The Rise and the Fall of Parenting

I woke up at 4AM, startled from sleep by the feeling that I needed to go check on my 11-year old son.

He’d hit his head the previous afternoon and our doctor had diagnosed him with a mild concussion. When we’d returned home my son went to bed almost immediately, which the doctor assured us was the best thing. But as a parent, when your children go through trauma and you are in some way reminded of their fragility—you find yourself fearing the worst, even if those feelings are unwarranted.

So there I was at four o-clock in the morning, shaken awake by the sickening thought you never imagine you’ll have as a parent: Go make sure he’s breathing.

I turned the handle on his door as quietly as I could manage and pushed it open just enough to peak my head through, but couldn’t see him clearly in the darkness. I slid my body through the half-opened doorway and inched little by little on tiptoe, staring at the swirling mass of sheets for signs of movement. Not wanting to wake him, I stopped myself a few feet from his bed and leaned forward there in the darkness, stilling myself so I could look closely—until finally I saw it:

the rise and fall of his chest.

I exhaled and whispered an involuntary prayer of “thank you,” and stood there watching him for a few moments; noticing how quickly he’s growing, thinking about how much my life has been so beautifully altered by his presence, and remembering how difficult these years are. I was gripped by the cocktail of gratitude and sadness that moms and dads know well.

Before you’re a parent, no one prepares you for the way you will rise and fall with your children—how you will feel every bruise, celebrate each victory, share every fear. You aren’t told how bittersweet the journey watching them grow up will be; the joy you will feel when they change and reach new milestones, yet how you will simultaneously grieve the smaller version of them that leaves as they do.

You don’t live vicariously through your child, but a bit of your heart can’t help but soar or break as you see their lives unfold. You understand that you can’t shield them from pain, but you try like hell. You know their struggles will be their greatest teachers, but you wish they could learn a less painful way. You realize that they will fall many times before they fly—and there’s no easy way to witness it.

There in the dimness I watched my son’s chest rise and fall, and was grateful to be able to have another day with him. We aren’t promised more than that anyway, even when all seems perfect. With today I will gain 24 hours of the young man he is becoming, and lose those of the little boy he used to be.

There will be moments of both jubilation and grief as this happens, but this is life and it is parenting; the joy and the despair, the breathing in and breathing out, the rise and the fall. 

 

 

 

 

 

Trump Supporter, Can We Talk?

Can we talk for a few minutes, Trump supporter?

We need to clear the air if we can.

I imagine you probably feel like we’re the enemy right about now—those of us who are loudly resisting this President—that this is personal between us.

Well it is and it isn’t. 

Honestly yes, we’re still scratching our heads at the fact that you voted for him, but ultimately we have to trust that you came to your decision as carefully and thoughtfully as we did ours. This cannot be undone anyway, and so our fight is not with you in the past.

And yes, we’re frankly mystified that many of those who voted for him are somehow doubling down in their allegiance, even while witnessing what appears to us to be gross incompetence and a toxic malice toward the general population. You may even be one of these people still steadfast in your support—and yet this is still not what our fight is about.

The God’s honest truth friend, is that we are not at war with you—we are at war for you.

This is the simple, sincere heart of the battle for us; that when we say us, we are fully including you too—your future, your health, your family; the air you will breathe, the opportunity you have, the world you will walk into. It isn’t an either/or aspiration. It is not a matter of us winning and you losing.

You see, lost in translation across the divides of political parties and in the dizzying noise of partisan talk shows and social media trolls—is the reality that we are on your side, because we don’t believe there is another side to take. We are in this thing together; the 99.5 percent of this nation who will not be born billionaires or have our names on buildings or be on Reality TV shows.

This resistance isn’t about some liberal agenda and it isn’t about the Democratic Party either. It’s never been about anything as small as that. This is about Humanity, of which you belong—a Humanity that is gravely threatened by this man and by what he is doing in these days to our schools, our healthcare, our personal freedoms, our national identity. 

We do this work and wage this war and engage in this activism because we know something:

We know that non-Democrats get Cancer, grow old, lose jobs, and need care when they are sick and disabled and depressed, too—and we know that when this happens, the fear will be as real, the burden as massive, the urgency as great, regardless of your politics or your religion or who you supported in the election. Tragedy, poverty illness, and desperation are nonpartisan in their visitation and they do not discriminate in the damage they do. 

And we also know that FoxNews and the celebrity evangelists won’t tell you any of this. Their business is to paint the world in the stark black and white of the good people and the evildoers, the righteous and the wicked, the America-lovers—and the Democrats. They broker in conflict, is their lifeblood. And this all-or-nothing, fear-saturated story they sell you never seems to include the fact that you are as vulnerable as any of us to the dangers we’re now contesting. In fact, we know that this may all mean you don’t believe a damn word we’re saying right now, but we can only say it and mean it, and hope you hear our hearts through the haze of fake news and pulpit damnation.

We don’t pushback against this man and his Administration because we believe that by defeating him we will somehow defeat you. It may feel that way when our outrage at what they’re doing begins to spill over into the things you believe to be true.

But anything we win for equality and diversity and opportunity right now is for you to share in fully—which is the point of all this. 

And that’s why the fact that you see this as a fight with us, that you believe we see you as the enemy is so unfortunate, because this is misplaced anger and misdirected fear and it conceals the truth.

Lost on so many of you right now, is the reality that those of us resisting this President care far more about your children than he does.

We care about you more than he does.

The man who we resist will never want for healthcare, never find himself homeless, never know the struggle of the working poor, never be invested in this nation the way we are—all of us.

He is not for you or for America, friend.

And so to defend us—and to defend you—we will resist him.

Thanks for listening.

 

 

 

 

The God Who Kills Children

What kind of God kills children?

What kind of God asks followers to kill children?

What loving God requires blood?

What being worthy of worship and adoration and obedience, is okay with murdering babies and toddlers and middle schoolers and teenagers—let alone commands such things from the faithful?

As a person of faith for most of my life, I need to confess a worry; a nagging suspicion that grieves me to even consider, but one that is getting more and more difficult to avoid:

I’m terrified that we may be the problem.

I’m worried that the people of God are the evil we’ve been condemning all these years.

Is our religion (for as much we who practice it like to imagine it as the source of love and mercy and compassion) doing more harm here than good? The evidence is mounting.

On days like today, the question comes easily: How does anyone walk into a crowded arena filled with vibrant young people, carrying a bomb filled with nails and detonate it—in the name of God? How does anything beautiful and life-affirming, become this poisoned, this malevolent, this sadistic? How in the hell can this sickness be called religion?

But before you answer; before you rush to craft a response that is faith-specific or nation-specific, or provides you and your tradition exemption—check your history books, read your own holy text, and look at the diverse legacy of those killing in the name of a good and loving God. It is a vast and bloody resume, one that crosses all borders and color lines and religious traditions.

Certainly people kill and wars are waged for all sorts of reasons; control, power, land, wealth—but few things generate terror as consistently or savagely as those convinced they are righteous holy warriors, living with God on their side.

And whether this conviction drives them to wear vest bombs or burn crosses or initiate drone strikes; to bomb clinics or destroy villages or legislate bigotry; to commit genocide or preach hatred from the pulpit or cut budget funding, the brutality is the same. It all violates the world equally, it all draws blood with similar ferocity—and it all rationalizes that God desires and celebrates it. At times like these, I try to rest in the belief that these people have it wrong, and that religion is still at its core a life-giving, redemptive thing.

Yet this is the problem we who believe ourselves to be good, Godly people of all faiths are going to have to wrestle with: Every person who does terrible, vile, violent things in the name of religion—deems themselves good, Godly people as they do these things. They all claim righteousness, all declare themselves the enemy of evil, all feel justified by their texts, all speak of glorifying God—whether they’re walking into crowded arenas filled with children, or launching missiles from thousands of feet, or targeting Transgender teenagers through a partisan House bill. They’re all equally wrong.

And this is why we who believe that God really is love, and that faith truly is a balm for humanity, need to speak most loudly whenever religion of any tradition is wielded like a weapon, whenever God is ever spoken of while violence is committed. We need to be the ones who passionately voice our opposition when any theology is perverted into something that wounds and destroys; who declare this all as the antithesis of religion.

As a Christian, I cling to a Jesus who is mercy and forgiveness and healing and love, though I need to admit that many who follow this very same Jesus, have come to a very different conclusion about what looks like, what it allows them to do here in this world, and that they are capable of truly horrible things in his name.

I am still a person of faith, though it is a struggle in these days to know if that is helpful.

I am someone who holds a deep reverence for all religious traditions—but I will never believe in a God who kills children.

 

 

 

 

 

You’re LGBTQ and I Don’t Blame You (Words From a Pastor)

You’re LGBTQ—and I want you to know as a pastor that I don’t blame you.

I don’t blame you for rejecting Christianity.

I bet it all feels a lot like a well advertised “Come As You Are” party, though you’re pretty much told at every turn that you can’t really come as you are. I imagine you get tired of being blamed by Christians for every evil in the world; the failure of America, the collapse of Marriage, the corruption of the family, the erosion of morality in Hollywood, the degradation of the Scouts and the Army, and everything else you dare to take part in or offer your gifts to.

As you survey your news feed or the comments section of your favorite song, and as you are bombarded with the blogs and radio shows and tossed-off jokes; with the political rants, incendiary sermons, and social media tirades, I suppose you feel like you’re Public Enemy Number 1 of this faith tradition.

It must be exhausting.

I don’t blame you for thinking that all Christians are hypocrites.

I’m sure you have a small handful of Scripture passages ripped from their context and violently shoved in your face all the time, by supposed religious people who rarely seem to want to live their own lives by the Bible they so willingly wield like a hammer. You hear church folk mindlessly parroting, “Hate the sin, love the sinner,” yet don’t get much from them that feels at all like love—in fact you’re fairly certain it’s quite the opposite.

I know that you are surrounded by professed “Biblical Christians” who are divorced, who love money, who neglect the poor, who dishonor their marriages—and that you want to remind them that the Bible has a good deal to say about those things with great clarity. Yet you soon realize that most of them aren’t as interested in shining too bright a light on themselves, as they are in policing others with selective Scriptures. You learn that to far too many Christians, sin is simply defined as, “the stuff I don’t like that someone else is doing”—and so eventually you just disengage.

I don’t blame you for wanting nothing to do with The Church.

I imagine how hard it must be to walk through the doors of our buildings week after week, feeling out-of-place and unwanted, scanning the lobby for some small, reassuring sign that you are welcome; sitting nervously through the service  just knowing you’ll likely once again be lifted up as the easy poster child for perversion and immorality and Godlessness. I’m sure you always fear another unprovoked attack in a place where you are hoping to find refuge. It must be a Herculean undertaking to hear what you hear and see what you see, and to even attempt to make your way to a local church.

And I’m sure that even as you do begin to cautiously build relationships there, you must feel like you can never really share the deepest parts of you, because you know that it will likely mean that you and your family will need to start looking for another church—again.

And most of all I don’t blame you for choosing to pass on this whole Jesus thing—but I hope that you won’t.

You see friend, the worst, most tragic thing that you could ever do in the face of the bullying and insensitivity and bigotry you may have experienced at the hands of some Christians—would be to let it keep you from Christ. 

If that happens, then you are allowing their hatred to be louder in your ears than the loving voice of God. You are letting them have a power over you that they do not deserve and are not qualified for. You are allowing them to define your faith when it is not theirs to define. 

Because all of the cruelty you are experiencing is simply not of Jesus. He doesn’t consent to any of it. He abhors it and condemns it.

And this is the reason I am still a Christian; because I believe this Jesus is worth the path to him, despite the dangerous land mines along the way, even if those land mines call themselves Christians. Because the truth is; you and me and the radio show host and the crusading politician and the greeter at church and the pastor in the pulpit and the hundreds you might rub shoulders with this Sunday, we all stand fully held by what no person can give to us and no person can withhold from us: the relentless, screw-up covering, destination changing, invasive, annoying love of God. You are already loved as you are, without caveat, condition, or alteration. You have nothing to earn or prove or deserve.

Friend, you could decide to pass on The Church, but both you and it would be the lesser for it. Your gifts and your passions and your experiences have the same power to bless and to lift and to reflect the character of God as anyone’s. Your contribution is as unique, valid, and beautiful as anyone’s are. Never believe differently.

So if you are able, I’m asking you to try again; to stand among hypocrites and sinners like me this Sunday and to keep going. I will gladly stand there beside you.

No, I wouldn’t blame you for walking away from Jesus because you’ve been injured by Christians—but I’m praying that you don’t.