me today, rather he stayed huddled, cranky and opened up just enough to emit something like projectile poop (sorry). His bones are strengthening and he is pooping…seriously, pooping a lot. Life is messy but he is being shaped by his environment (the NICU) to become a functioning human being for his next shaping environment, the home.

In the same way, I think whatever environment we find ourselves in, these have the potential to shape us into the moral people we want to be, or hide us from them. The desire to be wise, or skilled at anything requires an incubation of sorts to train us. This is truly what is so remarkable about the gospel of Jesus Christ, it is a moral revolution.

God designed us to exist with the good, the wise and the just, but we chose the lesser things by which unintentionally backfire and destroy us from the inside-out. From the very beginning, God desired a people who would be a lighthouse nation to brings healing to all the others, but that nation (Israel) also rebelled and this is most depressing, because man, unlike any other creature, has the capacity to break God’s heart. And instead of devoting ourselves to human flourishing, mankind became accustomed to creating out-groups, generating wars and misinterpreting God in their own image. All was lost, and all seemed hopeless.

But that is not the end.

God became man in the person of Jesus to not simply declare He was God, but to say something higher: God is like Jesus. This Jesus, whom all of the world has either fallen in love with or held in disregard, can not help but be reckoned with. Why? Because the good news of Jesus, which is that He is Lord, is the most absurd idea the world has ever seen, therefore, is worthy of being believed. Absurd love, forgiveness, healing, truth, grace and justice.

And here it is: Jesus brought this idea called the Kingdom of God, or the dream of God’s heart, expressed in his rulership which He has desired to display on the earth since the beginning is finally here. Jesus is finally in authority, but it is not what we expect to look like authority, and it only requires that we open our eyes to it in order to experience its power. But all of those who deny this love, will receive their hearts desire: the lesser thing, or hell. But to those who want and believe and trust in Jesus, there is that kind of life, available now.

Jesus didn’t come with an escape plan so we could all sing kumbaya in a cosmic day care forever. He died on a cross as an insurrectionist who refused to fight for a revolution, but instead chose to die for it, un-coerced and totally free. Within that is the most radical idea of all: resurrection. And it is yours. Take it. Open your heart and consider that everything you thought you knew about Jesus could be better.

Shalom,

Jon

 

Baby Beadle Day #17:

Leftists (politically speaking) tell us of a future identity we as citizens can aspire to, all the while said politician claims to embody that vision. The rightists tell us of a past identity, which reminds of us of who we once were to make us feel like we have missed the boat and can return to a former ideal. What we agree on: the present identity flounders. Many have bought into the myth of progress, but I have not. I believe that only the Kingdom of God redeems the past and gives us a more imaginative future, by imparting a present identity.

Declan is chunkier than he has ever been, and we have never been more blessed than we are now. Many of our friends have shown overwhelming support, and even some co-workers provided us with gift cards, and more diapers! The moment could never be sweeter, but everything I could learn from that situation wouldn’t be as sweet if I interrupted it to take it in. Of course, by “taking it in,” it is only possible retroactively.

We only learn these things retroactively. As the father of existentialism (notable Christian philosopher), Søren Kierkegaard, once said: “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”

In other words, we live in the present, but this moment is clearly in transit. We are transitory creatures! And we have a transitory Maker, who is not the neo-platonic god who is above us, separate from human experience. If Jesus teaches us anything it is that He is truly with us (Emmanuel), engaging with our very present experience, celebrating our successes and mourning with us in our losses. God is better than we had hoped.

Since Thursday is the day I give guitar lessons, I enjoy the company of a couple younger guys, who are also in transit. One of which told me that he enjoys deep-frying Oreo’s. According to his story, he first received a deep-fryer (is that what they are called?) for Christmas in the 6th grade.

I don’t know why I shared that with you, except I just jot these ideas down, and I figured that we could take a break from my breath-taking revelations (not really) in order to talk about the one thing that could potentially be the food of the country once we secede: deep-friend Oreo’s. I’m just kidding on the secession talk, but seriously, this is important.

My little boy has gained a little weight, knows to suck his thumb and deep-fried Oreo’s is a thing.

Life moves at such a pace, I’m not able to compute the movement at times. But in the midst of the chaos, I believe that the real is revealed in all of its color.

In other words,

I’m simply grateful.

Shalom,

Jon

 

Baby Beadle Day #18:

My head feels like my skull is crushing it. I put the tips of my two fingers on both temples in order to receive the pressure, but to no avail. Perhaps I didn’t drink enough water or the limits of public discourse all frustrate me? Perhaps the brief 5 minutes I watched the news over dinner made me this way. Whatever the case may be, as I stare into my sons incubator, I’m convinced he has the same feeling, as though he is ready to leave this small space and begin living his life at home.

In the process of being plugged up to these machines, even though this is all he has ever known–up until this point, he still longs for something bigger, more expansive and more accepting of his condition, which is the human condition.

Even though Declan is resting in the most comfortable environment, with his tempur-pedic mattress form fitting to his every move and muscle, the very moment his legs aren’t free to kick and stretch, that is the moment his heart rate rises to the level worthy of the concern of the NICU nurses, and of course, the calm panic of his mother and I (what a weird phrase).

It is not comfort he longs for, but freedom. The two are not mutually exclusive but are not usually mutually enriching. Most of the time, in order to be free person, one has to be uncomfortable. As I like to say, if you are living a comfortable life, you have no need for the Comforter Himself. Life is messy, hard and uncomfortable but if pressed into, those things can become glorious, radiant and potentially life changing. But in order to see it, there has to be a reckoning.

All of us have experienced a traumatic event at one time another, the question is, what did you do with it? This moments shape us, but for the best or for the worst?

My son is crying more but I want him to cry, in fact, I need him to cry so that his lungs expand and grow stronger every day. Sometimes we have to deal with the moment for what it is and take it in so that we can get to the other side. Along the way, as transitory creatures, grace surprises us.
Today I saw a guy I hadn’t spoken to in a year or so. We caught up and in one 30-minute window there was laughter and story to be shared. It was beautiful.

As creatures in transit, Grace has a way of interrupting us, sticking its foot in the cosmic door before we slam it with our cynicism, fear and crippling unbelief. Declan never ceases to thrust his feet in the air to stretch and I think I’m going to stretch with him.

Shalom,

Jon

 

Baby Beadle Day #19:

My son looks like a little old man, but not simply any old man—the face of Benjamin Button, and carrying a receding hairline. Wrinkles cover the majority of his skin, along with a big concentration of them in his legs, therefore, when he poops, cleaning him looks similar to a tiny version of an elderly person awaiting his change in the nursing home. Not that I know what it is like to…well, you get the point.

I don’t mean to be cruel about it, after all, he is my son! This mean that I believe him to be the cutest baby in the world, especially cuter than the baby in slot 2, next door. Honestly, I can’t stand that baby. That son of a gun lays there in a regular carrier that is not enclosed glass like my son, oh the nerve of such people!

Although I am seriously kidding about Declan’s infant neighbor, I have been wondering why the NICU is on the first floor. Is it because funeral homes and morgues are usually on the first floor, not above or below, but street level? I am assured by the wonderful nurses here that there are NICU’s across the city that put the NICU on different levels, therefore it is not as deep of a connection to death and the beginning of life as I would have placed it beforehand. But I do see the hospital as a thin place, a place between heaven and earth. Death and life. Birth and death. A place where incredible things can happen.

I was talking with a friend today who was headed home one day, and even though exhausted he decided to walk the streets of downtown, and ended up meeting a homeless guy who just happened to be a childhood friend. Now, they are walking life out together, and my friend is helping this guy pursue drug-free life and wholeness. After a year of this, my friend was offered a job doing the same thing he did for his friend, except for the city. You never know what could happen when you are willing to be interrupted. A comfortable and safe life can never yield such results.

As I held Declan in my arms today, I decided it was time for him to sit up. He squirmed, yawned and even though he was perfectly secure in my hands, his feet kept pushing off of my chest, as if he was to take off in orbit. With every push, his eyes would open a little bit, one eye at a time. It was as if he didn’t have enough energy to open both. He was finally able to look right at me with both eyes open, and I’m not sure he recognized me beyond a big fuzzy image, but he stopped moving, and so did I.

Shalom,

Jon

 

Baby Beadle Day #20:

Up to the sound of the alarm. Down to the pressing of the snooze button. Across the room to the bathroom, and a few weary steps to the kitchen to access my new French press. All of these steps, held in the tension with the fact that I got plenty of sleep last night, and yet there are parents we know (who have a child) who have not entered REM cycle in a month. We slept well last night but the feeling of driving away from the hospital every evening is harder than you might think.

Gathering with some friends in church this morning was refreshing. The songs sung were the just the right songs. And the hum of hope in the room was palpable. Liturgy is new for us, but this work-of-the-people (which is what ‘liturgy’ means) was particularly happenin’ in the modern service, along with a John-Mark Macmillan song called “How He Loves.” Have you heard it? Of course, you have…if you are a Charismatic-Evangelical like me. Most people were introduced to the song through the cover by the Dave Crowder Band. But what some of us didn’t know, is that the song has been recorded for years now, it has only recently been introduced to a wider “Christian” audience through the Christian-radio-approved artist.

What I found out after listening to the Crowder version, was the changed lyric. Crowder had taken the line, “sloppy wet kiss,” and changed it to, “unforeseen kiss.” The change seems insignificant, but what is fascinating about the song is that Macmillan wrote it the eve of the tragic death of his best friend, as a song of lament to God. “It is not,” in the words of Macmillan, “a worship song.” The full verse sings like this:

When Heaven meets earth like a SLOPPY WET KISS
And my heart moves violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about, the way…

It seems like a small change but I used to be upset at the lyric change because it seemed to misrepresent the artists true intention. But it was this morning, as we sang the unforeseen kiss line, that I realized I longed for the original line for a different reason: it was true.

With Declan in the incubator, Lauren’s life nearly lost and my inability to prevent any of this from happening, I knew that the original lyric was far more true. In other words, whenever God meets us where we are at, it may be a wonderful surprise, but it is never clean. We come to Him with our mixed bag of issues, trust problems and massive need for healing. With man this is impossible, but with God it is always possible. Hear me clearly on this. It is messy, but it is worth it.

The culture capitalizes on my ability to be quiet about my real issues and loud about my need for material things, but it is the authentic moments that seem to open the way for a different kind of life. This is a different way of living, which Jesus modeled for us. Declan is teaching me this. As I hold him, he opens his eyes and I think I really see his personality, and he is still making up his mind about me. The dad next door is snoring, which is hilarious. I just hope he doesn’t have the newborn in his arms, I know that might be my sons undoing. Flying babies are not a good thing!

Shalom,

Jon

 

Baby Beadle Day #21:

Restoration.

As Lauren and I pray together, we often ask the Lord to give us a theme to better help us understanding how to grow together in the season we are in. It is not uncommon for other (albeit well meaning) people to tell us what the theme of our season is, but we simply take it before the Lord. The word we got for this season is “restoration.” Not simply a restoration of my son in his incubator, but also a restoration of finances, old relationships, and whatever else.

Answers to prayer:
1. The hospital bill for Lauren’s C-section was mailed in to us today, and the amount we owe was not in the thousands, but in the low hundreds.
2. The acoustic guitar I thought had been stolen in January, was somehow returned to me today. The guy that found it does not know how the guitar appeared in his youth room.
3. My electric guitar, which I had presumed was lost, was also revealed to be just across the city and ready to be picked up by me.
4. Many of my oldest friends have come back into my life and I believe we are even closer than before.
5. Lauren was offered a job as a lead teacher in a day school program.
6. I have added a fourth student to give guitar lessons.
7. Prayer requests for friends are being answered in dramatic ways as well.
8. Declan is about to be put in a regular NICU bed, and soon he will be feeding like a normal baby. At this point, it is about gaining weight.

All in all, it has been a great day.

My advice for those who keep going through trial after trial, in a circular fashion, which seems to not go anywhere but right back to where they started: watch how you respond to hardship. Are you grateful? Do you embrace the moment and choose love in spite of whatever wrongdoing has occurred? Respond as if you have everything when you have nothing. The facts are always in front of us, but so is God, waiting on us to trust Him with a deeper wound.

It is one thing to be wounded, but it is even harder sometimes to be healed. That takes receiving, and receiving requires trust.

Trust requires love. Love requires everything.

Shalom,

Jon

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