Tonight was a wonderful end to a wonderful day. One of the students from my old campus ministry stopped by for some story-sharing and general theological dialogue. He didn’t “front” or try to impress me with his understanding, rather he came like one who was hungry. Now, I’m telling you, I learn just as much from these students as they learn from me. This particular student I met when he was 15 years old, but he is now 18. The story of where he was at, and how he had gotten there, resonated so deeply with me I was nearly brought to tears just hearing him speak.
He spoke of the loss of close friends who had encountered God at one point, but were careless with stewarding that encounter into discipline and were eventually carried away into the cheap sheen of Babylon. We also talked about political issues, and how was it that so many of what people consider to be the “evangelicals” political position seemed to be unrecognizable to the way of Jesus. From that point we opened the scriptures together and read out loud from the words of Jesus. It was spectacular, as the young guy I was meeting with would break up the monotony of sitting on a couch in order to stand and pace my living room, as if a fire had been lit in his heart, and he needed to let the air in.
Have you ever had these kinds of conversations? You know, the kind that set your heart ablaze and cause you to dream again? I did, and it was full of wonder.
These things challenge, disrupt and embolden us. Declan had some tests run on his heart today, and honestly, all I could think about was if he would still be able to pace the living room floor with his dad like the young man did in mine tonight. I hoped, as he continues to fatten up enough to come home, that he would have the physical capabilities of a performance artist whose primary work would be written on their movements, and not on a pallet from the past. But I know that lives have been lived to the fullest with heart murmurs and without them, and this is all a matter of perspective. Yet, we deal with matter all the time, and since we are not gnostics there is a real sense of God intervening in the physical. Why? It all belongs to Him anyway. It is we who divide up the categories of spirit and body, instead of connecting it all into one whole.
So we continue to pace the floor, praying for our son. Lauren shall continue to be with Declan nearly eight hours a day, and I will continue to work and visit him towards the end of the evening, mainly because we only have one car and I am unable to visit him any other time.
In the bigger picture, I believe in the God who paces. Not with anxiety, but in fury, furious love over us. What stirs us to pace? Is it bills or is it God’s new world? I pray the latter, but may He intervene in the former as well.
I love black and white movies, which is probably the result of my mothers love for the oldies and my parents desire to expose me to a cleaner form of entertainment. I’m not sure it worked, but it developed a respect in me for the older actors like Jimmy Stewart, Audrey Hepburn and also a love for musicals like…never mind, I still need to retain my “man-card.” But lets just say that the movies about the repressed nun, the singing duo in a less-than-white Christmas, and the nanny with all of the magical dancing penguins are nothing but fond memories from my childhood. Why do I say this? Declan can only see in black and white, and all objects within an 18-inch radius.
Lauren and I have a meeting with the doctor tomorrow at 1pm, so we are expecting good news. All I can see is that my son enjoys sleeping with his mouth wide open; meaning: he is just like his dad. When you have to turn your pillow over in the morning, you are enjoying the air flow!
Whenever I first started to attempt long-distance running (key word is “try”) it wasn’t long after my heart rate would nearly bet through my chest, and the mouth would slowly fall open in order to gasp for air. The gasping was normal, but after a few minutes I realized that in order to not fall down and die of an impending heart attack, I needed to regulate my heart rate by breathing (heavily!) through my nose. I learned to grasp for air, all of my life, but now I had to teach myself to breathe slowly through my nose. Eventually it worked, and I am able to run long distance (my definition of “long” is different!) without a resurgence of adolescent asthma–coming back to claim my soul from the grave.
Our lives have been like that recently: forced to find a new way of living without wheezing, in order to thrive in the long term. To be honest, if it wasn’t for this entire experience we would not know how to not only recover from the impact of the “whirlwind,” but to also turn around and enter back into the chaos.
The idea Lauren and I are holding onto, is this: enter the chaos.
It is not enough to simply react to life, we are learning to respond. There is a difference, and they are not subtle difference either, but simply a different way of interacting in the world that not only restores us to greater life, but also restores the ones we love all around us. Relax. Breathe. And the truth will fill us if we give it the chance.
God entered the chaos in Genesis 1 and began a project-launch by the name of “Creation.” We may have learned from birth how to screw up that creation, but to those of us who embrace the life of the son of God, there is a new creation bursting forth all around us. If we learn to breathe in the life of the Spirit, we will take part in building something beautiful in a world full of violence and devastation. We must enter in, not run or hide. Honestly, the human race is needy and we have learned to gasp, but we are learning to run in the Kingdom of God.
There I was, sitting at the table with a few doctors and nurses who are responsible for taking care of my son. We had gathered for a monthly meeting they have will all parents, complete with long meeting table and spreadsheets detailing Declan’s health history of the last 30 days. Now, what happened next was not my fault. Honestly, they told us we could ask any question we needed an answer for, so I asked the one that first came to my mind: is his “peanut” fit for circumcision? They all looked at me, looked at each other, and the whole room lost it in laughter. The dark bags underneath the eyes of the staff were brought to a new brightness as we all had a good laugh. The doctor quickly looked at us and said, “He is doing amazing!”
I’m sorry, but the first thing Lauren said when Declan was born was to request me to count his toes and fingers. She doesn’t remember and was high as a kite, but somehow her subconscious was dead set on making sure he had the adequate amount of toes and fingers.
We found out today that after CPR training on Sunday, we may be able to bring him home early next week.
Nothing to spiritual to say for this post, but I’m just so grateful for the community of faith we are surrounded with. Literally, people from every background, creed and denomination. It reminds me of the words of the apostle Paul, that in Christ there is no male and female, slave nor free, black or white, Jew or gentile, etc. We are all one and free at the gathering table of the Lord. No one eats in the kitchen in the Kingdom of God.
You know, back in the day we had all kinds of “fill in the blank.” Have you ever heard this phrase? I have! Question is, what day exactly are we talking about and how does one decide which day one can refer back to? I have lost count with the amount of encouragement we have received with regard to Declan and the prayers many have given us. On the other hand, I would also lose count of all the people who have told me that my life, as I know it, is now offically “back in the day,” or over. Now that my son is here, our lives are now shaped by his needs. While I completely agree that our lives will and are no longer the same, I disagree on the idea that our son is now the center, as if we have believed the earth to be the center of the universe and that devil (Copernicus!) has proved that there is a heliocentric universe.
Early on, we saw a sign we liked that said, “You Are Our Greatest Adventure.” It is a cute sign that would go nicely in Declan’s room, but there was one problem: Declan is not our greatest adventure. Declan is now the product of Lauren and I’s adventure, the very fruit of saying “yes” to an adventure we are already on. The adventure doesn’t change, it just looks different now. Our son is not the center of our lives, rather, he is the fruit of the covenant Lauren and I have together as his parents.
I’ve been able to observe parents for years who have made their kids the center of their lives, and I’m not so sure that it has inspired their children to live the adventure. Usually, it inspires the opposite: rebellion. Now, hear me correctly: I do not have it all figured out and Declan is going to need a lot of our time, but one thing we have decided is that we are determined to show him our adventure, include him in it, and help him discover his for himself.
Declan is a fighter. Even the nurses tell us the same. Declan had been spitting up, and we weren’t sure why or if he was just doing normal baby stuff. While Lauren was watching Declan today, she looks at his feeding tube and noticed that the number on his tube had gone from 19 to 7, meaning one thing: he was slowly riping out the feeding tube through the tape. Which could mean two things: 1. My son has already seen the Matrix or 2. He just can’t even. I am going with the latter, and the nurse agreed, taking out his feeding tube entirely to give him a chance to feed without it for the rest of his life. Lauren and I are taking a CPR class this Sunday in order to take him home, and as soon as he passes his hearing test, it is a matter of being comfortable enough to take our pre-mature baby home.
There is no back-in-the-day, but there is only now. His one-month anniversary was today, and we long for all future celebrations outside of the hospital.
Finally, we long for him to join us in the adventure. For now, we wait, we pray and we know he is almost here.
In the midst of all the trails and hurdles we have had to jump over these last 33 days, there is one major thing I have learned: how to talk to God.
We have not learned this in the most obvious ways, no “thou” or “thee” or petty false humility prayers of how unbelievably worthless of a worm I am. Rather, we learned to speak with God as a Father, which means one thing: I speak to God as a true son, understanding one small degree more what it means to be a Father.
Jesus said that if we see Him, we see the Father.
Some people think it is impossible to hear the voice of God for themselves, but those same people may feel a prompting or a “call” into ministry. Honestly, there is no valid argument for a christian life outside of hearing the voice of God. Jesus said that His sheep would know the sound of His voice. God told Jeremiah the prophet that in the new covenant, men and women would hear God for themselves. Despite the canon being established within the first 5 centuries, as it turns out, we still need more than the written Scriptures to live the Christian life. Who of us found our job description or spuses name in the Bible? The scriptures are not exhaustive on what is possible, but whatever is possible will always be consistent with the text. Therefore, we don’t confuse paranoia for discernment; worry for prayer.
Lauren and I have learned to trust in the midst of uncertainty, and stare down the cloud of unknowing in order to find Christ. And usually, He is right where one might find Him: in the weakness and tender mercy of the saints. Every day we experience joys so high that I think there could be nothing better, but then there are days when a real low has come and we have to cry, sit and wait on the presence of God to heal and guide us.
Today, we experienced the ecstasy of a party of friends who gave us gifts for the baby and surrounded us with love and pure compassion for what we have gone through. The energy i the room was electric as an overflow of support flooded into our hands and once again opened our hearts. On the other hand, Declan failed his hearing test. He is not deaf but he may have hearing loss. Despite the fact that he passed the hearing test for his left ear yesterday, he didn’t pass either today. It feels like one after another bit in the midst of the pain there is hope. The Doctor told Lauren that he may get to come home Monday, but will definitely be home by Tuesday.
We have learned that hope flows through suffering. Therefore, we trust in the only truth we know that, when applied, actually works: Jesus.
“True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”
-Martin Luther King jr.
I remember where I was when I first read the quote above: in my room trying to actually understand Martin Luther King jr. as if for the first time. Why would I read this book? Well, white guilt! I thought that was obvious. I’m kidding, but seriously, another day was celebrated in the name of the greatest civil rights activist of the century and to me it seemed nothing more than a day off. Therefore, I had enough! I was going to order his book, Stride Toward Freedom, and read it. I’m glad I did make that decision because I discovered the quote above, and it has stayed with me ever since.
Have you ever thought of that? Tension is not the sign of death, but could be the sign of life. Perhaps, life to come.
It is unfortunate that so many of us were duped into believing that as soon as things got tense, we bow out as if it isn’t going anywhere soon, so we quit at the risk of wasting time or maybe…growth.
Who are we to feel uncomfortable, right? Our entire culture is built on the assumption that you can be happy and that happiness is fully realized when you can live in a community of people who are completely independent and insulated from one another. Consumerism surrounds us like a tooth ache we have learned to live with, and have yet to fully realize how much better life could be if we spent less time trying to perfume the stink and spent more time acknowledging it.
Today reflected such tension. Declan is about to come home, and is being circumcised (too much information? Surely you are used to it by now) tomorrow. It is sure to be a hard day for all the men in Declan’s life. And as far as “men,” I really mean me. Seriously, we were at the hospital this morning at 7:40, and we left at 7:40. We weren’t there all day, we were simply on and off there for nearly 12 hours, with three visits total. Lauren, my partner in life, is my biggest hero, truly laying her life down for the benefit of others. She has that ability – to selflessly give without expecting anything in return. She would be my “boo” if I were
Every day is a mixture of pain and joy, but listening to my son’s breath is enough for both of us, even if his smiles merely reflect a gas bubble escaping his bottom. His very existence is somehow, enough for us. After Lauren and I finished our mandatory CPR class, one of my best friends picked me up for some much needed “bro-time.” After a few minutes of conversation, we arrived at an impasse where I had to say something that made him uncomfortable. We both felt the tension come, and after a few more minutes sticking it out, peace flowed as the truth was received and the tension relieved. The point is this: don’t run from the tension, because peace is on the other side of conflict.
I was once told that war was conflict, but I disagree – war is the inability to have conflict. Conflict, as I saw tonight, is necessary for any relationship to go to the next level. It is simply impossible to grow anything without tension from time to time, the trick to getting through it is not running away. It is as simple as wading into the water in order to learn to swim.
Tonight may be the last night that Lauren and I have without our son in his bedroom, and I think we wouldn’t have gotten this far if we wouldn’t have embraced the tension. Now, even as I type this, peace is flooding my soul with hope and light and love and perhaps, reality itself. If I were so bold (and I am!) I would say that God expects us to endure pockets of tension in life in order to truly understand what it is like to walk in purity and courage. Jesus endured a great moment of tension, known as the cross, in order to demonstrate something incredibly powerful in its subversion to what it means to be powerful and what it means to be human.
We woke up early this morning, and unlike other mornings (where we have to drag each other our of bed) today felt like there was a grace upon us to get up with excitement and joy. 2 to 3 trips to the hospital every day wears Lauren thin, but the simple act of listening to my son breathing is enough for me.
Well, Declan was circumcised today and I only assume it was his distaste for the surgery that motivated him to sleep nearly the entire day. He didn’t cry, whine or tell me how awful of a dad I am to let him go through something as traumatic as that. On the other hand, the reason it might have felt like Christmas morning was because we were told he would go home with us today. Unfortunately, the Doctor noticed that Declan had lost weight and might not be able to go home until later on this week. Immediately we felt the temptation to despair, to let go and allow a puddle to form around our feet. We chose not to, but we were able to share a laugh later on when we were able to tell each other exactly what time in the day we did allow the tears to run. I know that may sound strange but laughter and pain and disappointment all run together these days.
There is a bit of good news: Declan passed his eye exam today, and we couldn’t be more thrilled. And I must say, the nurses at the NICU couldn’t be more supportive. One of the nurses wanted a hug before we left because she was certain that we would be gone before her next shift would begin. It served as a reminder of how much of an impact that Declan has had on these women, as well as the dedication of my wife to loving those women while she also gives love to our son. Even after 9 straight hours at the hospital, she does something as simple as letting me hold him an extra 45 minutes before we finally leave to go on home. She is my rock and my hero.
We share one car, needing a second, but this is what we have so far. Simply put, we have each other. I don’t know how I would have responded to anything in this season if I didn’t have Lauren.
She is my hero.