I’ve always wrestled with how to be on Facebook. Should I share more? What should I share? Do people really care about what I’m thinking, where I went for vacation or what my growing family looks like? Not sure, but today I’m feeling the need to share.
I’m a dad of a 9 year old (John) and 2 year old (Anna), so the recent events in Connecticut have affected me in ways that I am still trying to understand. Understanding feelings is no easy task, is it? I had a conversation with John yesterday trying to help him know what to think (and feel) about what has taken place. He said he’s a little scared. Me, too. But fear is not the driving emotion for me. It’s there. What’s driving me more than anything else, and really what has led me to go public with my thoughts, is faith.
In these last few days, our faith was tested. I don’t know what you put your faith in, but whatever you put your faith in, I bet it was tested. Can we trust our school systems to protect our children? Can we trust our government to defend us? Can we trust each other? Can we trust God? This final one was John’s question. “Daddy, I don’t understand how God can let this thing happen to these kids.” Why does God allow something so horrible like this to happen? How can he love us and let children be brutally killed?
I feel the tension of these questions in the context of this time of the year. It’s Christmas. The song says, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” I don’t feel like this today. For the folks in Newtown, it’s hard to imagine how different this Christmas will be for them compared to what they were expecting a week ago. My Christmas is already different this year because of what happened in Newtown last Friday.
My faith has been tested. Faith is putting our trust in someone or something. My faith in the school system has been impacted. My faith in humankind has been altered. I feel less trust. I feel more concern. I took socks to John at school today and I looked at the school differently as I drove in. I felt different. I’m hopeful that good conversations can result that help us consider how best we can care for and protect the children of our communities. But that isn’t the ultimate answer. We should do this work, but there are no guarantees. There is definitely a conversation raging in the public square today about guns and gun control. I hope this conversation will lead to a deeper understanding of the place of guns in our society today. But that isn’t the answer. I know there is a growing conversation unfolding about the challenge and reality of mental illness. There is some important work to do here, to come alongside families who are wrestling with this challenge, but this isn’t the answer either. Please don’t get me wrong, there is important work to be done in all of these areas and I’m sure many others, but if that is where you ultimately put your faith, I think you are going to be let down if you are not already. No matter what we do about schools, guns, and mental illness, evil will still exist in our world and that will impact children, your family and mine, hopefully never like we see in Connecticut, but again, there are no guarantees.
It’s been a good year and a hard year for me. I’m growing. Yes, for those of you who check out our pictures on Facebook, I am growing in some ways I wish I wasn’t, but that is not the growth I’m talking about. I am growing inside not just in girth. I’m growing in my ability to see myself more clearly. I don’t love everything I’m seeing, but as I recognize more clearly who I am, I see the opportunities for me to change in the places I need to change. I’m a better Dad today than I was a year ago. My relationship with Alisa is growing. Our friendship and intimacy are deepening. I have a clearer picture of why I am here in this world. I am more authentic. I love more freely and less selfishly. My priorities are moving in the right direction. I’m valuing the things that matter more than the things that don’t. I’m learning to ask for help. I’m learning to stop pretending and trying to be someone who I think others want me to be, and instead am getting more and more at peace in my own skin, in who I am and know I can become. I’m caring more deeply about people, and even though that gets messy, I wouldn’t change it for anything. I’m less easily angered. I don’t judge as quickly or as fiercely as I used to. I am learning to see the good in others and encourage more. I’m learning to live a life that is less and less about me. Still a long ways to go in all of these areas, but I am growing, and I’ve come to embrace that I’m a work in progress and extend myself more grace.
I’ve put my faith in Jesus Christ. Many of you know that. You expect pastors to say stuff like this. Please give me a chance. I’m not writing to preach or to try and make you feel guilty. I’m not here to get you to church. I just want to share what Jesus is doing in my life (emphasis on what JESUS is doing), and as I’ve wrestled, cried, and tried to understand the events in the last few days, my faith has come to the surface, and though I don’t understand and can’t make sense of the senselessness of last Friday, I continue to put my faith in the One who does understand, who was as present last Friday as he is today. I don’t know what God is doing or will do or why he didn’t stop what happened, but I do know that regardless of my ability to understand, of all the choices of who or what to ultimately put our faith in, I choose him. I hope John and Anna will too, and I feel a deepening responsibility to encourage them in this direction not simply by my words but by my life. I hope they see my faith in Jesus as much as they hear about it.
Some of you I know really well. Some of you I haven’t seen or talked to since high school. (Go Otters!) I would just ask that as you ponder, feel, and respond to what has happened and as you consider what Christmas means to you, would you wonder with me about your faith? I’ve spent a lot of my life putting my faith in myself – my smarts, athletics, abilities, charisma, etc. I see the short-term gains these have led to but also the long-term costs. I’ve used people, been puffed up in pride, been selfish, and have experienced separation in relationships as a result. The more I learn to trust Jesus, the more I see my life becoming what I’d hoped for – the more I see my life really serving and loving the people around me and offering to Alisa, John, and Anna what they really deserve. It is what Jesus promised when he was asked why he came. He said he’s come to give life – abundant (a growing marriage, connected with kids, loving neighbors, serving those in need, joyful, peaceful, though not at all easy, purposeful) life.
I really do love my life, and I’m convinced that this abundant life I’m learning to live into is only found in Jesus Christ. He is the only one who can empower me to live this life.
There. I went public on Facebook with something other than pictures of my kids or funny videos or articles worth reading. I hope I’m not being weird or crossing some Facebook etiquette line.
I hope you’ve felt no judgment. I feel none toward you. I write this because of all the things I could share on Facebook, this is what I want to share.
Thank you for the investments that you have made in my life. I’ve experienced a little more of this life I’m talking about because of the connections I’ve had with many of you.
I hope you experience the joy of Christmas, and I hope that will include being open to the gift of Jesus Christ. I’m putting my faith in him.