Little Hands

I had a profound moment this weekend. I paid a visit to Charleston to see the sun, hang with friends, and attend some sessions of a Missions conference. This past week has been helpful in reflecting about a sense of purpose and what brings me joy. My trip was a nice, not nearly long enough visit and break, but I fit a lot into a lovely weekend. One moment stuck out, not because it was the best moment of the weekend, but it was certainly unexpected.

Sunday morning at the end of church, the entire congregation was called forward to lay  hands in prayer on missionaries who shared throughout the weekend.  I was initially unsure if they wanted everybody to come forward but when it became apparent everyone was, I walked forward and laid my hand as a point of connection on Milton’s (and elder at the church’s) shoulder  to pray. I was standing against the stage and did not have much of a thought about anything.

I pause the story here to say that in all honesty, part of my hope for the weekend was a moment of clarity or revelation regarding next steps in ministry or locale or vocation. I’ve written previously about trying to be an augur to (predict) my future and that trap, but I think this weekend served as a reminder of the will of God (sanctification) and being faithful with what God has already given, being grateful for it, and not demanding something I would deem better. That’s a lot of wonderful things to feel and hopefully hold onto in a whirlwind weekend.

But I want to come back to this one kiss from the Lord.

We are praying. My mind is clear but not focused and suddenly, as my head is bowed eyes closed, standing with arm outstretched, a little hand grabbed my hand at my side without a hint of timidity. I don’t know if there was hesitation, but it felt like the hand grabbed mine so quickly and gently that there was none.

And in that moment, something fascinating happened, for a split second it was curiosity, then a laugh, then a flood of pictures ran through my head. I saw myself praying at a table with I presume, my children. I saw myself reading the bible with them and highlighting the promises of God. I saw eager and excited eyes and was a bit overwhelmed. So, I looked back, almost behind me and saw a boy about 7, holding my hand with his head bowed in prayer.

I smiled, thanked God, and prayed something along the lines of, “Lord thank you for this reminder, please tell me I’m not crazy for wanting to be a dad and having a family.” I mouthed that prayer, but not out loud. Immediately, the little hand gave a little squeeze. Perhaps confirmation, probably coincidence but it felt right, and I felt God’s delight.

I gave God a knowing nod and appreciated the moment as the time of prayer was wrapping up. But then another gift, 20 seconds or so before the prayer was about to end, another even smaller hand slipped between our hands. The little boys presumably 4-year old brother, wearing a backpack, wanted to be connected in prayer as well.

There really isn’t too big of a lesson or metaphor here. After the Amen I looked at a man who I assume was the boys dad and smiled and returned without much of a thought. Thoughts and doubts, you don’t need them when you know you’re known.

To Be A Dad One Day

If I had kids, I see them now.

                My little girl is sensitive and playful, not sensitive as in easily hurt, sensitive as in curious and attentive to the emotions around her and her own. She approaches the world with an intuitive regard for good without suspicion. She likes people and giving compliments. She also likes getting compliments. She’s a little competitive and has these moments when too much newness at once makes her shy. Because of her mom she prefers the familiar. Because of me she is willing to go on adventure, but she asks a lot of questions first and during. Afterward she assumes everyone wants to hear about her adventures and sometimes forgets that the person she tells wasn’t there with her. She carries you with her everywhere. When she meets someone new, it’s as if she is reminding herself in the days that follow that this person will always somehow be a part of her life. As she gets older, she asks more questions about why I lover her mom so much; she would often echo, “that’s why I love momma to.”

                She likes to clap a lot during worship and likes rhythm, neither me nor her mom really have rhythm, but we are thinking about getting her drum lessons. She has a responsibility to people which she probably could not help but learn because that’s the way we are wired. She likes dogs more than cats no matter how much I try to convince her little mind that cats are great. She says dogs are more huggable. She likes to show affection through hugs, it makes her giggle. She agrees with her mom more than with me and she waivers in who she thinks is funnier. She looks forward to bed time because she believes Jesus gives her good dreams. Whenever she has a bad dream, she lays claim to our bed. For a while she would let us know, “Just for tonight.” And she means it.

                As a teenager, she grew with confidence, thank God, still curious, a little more adventurous, a little sterner and more determined. Her mom taught her that. We tried to teach her resilience and have. She holds fast to the stories of our family’s faith and even as a teenager she likes spending time with her grandparents. We are grateful for that. She likes being an older sister, both in looking out for her brother and giving advice. She also holds him accountable to showing up to her events.

                Her brother is smarter than me, so is she, but he enjoys being smart. He’s athletic or at least capable but he says its cooler to be a “nerd.” As a child he trusted us and still does but he didn’t ask for much. He was much more of a content child than me. He dresses nicer than me because of his mom. He’s polite with a dry sense of humor. As a child he was eager to do the activities I was involved in but had more affection for mom. Her balanced was more beneficial to his personality. As he got older, he liked to weigh options and was less feelings driven, but mom taught him to understand and be attentive to how I am wired. She’s a great mom. As a result, my son is very aware. He regularly would ask how I feel about his decisions as a teenager more often than he would ask permission. To which he would always be surprised at the times I would say, “no you’re not doing that.” I learned to give him other options, especially when my no would disappoint him. I admire his independence even being a second child.  66454-fathers-sons-karan-johar-in-conversation-with-sadhguru

                He’s a connector. He calls his grandfather’s for advice, or to be entertained by my dad. He learns fast but also forgets fast. He’s not big into risks and as a kid liked to know how long things would take. He thinks about time too much in my opinion. We weren’t sure how being a middle child would change him. It didn’t really because he felt his younger sibling quite peculiar.

But I think we all did. Such a wonderful surprise in every possible way, making our family a lot less predictable. It’s kind of fun having a child who is unfiltered. I think with the third, we thought we were good parents only to find out again we had much to learn. Our third teaches us wisdom or rather very specific wisdom, that there is not a science, that some days there is total contentment to be left alone and then the next there is a mission from God level of urgency to love our neighbors, while some days refuge from the world is the most important thing on earth. Discerning yet disarming and so joyful. Not the favorite (because there can’t be) but insists on fascinating.

If I saw them now, or saw them more, I’d hold them here.

Mommy and Dad (as you are in my phone) I Hope I get this Right

I’m so naïve. It didn’t take long. I wept for the first time today, and it wasn’t because I visited a church during an emotional service where they were saying goodbye to some people they really love, to send them to Burundi perhaps indefinitely. I didn’t weep because I was confronted with my own darkness, sin, and fears although that would not have surprised me.

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I broke because I am naïve and spent $26.00 on a signed copy of comedian Louie Anderson’s book “Hey Mom: Stories for My Mother but You Can Read Them Too.” Louie Anderson plays a mom, as a man, on the TV show Baskets, a show I have developed a strange affinity for the past few years. I bought the book hoping to laugh. Instead, I read the intro and bawled my eyes out (won’t say for how long).

Yet this shouldn’t surprise me or you because, it is commonly stated that often comedy is birthed from a place of pain. Being able to laugh at the tragic or the familiarly uncomfortable is what allows us to cope. In this book, Louie writes to his mother who is 25 years deceased to recount to her his successes and his regrets as expresses his desires to speak to his mother face to face.

This utterly broke me because it touched on a very raw and vulnerable area of my heart that I have battled with over the last 2 weeks: the leaving behind of those who have known me longest and the fear of losing time that could have been spent with them, spent searching their soul.

It became suddenly real during one of my recent visits to my grandma. After all she is 92 and while healthy, I feared moving now would leave me with less time with her or worse the last time with her. And it became suddenly more real a week out when my dad was quickly and suddenly diagnosed with leukemia and started chemo 2 days before my move.

This news and uncertainty kind of cast this fog or shadow over the move or more so just me. Rather than being able to adequately process it all, I tried to drown it all out or at least find relief because nothing seemed to make sense even if it all made sense. I felt absent in my mind. When decisions become uncertain for me, it’s easy to forget yourself, forget who God has called you to be and sadly forget the intimacy that comes from a relationship with God. I feel like I was underwater slowly forgetting all of it.

It’s easy to turn my back on God when I feel like He has become the author of my distress. And that lie and the forgetfulness that the Devil also exists and is a liar contributed to the fog I lingered in too long.

And while I’m exiting the fog or the darkness of my descent, I now, weep. I weep despite hearing from my parents and brother that they are proud, despite consistently trying to sink back into this place of trust that God will care for the things that I seemingly cannot. I weep because I know how time works and I know it can feel unforgiving or like something slipped through my fingers. And I weep because of my lack of access.

My love language is Quality Time, occupying space with the people I love is important to me, and the new distance is scary.  And the distance becomes scarier without guarantees. I can’t cut this deal with God where I promise I’ll do a good job so long as nothing changes at home. I mostly can’t promise that because I can’t promise to do a good job.

I also can’t just have access to friendships quickly like I had at home. There are so few people in my life, like the Lane’s or the Victor’s or the Andrew Millins that I can call and expect to hear back from or see quickly. There are so rare friends like the ADK squad or the Daniel’s that I rest in assurance that they have me in their prayers and thoughts.

And while my first fear is based on what I could miss at home, my second fear is based on what I could miss here. I’m so afraid to fail at this. I’m so afraid to find out that the first ministry position I was let go from now 7 years ago got it right, and I’m not cut out for vocational ministry. I’m afraid to lay behind things that I was good at and comfortable with only to find out I sabotage the things I feel called to.

I’m afraid of it because I feel like that success and failure is in my hands. And my hands are soft, except for callouses on my upper palms where I hold weights. I have soft hands for someone who worked on a farm and in construction yet doesn’t give a dime about how firm a handshake I have.

And while I very strongly believe my hands were called and created to minister to the hurting and the growing, I weep over the sense of my self-constructed inhibition. I weep over my doubts about God’s plan and that the only measurement of success  that matters in eternity is faithfulness to love and live as Christ.

And I’m also afraid to screw up my new relationships/friendships. I’m so concerned about giving an honest rendition of James/Jimmy Passaro that I often don’t know where to begin. Do I share too much? Did they see me lick my fingers while eating(thanks Dad)? Did I accidentally say something that offended someone? Am I too needy, too worried? Did I listen enough? Did I listen so much that I forgot to share? Am I still in a fog/ in a “wonder where I am” place?

I think what I realize as I read this book and as I look at me in the mirror is:  I am my parents. I learned my disposition and ticks and qualities from them, yet I still have this unique essence that hasn’t changed since childhood.

On Sunday I probably met 40 new people. I even went back to church at night at 4:30 to attend a going away pizza and ice cream party for people from the Church who I never met, only invited through a generic come one out from the pastor from the stage that morning.

Then I played soccer afterwards with more new people from 7-8:45. That is exactly what 4-6-year old Jimmy would have done. He would have just gone anywhere and I tried to meet as many people as possible until he found someone he just clicked with. He would have done this to try to forget the loudness sometime scariness of home.

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Back then it was the loudness and scariness of disunity, now it is the quietness and scariness of the potential loneliness. And that can be scarier unless our okay with yourself. If you have healthy self-worth and a perspective of your purpose, being alone is not so daunting. But if you question that and are alone that isolation can be destructive.

So for the next week until I start work, I have some good practice ahead of me. Learn to live alone while maintaining contact at home while trying to meet new friends without scaring people away and becoming too self-reflective about whether or not I am presentable or worth love from other new people.

God I hope I get this right.