Dear Son, Don’t give up

Dear Son,

These last two months watching you grow have been the most amazing, and most exhausting two months of my life. There have been moments where I wasn’t sure I would make it through. There have been moments of pure elation. There have been moments when your lips curled up into a smile that reminded me of everything that is perfect and good in this world. I know you have no clue what is going on outside of your tiny little realm. At the moment I am so very glad for that.

There are times in this life where all seems bleak, and it feels like there is nothing that can make it better. We talked about this a little bit before in my letter on pain to you. But, as a quick reminder; I wrote this on a friend’s facebook post this morning:

I’m reminded that change is never easy, especially when we aren’t ready for it. Though we are never truly ready. Things seem at their worst right before it begins to get better. Maybe this is the worst, maybe it isn’t, but good is on the horizon.

Life is hard. Things worth having in life never come easy. There are all sorts of clichés that we throw around. But there is a lot of truth to be found in them. Yes, it is an over simplistic answer to a deeply complex and complicated issue. But sometimes we need those simple answers. This week something very terrible happened. At some point we will have a conversation about what has and what continues to happen, but not in this letter. People have offered their simple answers to this horribly complex and complicated issue, but what has happened has been reminiscent of events that are all too similar. The simple answers aren’t enough anymore.

There comes times in our lives when we are called upon to act. It’s those moments where we know our simple answers will not work anymore. It’s those moments where I’m reminded not to give up. You will learn that I am an idealist and a dreamer. Your mother will tell you that I’m very much like Clark W. Griswold from the Vacation movies. I build things up in my head and I work very hard to achieve those things, but more often than not it tends to only reach halfway or fail spectacularly. Yet, I still don’t give up on those things. Maybe it’s because I’m a glutton for punishment. Or possibly, it’s because I know that things can be better than they are. There is a deep and abiding hope that lives in us dreamer idealists. I’m not sure if you are going to be like me or not, but I know that it is a very tough life living that way.

People often want to live in the dark. I don’t mean actual literal dark, but sometimes people want to live that way too. I’m talking about an emotional darkness. They want to live in that place of pain and hurt because at least they know what they have lost, and will not have to give anything else up. I can’t blame them too much. Change requires that we sacrifice. Moving on requires that we give more of ourselves up. It is painful, but ultimately it leads to something better. These people see that deep abiding hope within those of us who are dreamer idealist and fear that we are the catalyst of change. They will do whatever it takes to put out that light so that they may remain in the dark where they are. They want us to stay with them. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s also not the best thing for either person.

My message in all of this is to say don’t give up. When you encounter the dark people, when you feel like the world is turning in on itself, when you feel like you can’t go on;  hope is there. It may be a small spark within yourself, or it may be your ever idealistic father behind you prodding you on, but it is there. I wont go into the details here, suffice to say my other blog posts which aren’t letters to you will tell you what it is, but I’m going to keep fighting for what I think is best. I don’t have all the answers, but I know what I need to do make sure that you grow up feeling safe. I know that things can be better. I’m going to do the best that I can to make things better for you. Maybe it will work out, maybe it will fail spectacularly; but I am not giving up. I love you and I am going to give you the best life that I can. I am not going to try to make it magical, you do that on your own, I’m just going to make sure the world is ready for you.

Love,

Your Dad

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Enough is Enough

Disclaimer: I am tired. It’s been a very long week, and I feel like I have worn through all of my diplomacy. I apologize if what I’m about to say seems harsh to anyone. I certainly don’t mean to offend, but rather spur to action. If you are offended (this is something that I’ve been wanting to say to several people this week) then maybe you should examine yourself. Why are you offended? Is it really because of something I say here or is it because of something inside yourself?

When is enough going to be enough? Two mass shootings in a week. Two of them in places where I have ties. Both of them a few short miles away from family and friends. Not just have there been two in a week, as of me writing of this, there have been 355 mass shootings in our country in the year of 2015. The only thing we as a country have actually accomplished to date is to solidify the cliché-ness of “Prayers”.

For me, prayer has been a difficult issue. When I was growing up and going through tough times as a teen I didn’t feel completely safe going to family, and I didn’t have a whole lot of friends at school. So I turned to people at my church who I thought welcomed and accepted me. I tried to lay out my problems and there was that cliche ready and waiting for me with most people I went to “Oh, I’ll pray about it.” Eventually I began to discover what that really meant. It meant, “stop bothering me with your problems.” Granted that is an over-generalization of the people in the church I grew up with, but ultimately that is the impression that stuck. This beautiful thing that prayer is got twisted and mangled in my mind into a weapon. I heard people pray that others would come to harm. I heard people pray that politicians would not win. I have heard people call me the devil through prayer. I heard people pray for things that never coincided with the message of love I read from the God of the Bible. But still I would pray. It was difficult for me. Meditation and prayer have never been easy for me. My brain always gets easily distracted. But I tried. A few years ago I heard a statement from Father Richard Rohr as he was speaking at a FORMA conference. I don’t remember fully what he was speaking about but this statement stuck out to me. “Prayer is not about changing God’s mind. It’s about changing yours.” After that I found it much more difficult to pray. Since, I am a human being, and we are after all egotistical narcissist monsters  that assume we are the end all and be all of creation. There is a part of my brain that feels that I don’t need to change my mind so I don’t need to pray. That part has unfortunately won out for a long time. To be even more honest I started to resent prayer. These things have coupled to twist, even further, the beautiful and life-altering practice that prayer is meant to be into a worn out cliche. But I have since been rediscovering the richness (get it rich-ness? because his name is richard?… nevermind) of his statement. Prayer was never meant for God, it was meant for us. It was something meant not for us to pull the arm of the cosmic slot machine and maybe get our way. No, It was a way for us to quiet our minds and souls and find out what the God of love would have us to do to encounter the situation we now face.

With the original definition of prayer in place I wonder how many of us are actually praying about the situation that we now face. How many of us actually want to hear what the God of love would have us do in this situation? Or, as we are so oft to be, are we terrified of what God might say? I am suddenly forced to examine myself and see if I am part of this problem. I have a lot of youth group games that involved “killing” or “violence”. Yes, these things are simulated and often in very innocent ways, but what if they are helping to create a more violent generation. In my opinion they don’t, but I need an outside opinion. So therefore I pray. I seek council with the Creator of the Universe.  I ask how I can be a comfort to those who are hurting, and that it may be revealed to me how I can make a difference.

It’s time to make a difference. We can no longer sit idly by while continued injustice, pain, and death is inflicted on our fellow human beings. Yes, we human beings can be messy, but take a deep look at yourself. You are a mess too. We need to say “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!” and start cleaning each other up. If you say we need to take care of our own first, wonderful, then do it! Seek council from the God of the Universe with what you are to do to make a difference, and do it. If you need some help I know of a terribly silly viral video that Shia Lebuff put out this year that may help you. But let us stop killing each other. Let us stop the violence. Let us stand together and stop bickering about whether legislation would actually do anything and try it. Let’s stop letting fear win. Let us let love win. Enough is enough!

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