Thoughts worth sharing from my sabbatical journal.
I’ll activate the link once the post is live:
- We love you because of who your parents are.
- Discovering poop is never life-changing.
- Short Shifts.
- Judge Not Lest Ye Become A Paranoid Mess.
No suffering human being is helped by someone telling him that he has the same problems.
Open wounds stink and do not heal.
Both of the above are from Henri Nouwen. They summarize the current sermon series we are in at PAC – although we haven’t used those exact words since I only found them today.
As we work our way through the bible imagining different wounded characters meeting with Jesus and being healed by his scars we’ve been saying things like:
Festering wounds don’t have the potential to heal others. Scars do.
Sharing wounds allows for empathy. Sharing scars allows for empathy and victory.
On the one hand, he is easy because we have way more material about Jacob to work with and a variety of potential wounds emerging. Deceit, control, fraud, worry, compromise, bargaining, and the lack of trust in God which underlies it all. And of course, there are various stages of redemption and grace to comment on as it all unfolds.
On the other hand, it’s a tough story to do justice to because the most decisive healing moment for him is during a divine encounter where he is dealt another wound.
Doesn’t tie up as neatly as I
No, not you. You don’t really know.
Yes, you. I can see the blood flow.
Maybe true? In every way human.
A Scarred Trinity.
Dear 22 Year Old Nathan,
This is the last letter I’ll be writing you regarding your daughter. If you only take one to heart; make it this one.
When Acacia is about two, you’ll have coffee with an older man whose adult children are doing well and so he as a deserved reputation as being a pretty good dad. You will pull out a notepad and pen to show him how serious you are to get down his nuggets of information – imagining at least a page of notes.
But he is only going to say one thing:
“She will be like you.”
This will be disappointing at the time. You were hoping for steps to take. Techniques to implement. You will be tempted to write this off as too simple.
But, listen, he is right.
He understands something about character formation which you will be slow to understand but eventually find to be 100% true.
Since you are a bit of an academic snob at this point in your life I’ll rephrase it a few ways as accommodations to your pride.
Maybe those will help. But only if you admit the real reason you are adverse to what he is saying.
The real reason you are resistant is not the simplicity of what he is saying. It’s because there are parts of you which you’d hate to pass on to your little girl. You imagine it is easier to be a good parent than a healthy person. As if those were two different things.
But take heart, as you grow in grace and maturity thanks to the relentless work of the Spirit in you, screwing her up will become less worrisome to you because there is less of you to worry about. Although, you will never have the sense you are anywhere near done; you will still be able to delight in how far you have come.
As well, the heart of God is so heavily slanted in your favour. He delights to mute the failures of the parents and increase the volume of their successes (Exodus 20:5-6). You wont abuse this promise, but you will take comfort from it.
She will be like you.
So worry less about intentional parenting and focus on becoming the kind of person you dream about her being.
Thanks to everyone who read these. Special thanks to those who expressed appreciation in person or who forwarded them along on social media.
Nicely done dads.
Dear 25 year old Nathan,
Regarding your daugther: Teach her to laugh at herself.
Think of the most difficult people in your life. Notice how they can’t laugh at themselves?
They are all easily offended.
They almost cherish being offended.
That escalatated fast.
This is a very lonely way to live your life; since it scares people away.
This is a very unhappy way to live your life; what could be a primary source of mirth is off limits when you can’t laugh at yourself.
How did they get there?
Unforgiveness settles in and creates a certain kind of person. It isn’t just about victim and aggressor. It eventually poisons everything. Unforgiveness ensures wounds never scar. I say scar because forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting, but it does mean healing. Scars are the trophies you get for forgiving.
Open wounds seriously compromise quality of life. To say the least, you can’t laugh at yourself if you are bleeding to death.
So teach her to forgive.
Which means doing it yourself.
You are currently pretty easily offended (no offense). It’s rooted in unforgiveness. And you know who. The good news is you will forgive. And now, most of the time, you don’t take yourself too seriously.
It’s so good you sorted this out.
If you didn’t , you’d be missing out on one of the most enjoyable things in your relationship with Acacia right now. She loves “giving her old dad the business”. But about 80% of the stuff she will tease you about is stuff you’d get huffy and defensive about if someone teased you about it now.
That’s just one of the unexpected rewards you’ll find on the other side of forgiveness.
So forgive young man, as the Lord forgives you.
She’ll watch you and figure it out.
Dear 25 year old Nathan
Regarding your daughter: think twice about validating her feelings.
This sounds terrible, I know.
It evokes images of a shirtless dad in overalls on a dust swept farm. He is burying Ol’ Rover with a broken shovel and growling “Don’t you cry now!” to a sobbing little girl wearing one shoe. I don’t mean be like him.
What I mean is you will live in a weird cultural moment where validating feelings is not only the highest parenting value it is also the most misunderstood one. You could be caught up in this if you don’t think carefully.
Let me try to clear it up for you so you don’t mistake validating her feelings for:
That’s not validating feelings. That is intentionally doing things which stunt her emotional development in the name of being a good dad. Think again.
Validating feelings means teaching her which feelings are valid, when those feelings are valid, and even how to validly express those feelings.
This has nothing to do suppression or denial. It has to do with nurture. It has to do with the wise cultivation of maturity. It is simply understanding there are many feelings she will get and not all of them will be valid.
In fact, one of the most important gifts you can give her is to train her to learn to happily do the things which are best; regardless of how she may feel about it.
This gift doesn’t stifle her – it empowers her.
Now, I know you well enough to know you seriously doubt your own ability to model healthy emotional responses. That’s why I wrote you this earlier.