Being Simon’s Dad

Before Simon was born, I had the idea to journal regularly so I could look back and relive some of my thoughts and feelings from that time.

But I don’t really enjoy journaling, and I never did it.

And now, I’ve been thinking that I should write down what I’m learning from being his dad. 5 and a half weeks in, and here we are.

I didn’t know what to expect in terms of “feelings.” Would I feel some mystical bond with my son? Would I be overwhelmed with love? My only experience being overwhelmed with love was as a teenager, and on reflection, that had more to do with hormones than mysticism. We feel so strongly when we are younger, and I’m more even-keeled these days.

I find myself enthralled by Simon. I’ll be putting him into his car seat, or stroller, or bassinet, or just holding him in my arms, and I’ll look at him and lose track of time. I can’t identify the feeling there, but he becomes the center of my universe for a brief moment, and all is right in the world.

My priorities have shifted a bit. Hobbies have less pull on me, while resting is even more precious. Simon is sleeping pretty well, and April does most of the getting-up-at-night, but there’s still a lot for me to do. Having paternity leave is amazing, and I really love that I get to spend so much time with Simon here in these first few months.

One night, while lying on the bed and looking into the bassinet to try and decide if Simon needed his diaper changed, needed burped, or just needed the pacifier returned to him, I had the words “my son” go through my head.

And as I reflected on those two words, I felt strongly that I do not own Simon. He is not mine to do with as I will. I do not own his future; he is not beholden to me. Rather, I am his caretaker and teacher. I will do my best to guide him, but ultimately, he belongs to himself.

I have two follow-up thoughts on this.

First, when I became Christian, my conversion included God returning my soul to me. I know that’s throwing out a weird statement without any backstory, but this blog post isn’t about my story, so my apologies for dropping that and just moving on. What was relevant about that moment in the context of this story is that I had sold my soul, and God returned it to me, and I felt it both physically and spiritually. And my response was to thank God and immediately offer Him my soul. And God refused.

He told me that I was created to be me, and that no one owned me. I choose to be part of God’s family, and God gave us free will, which that never goes away. Similarly, Simon is part of my family, but he belongs to himself.

Second, ownership and debt was wielded against me frequently when I was growing up. My parents regularly told me about how I owed them for all the wonderful things in my life. Things like clothes and food and being taken to or picked up from school. Further, they told me that I was expected to pay them back later. Some of this was joking, but often it was said in moments of frustration or angst, and I interpreted it verbatim.

Consequently, I feel strongly about making sure my son knows that he owes me nothing. He did not choose to be born. We chose him. And we choose him over and over. And my job is to provide for him, and take care of him, and provide the best education and examples for him that I can. I chose that job. He doesn’t owe me for doing it.

We have an election today, and having a child hasn’t changed how I vote. But it has given me a new perspective. I feel like I have a new place to stand when examining the world and I how interact with it. More importantly, it is bringing new depth to my theology.

The most important thing I can do in this life is to be holy like God is holy. My aim is to serve Him, and for a long time I thought/hoped that meant being a good husband and a good father. Over the last month, I have come to feel that deep in my soul. Being a good dad means taking care of my son so he can grow up safe and secure, and from that position of safety and stability, learn about and engage with this world. Becoming holy, and having the opportunity to think about and wrestle with that, is so much easier when you have food and shelter and stability. I speak from experience.

So as a Christian dad, my duty is to give my son the opportunity to learn about God and, hopefully, to choose to follow Jesus and work to become holy like God is holy.

I would give almost anything to make that happen. I can’t spoil him, because that’s not good teaching, but I can build a good home for him.

Shouldn’t we be doing that for everybody? Not just kids? And not just our kids? As Christians, shouldn’t we want everyone to have their basic needs met so they have the mental and emotional capacity to engage with the Church and meet God? As a Christian, does anyone owe us anything that must be repaid before we begin the work of providing for them physically and spiritually?

When I think about all the good things I want to do for my son so he can become a good person, my mind turns to how we, as a country, all seem to espouse many of the same beliefs. We want to leave the world better for our children. The problem is, I think a lot of us are only thinking about our children, as in our individual children. And if I only think of Simon, then I am not being like Jesus. Jesus didn’t just think of his biological brothers or family. Jesus didn’t just think of his disciples. His commission is for the entire world.

What about building a good home for the children of asylum-seekers who have been separated from their parents? What about building a good home for asylum-seekers coming to the USA? What about building a good home for the homeless? What about building a good home for minorities suffering from systemic oppression?

I’m looking forward to taking Simon with us to vote today.

The two political parties in the USA are not the same. Both have problems, but the Democratic party of today far better aligns with Christian morals, ethics, and values. I will continue to vote Democrat to provide a better future for my son and for everyone else’s sons and daughters.

I’ll also keep reading, because that provides a good example for Simon to follow. And we’ll keep talking regularly, and I’ll hold him when he cries, not because my holding him magically solves everything, but so that he knows that he isn’t alone. And we’ll grow and learn and change, because he is changing every day.

And I hope that we’ll make the future better together.

Voting Against Discrimination – Vote No on April 7th

On Tuesday, Springfield has an opportunity to vote on the Sexual Orientation and Transgender Anti-Discrimination Ordinance (SOGI) that was passed by city council some time ago and which some people now want to repeal. Voting no means we won’t repeal it, and the ordinance will remain. I will be voting no for a few different reasons that I want to share, but I’m not looking to convince anyone about how they should vote with this post. Rather, my hope is that people who agree with me, and who also think that we should not discriminate against people as a general rule, will be reminded and motivated to go vote on Tuesday.

It is tempting to remain silent and to not vote. A lot of people I know are conservative Christians who believe strongly that homosexuality is a sin, and while they may not be comfortable with the idea of discriminating against people, it’s so much easier to just stand on the sidelines. I feel strongly that God calls us to speak out. We cannot remain silent. Jesus surely did not, and while he was clear about what he viewed as sin, he welcomed sinners and lambasted those who sinned sexually far less than those who persecuted others.

One of the arguments against this ordinance is that there’s no proof that discrimination has happened. I agree, there isn’t, but the debate and furor that has arisen while this ordinance has been under consideration demonstrates two things. First, there are clearly negative feelings towards homosexual and transgendered people in our community. Not long ago, I don’t think people would have thought about discriminating against a gay or lesbian person in a normal store (by which I mean, not a church or a church-affiliated business, like the Assemblies of God Credit Union or a Christian bookstore), but they surely are thinking about it now. All the town hall meetings and public displays have demonstrated to me that there are a lot of people who want to discriminate, even if they hadn’t thought about it before. That’s unsettling to me.

Second, all of this has to feel threatening to members of our community who are homosexual or transgendered. Like harassment, which is defined by the person experiencing the harassment, I think when the actions of our community make a people group feel threatened, we need to address that publicly and loudly. We need to say, as a community, that we will not tolerate our neighbors feeling threatened.

My job, as a follower of Christ, is to go and make disciples. I am called to love God and love my neighbor as myself. Some might say that holding people accountable and making sure they know their actions are leading them to hell is part of love, and I suppose a case could be made there if you think homosexuality is a damning sin. Except that none of us know the state of a person’s soul. C.S. Lewis writes that we cannot know if a person is Christian or not, only if they are good or bad at being Christian, and we know that by the fruits of the Spirit. And I will say, as someone gifted with discernment and prophecy, as a Christian for the last thirteen years or so, and as someone who has studied the Bible critically and academically and prayerfully, I have met gay and lesbian people who are bearing fruit.

What do you do, when you think someone is a sinner, and yet God is investing in their life, gifting them, loving them, and working through them? I suppose only two reasonable conclusions are possible. Either God is more gracious than me, and I ought to learn to become more like God, or maybe I’m wrong about this act or lifestyle actually separating people from God.

All of that is in the back of my mind, but it’s beside the point. More important to me is that I’ve had LGBTQIA friends since before I became Christian. I have watched a transgendered man struggle for years with gender dysphoria who is an upstanding person, wonderful to his husband and two children, and struggling with a society both offline and online that insults, marginalizes, and discriminates against him, inflicting more suffering than I know my Lord and Savior tolerates for any of the people for whom He died. Jesus came to build bridges, bring healing, and help us learn to be in relationship with one another.

Check out the links below for the full text of the ordinance and for a great article in our local newspaper that explains some of the nuances of the ordinance. If you read the ordinance itself, though, you’ll find it’s not very nuanced. It’s really quite straightforward. Religious organizations like churches can still discriminate all they want. Pastors aren’t going to be fired for preaching against homosexuality. Landlords and realtors cannot refuse to work with homosexual people or rent/sell them property. Non-religious businesses in general have to serve homosexuals, just like they have to serve Jews, and Blacks, and Italians, and the Irish, and Catholics.

The only negative about voting for this ordinance is that businesses and individuals can be challenged if they are discriminatory. That’s the only thing being taken away: non-religious businesses can’t act like homosexuals aren’t human beings. That is a very fine thing to stand up for, in my opinion. All people deserve dignity and respect, and to be treated with love and care. We have a Servant King, and we should not hesitate to serve anyone. Instead, we should serve them with prayers in our heart and songs on our lips. We should serve people smiling and joyous that we get the opportunity to be like Jesus.

Mark it on your calendar. Set a reminder. Vote against discrimination on Tuesday, April 7th by voting no on question 1.