Saturday, September 29, 2018

kiddos and call


I'm still working my way through my list of "profound shit about zeke," the little list I made on my phone in the first week of Zeke's life.  I don't anticipate finishing anytime soon, but this blog has been many things and this seems like a reasonably good thing for it to keep being.

In those first few days of Zeke's life, I was struck, not only by the ridiculous, I don't know, volume and size and amplitude of my love, but by the familiarity of it.  It was new in its overwhelming waves, but I knew some things that are in the same key as this love.

(Sidebar: I'm not trying to say that this is everybody's experience of parenthood, and I want to work against that bullshit where people say you don't know what real love is like until you become a parent.  That is patently false and listing all the reasons why that's problematic would be a whole other (\[more boring and equally ranty] blog post.  I sure don't care at all whether people become parents.  But I sure do want people to experience a relationship with this kind of love, wherever it finds them.  Your mileage may vary. End sidebar.)

I kept telling people that I was glad to experience a call to ministry before I became a parent.  Because, for me anyway, the project of ministry is one where the Spirit is like: Hey David, come do this thing for which you are certainly not entirely qualified, and certainly not entirely prepared.  You will fail a bunch and that will be part of the point of it.  Most of what you will do is just show up, with the kind of stupid relentlessness that is kind of my jam.  It will be super hard and maybe also joyful in its own weird way.  You could also get an easier job if you would rather do that, but I don't think you would rather do that.  Are you in?"

And I was like, "Yeah."  Or at least most days, when She says that, I say yes.  And some of the moments in those days too.

But I felt out this scary-big love in the late nights in the hospital, in the joy and the exhaustion, and it felt a little familiar.  It felt like the way it felt one way to hate gun violence in Chicago, and it felt a whole other way when it was one of the kids at my church who got shot. It felt like the way my whole experience of weather changed when I was working with people experiencing homelessness: every rain shower was a worry, every freezing wind brought a new layer of prayer to my world.  And yeah, it feels a bit like the way I love this church: all the ridiculous lot of them, holy and broken and weird and wild and problematic and kind and beautiful.  And it felt like the way my church loved me when I was a kiddo: cause it wasn't about what I do, it wasn't anything like caring about my success.  It's another kind of love.

Today I am still in.

your confusion will give way to wonder

Pretty soon after Zeke was born, he was looking at some acoustic ceiling tiles and fluorescent lights.  I told him, "Zeke, those are somewhat dirty acoustic ceiling tiles.  If you like looking at those, just wait til you see LITERALLY EVERYTHING ELSE IN THE ENTIRE WORLD."

Maybe you are unfortunate enough to be reading this underneath some ugly acoustic ceiling tiles, or some soul-crushing fluorescent lights.  Maybe it will help you to take heart, a bit, to know that when Zeke was first born, he seemed really delighted and entranced to just stare at the mediocre hospital ceiling, while he digested his first meal.  

There's a line from the gospel of thomas that's been with us these days, that was with us during the last few months of Rachael's pregnancy: 

Something like:

"If you are searching, you must not stop until you find.
But when you find, you will become confused.
Your confusion will give way to wonder.
In wonder you will reign over all things.
Your sovereignty will be your rest."

Especially that third line- Rachael put it to music: Your confusion will give way to wonder.  It is quite the promise.

I kept thinking about it during labor and right after Zeke was born.  It was true: my confusion was giving way to wonder.  But it turns out that both of those things are pretty overwhelming. 

Your confusion will give way to wonder- maybe the kind of wonder that makes us stare, entranced, at acoustic ceiling tiles.  Maybe the kind of wonder that Zeke invites whenever I go out walking with him, that took the barista at this coffee shop up short when she saw him, that makes me stay up later even than I need to so I can cuddle his warm body against my tired heart. 

These days, I am trying to breathe in the kind of wonder that makes two women in an elevator confront a republican senator to change his heart about an fbi investigation into an assault.  Your confusion will give way to wonder- in wonder you will reign over all things.  Whatever kind of sovereignty those two women in the elevator had, that's what I want.  The strength in my heart and in the midst of my fears to tell the powers to look me in the eyes when I have something true to say.

I honestly started this post trying to talk about how it was funny that Zeke was entranced by ceiling tiles and I was so eager to show him literally any other thing, because to me they are all more interesting to look at than acoustic ceiling tiles.  But I am now asking myself: is there something about wonder that is an invitation for me these days?  It's kinda dumb that everybody I know is out in the streets and preaching and proclaiming and organizing and working these days, and I'm at home doing dishes and endlessly bouncing this kiddo.  And I'm super aware of the privilege that allows me to take all this time away from this sacred work, to attend to this differently sacred, differently intimate work.  And I'm praying, with Zeke on my heart, for all the survivors these days, for all the truth tellers and all the quietly-wounded and all those who are in the midst of trauma and in the midst of trauma re-inscribed.  And I'm tempted to make some high-handed point about how we could all do better with some more wonder in our lives, and let's all take a minute to walk in the woods or snuggle a baby or stare, astonished, at some acoustic ceiling tiles.  But today, after this week, I'd rather just share this:

Maybe it's not so much a promise as a hope:
your confusion will give way to wonder.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

how i can tell it is good love

(another sappy parenting blog post.)

Okay, let's see if we can write one of these without Zeke in my lap- I'm not sure if that'll work, but I suppose it's worth a try.  (Zeke and Rachael are in a little workshop about stretches that are good for folks with new babies at the center of healthy motherhood, so I have a minute to sit and write.)

So, when Zeke was first born, it was a little overwhelming to love him so much.  I feel like it's still stunning, and still a really profound and big love, but maybe it's getting a bit less overwhelming?  It's a bit like how grief gets less overwhelming as you get farther out, as you live with it and sleep and eat and breathe with it- it's just a thing about my life these days, and I am learning how to be in the world with this much love.

Sometimes theologians and preacher types are into talking about different kinds of loves.  (I'm a little bit suspicious of this project, but that's another blog post.)  And so I remember in the first few days thinking about what to do with this Zeke-love, how to wrangle it and what I thought about it.

And what I was noticing is that it kept making me love everybody more.  I trust that. 

I think I already wrote about how, early on, I was spending some time each day on facebook.  And it turns out that part of that for me was wanting to see some people and love them (and doing it without leaving our hospital-room-cocoon!)  I wanted to heart all the posts.  I wanted to post stupid encouraging comments when people were having a bad day, I wanted to squee over people's first day of school photos.  It's like I had so much love for Zeke (and for Rachael too) that it just bubbled up over the top of the pot of my heart and spilled over.  And I needed to deploy it somewhere or else I wouldn't even be able to sleep.

What a curious condition.  May it continue. 

Friday, September 14, 2018

everybody used to be a baby

The first baby song that I wrote that I like I wrote a while back, back when Sophia Hammond was a baby and I was getting to visit with her and Mary and Steve.

Everybody used to be a baby
Nobody used to so tall
even you used to be a baby
back when you were really really small.

There are ridiculous verses, too. I guess sometime I should sing it and put it up on youtube so that everyone in the world can enjoy this stupid and catchy song.  But I feel the need to remind people about this all the time.

"Hey Rachael," I'll say, as I do dishes and she feeds the baby or vice versa.  "Did you know that everybody used to be a baby?"

We stare at Zeke for a while. "I don't know," she says, "That doesn't sound right.  What are you sources?"

Cause it's really absurd and ridiculous when you think about it.  Think about your least favorite person in your town: that person used to be a baby.  Your sweetest lover: used to be a baby.  The literal baby that you know: used to be a baby (and also still is a baby.) Rutabaga: used to be a baby cat. Reluctantly I will admit that most evident supports the claim that Donald Trump used to be a baby.

I don't know about you but these days when I see a baby (maybe especially one baby in particular) I am filled with an awe, a not-so-quiet reverence, an abiding respect and an urge to protect and a joy and a desire to care for...  I don't think it's groundbreaking for people to say that this is how the Divine sees us. 

But it's something to see it up close. 

Next time you need to throw up your hands in anger and despair, remember the hilarious truth.  Everybody used to be a baby. 

tell everybody

The thing about it, when Zeke was born, is that I didn't want to leave the room with him ever.  And I also I wanted to tell everybody.

And I think that's part of what took me to facebook and texting and whatnot, in the early days, but I am interested in the deep part of that inclination: what about the energy of having a newborn makes me want to tell everybody?

Maybe it's just that he's so great.  People say he's cute, and they're right, and I sit around thinking about how cute he is some of the time, but more often I think about how having him sleep on my belly is like lying with the heart of a star, about how looking at him is like staring into the most hopeful of futures, about how loving him is making me grow and change in a startlingly relentless and gentle way.  It's great, yeah, and he's cute, yeah, but there's more going on there, at least for me.

And so I like to wear him around, to strap him onto my heart chakra while he naps or stares into space, and walk on the lovely trails and shitty strip malls around my apartment.  And we run into people, and some of them ignore us, which is fine, but a lot of folks want to see him, want to say hello. Because if someone is wearing the heart of a star on their chest, well, that seems at least notable.  And maybe remarkable.  And maybe marvelous and inviting and wonderful in the literal sense.

People of a bunch of different cultures and languages have gotten to marvel at him in this way.  And I love to post the dorky pictures on facebook and have people all over join me in the practice of delighting in Zeke. 

But it's just there's something there for me in this practice.  Maybe I understand evangelism for the first time, or at least new and clear.  Cause I want everyone to try playing dungeons and dragons, and I want everybody to have a meaningful spiritual community, but not quite in the same way that I want people to get a good look or a visit from Zeke.

I have to wonder if there isn't something evolutionary about it- so many cultures have the "here is the baby let us visit the kin" practice.  And I can imagine the ice age nomadic bands having that: here is this kid who is new, but let's take them around so that they can belong to the whole band of us, cause lord knows one or two parents alone are not gonna be sufficient for this task.

So probably there's something old and visceral in me that is wired to show this kid off, to make sure that as many people as possible see him when he is obviously beautiful, when he is cute and lovable in this most simple and stupid way, so that he will have those people to draw on if we get attacked by a mammoth.  Or what have you.


And I think that as I grow as a person, I'm moving towards more honesty and more vulnerability in general.  And every time I post a dorky picture, there is a way in which I am saying: here is a person who has utterly claimed my heart, who has made my heart grow six more sizes and I feel like it was pretty big already so how am I even to live in this world, this person who is so perfect and all he does is sleep and eat and poop and that is completely sufficient to make him my favorite person in the history of ever.  And if that's true, that must mean something fierce and stupid and big about the lovability of all of us. 

So, yeah, I am still wanting to tell everybody.  And when people at the checkout counter or on the trail or wherever just look at him and grin in passing, I want to say, "that's right."  But it's not just him, friends.  It's all of us.

umm maybe this is becoming a sappy parenting blog part 1 of 17,000: the songs in my head

Okay, so I'm almost a month into this parenting gig, and so far I like it. 

When Zeke was first born, I made a big list of "things that seem important that i want to think more about later."  A buddy of mine is in recovery and we talked a bit later about how those early days in the hospital were a bit like his experience of his first week sober: suddenly everything is intense and real, and there's big major life change stuff to think about, but also there's a bunch of logistical and survival stuff to do, and so some stuff you stay awake thinking about, and other stuff you nod at, and make a mental (or literal) note to reflect on it more later.

So right now, Zeke is half asleep kind of across my lap and my computer is under him, and if I keep typing fast enough it kind of bounces/ jostles him in a way he likes, so while he slowly falls asleep or works on pooping or whatever he's up to, I thought I might go back to my list and see whether I still have something to say about this whole baby project.

I feel like this project needs a bunch of caveats, among them that I'm doing parenting on easy mode as a white cis guy who's from a middle class background and firmly operating in a middle class space these days, with a partner who's a woman and all of that, and this is still the hardest (and best) thing I've ever done, so who knows if this will be lovely or annoying for other folks to read.  But I'm still pretty sleep-deprived, and I guess I'll just launch in.

I want to talk about the songs in my head while Rachael was in labor.  There's a lot to be said about that experience and that story, and most of that feels like Rachael's to tell more than me. 

But one of the songs that was in my head on that longest of days was "A Golden Thread," which I know as a Pete Seeger song.  "Oh, had I a golden thread, and a needle so fine, I'd bind up this sorry world, with hand and heart and mind...  in it I'd weave the bravery of women giving birth..."

Look, I feel like it's not breaking news to say that women giving birth, are, you know, impressive.  But after being in the midst of this up close I have to wonder how much of patriarchy is a startle response, a deep fear of the kind of power that is present in labor, in all the kinds of life-making that mothers and other women do for children and babies and a bunch of humans. 

Another song that was with me was "Bread and Roses," which has some of the same energy.  It feels problematic to equate this energy with what will save us- I don't thing that laboring women need to also save the world, lord knows they've got their hands and bodies full.  But something about the strength and ferocity of that, something about the way that kind community gathered around and made space for that, our doulas and our midwives and hospital folk: there's something about the space that is made for that, and it's not unlike all the other times I've seen bodywisdom fiercely proclaimed.  But still, there was a certain kind of fierceness and clarity to it, that I've rarely seen so clearly in this life. 

And honestly, I thought of a song that I am secretly writing for one of my colleagues, someone who loves people relentlessly with the fierce love of the divine.  Because there is something about that love, that literally embodying the presence of jesus in ways that are sometimes overwhelming and weird for others, that obviousness and almost-brutal passion for whoever walks in the doors- ther's something about that in labor, too. 

Oh, and Dar's The One Who Knows.  Cause, you know, love and stuff.