Last July when we moved back to Nashville, some coworkers heard that our son Jack was enrolled in KinderCare, responding with something to the effect of, “Oh, is that the fancy daycare where they let you watch your kid on a hidden camera anytime you want by logging onto their website?”
I find that concept laughable.
That I would pay [x amount] of our income for strangers to care for our child from 7:45 AM to 5: 05 PM every weekday, yet not trust them enough to do so unsupervised, but instead Big Brother style, all day by my wife and me; as we check every 30 seconds on a website to make sure our son is okay.
So, no… my son’s daycare does not have a website where I can watch him on a hidden camera all day; in case I had any doubt that the daycare workers are mistreating and abusing him as seen on some 20/20 or Dateline episode a few years ago.
Whether I want to or not, I have to trust my son with random strangers.
In fact, I had to today. Though wife and I love our megachurch we’ve both been attending for over five years now, over the past couple of months we realized that the check-in process for our son to get into the daycare was so elaborate and detailed, with printed badges and passwords, not to mention the 25 minute drive from our house, that we were willing to try a closer and smaller church that is more practical for us now that we are parents.
One where the childcare program was so simple that there was no paperwork nor name tags nor computers. One where if there was some kind of emergency during the service, someone could just walk around the corner and let us know.
So today, we “tried out” a new church, leaving Jack with random strangers in the church’s toddler room. When we picked him back up an hour later, he was totally chilled and relaxed, eating Cheddar goldfish with random strangers his age. He was fine and the random strangers taking care of him were very kind to him.
Random strangers are random strangers until you get to know them and realize you can definitely trust them; that’s the irony.
During my day job, I work alongside someone I consider a “friendly atheist.” Not the kind who has a passionate agenda of converting me out of Christianity or who is obviously mad at God for not existing. He just simply believes that when we all die… poof! That’s it.
He and I have the kind of mutually respectful relationship where we can curiously ask each other questions about the other’s belief system, without it ever turning volatile or even emotional.
Last Friday I told him, “You simply have more faith than I do; to believe we all just got here by random chance.”
He replied, “You know, Nick; I find it very surprising that you, of all people, believe in Jesus and the Bible and all that stuff. I know you well enough to realize you are a very logical, rational guy. It just doesn’t fit you.”
The truth is, he makes a good point. I have no trouble at all believing in each of the miracles told in the Bible; from God creating Adam from dust, then Eve from his side, to Noah being able to gather two of every kind of animal on the ark, to the virgin birth of Christ, to Him being the Son of God, to Jesus making wine from water, to Him walking on water, to Him dying for the whole world and then raising from the dead. No problem.
Why? Because it’s all miraculous. It’s impossible unless it’s true. That’s logical to me.
Sure, I definitely believe the Bible truly is legitimate and factual.
I’m not the kind of person who only believes the parts of the Bible and God’s teachings that I want to; the ones that are easy to believe and that make me feel good. That’s not me.
Instead, I am a Bible-believing Christian who trusts in Christ alone for eternal life and redemption of all my wickedness, yet with humility I am willing to admit, there are parts of the Bible and its teachings that I struggle with.
Notice I said “struggle with.” I didn’t say I don’t believe or won’t believe. It means there are certain things I have to sort out, by carefully reading the Bible, praying to God to help me understand, reading related commentary books and talking to other Christians about my concerns.
I have this theory that most Bible-believing Christians have at least one particular part of the Bible or Christianity they have always struggled with believing. Mine is the existence of a literal, eternal, fiery hell in which people can never be redeemed.
While I’ve never met a Christian who believes that babies go to hell, it seems to be a popular belief that basically everyone else born in sin who dies not knowing Christ as their savior goes to hell forever.
That includes people in other countries who never heard the Gospel. That includes people who were only exposed to judgmental Christians who condemned them. That includes people who have been abused by their earthly fathers and have a deranged idea of what a loving father actually is.
I simply don’t want to be in a position where I have to decide who goes to Heaven and who doesn’t. But I feel that if hell is the fiery place it’s perceived to be by most Christians and their agreed interpretations of Christ’s teachings, then I sort of am in that position.
This can of worms got opened about a month ago when I read the highly controversial book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, by Rob Bell.
It’s not that I agreed with every thing he said, but he was willing to shed light on my lifelong concerns about the Church’s traditional interpretation of hell. He goes back to every use of the word “hell” in the Bible and focuses on the original Hebrew and Greek words used.
So should I believe that all unbelievers, except babies, go to hell if they don’t believe in Christ by the time they die?
I’m going to give a very unpopular answer:
I don’t know. I have no idea. Yet.
I know that I’m supposed to believe it as an evangelical Christian. But I can’t lie and say in my heart I believe it at this point in my Christian journey.
But I’m trying to figure it out as I reread the teachings of Christ and the Apostles. I’m also reading the book, Erasing Hell, by Francis Chan; which counters the ideas written in Love Wins.
Just for the record, I graduated from a one year Bible college called Word of Life Bible Institute and earned my English degree from Liberty University; the world’s largest evangelical Christian university.
I know the Bible very well. But I can’t stand the thought of believing heresy, whether it’s some trendy author’s flawed interpretation of the Bible, or even the Church’s flawed understanding of Scripture.
Nothing has ever caused me to read the Bible with such passion. As a believer of Christ, I want to know who He truly is.
This is real faith. It’s not about having all the answers. Nor is it being okay with not trying to find the answers.
So what does this have to do with being a dad? Everything.
I want to be able to teach my son everything I have learned about God. My faith is everything to me. As his dad, it’s my responsibility to be the spiritual leader my dad was to me.
So to not understand a major part of my faith is difficult for me to deal with.
Like my atheist friend said, I am a very logical and rational guy. I don’t just believe something because I’m supposed to. I believe because God helps me to.
With good reason, I’ve never been able to legitimately process the double standard of leading a child to believe in Santa Claus while at the same time teaching them not to lie.
It’s interesting how far we have had to stretch the lies, just like with any outrageous falsehood, in order to keep kids believing.
“How does Santa fit down the chimney? How does he fit all the toys in his sleigh? How does he travel the whole world overnight?”
(Insert ridiculous answers here.)
Yes, the legend of Santa Claus was born of Christian folklore, so as a predominately Christian nation, we can rest assured knowing that jolly ole St. Nick has accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Savior. He has been confirmed, baptized, and even has a tattoo of John 3:16 on his arm.
Yet we can’t deny that in the way John Lennon once infamously claimed that the Beatles were bigger than Jesus, the fame of Santa arguably is greater than the actual reason Christmas came to be celebrated in the first place: the birth of Jesus as the prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament.
But can we really get caught up in this particular double standard? Aren’t there other white lies we tell our kids to either A) comfort them or B) entertain them? Yup.
A very traditional white lie I’ve heard parents tell their kids is that when a loved one dies, in particular a grandparent, that person becomes an angel who watches over them in Heaven.
Sorry, the Bible doesn’t say that. I don’t know of any popular religion that actually does.
Besides, what does that even mean? How does Grandpa Murphy “watch over” your kid? Does he part the clouds, look down and see little Jaxon about to run over a stick while riding his bike, so Grandpa sends a few of his buddy angels to kick the stick out of the way just in time, saving Jaxon from crashing his bike?
Sure, the Bible says that there are guardian angels, but we don’t actually become them ourselves after entering Heaven. So it’s a white lie.
It’s a similar thing when a beloved pet dies. Yeah, all dogs go to Heaven, just like that movie that came out when I was in 2nd grade. Cats? Yeah, them too. The goldfish? That’s debatable. Now, let’s stop asking so many questions and finish eating this delicious Hamburger Helper dinner.
Don’t worry, we “helped” that cow go to Heaven quicker and meet all his cow family that were part of those burgers we grilled out last weekend.
Want to read more on the subject? Today I am giving away a copy of the new book, Christmas is Not Your Birthday, to one lucky and curious reader. The book’s author, Mike Slaughter, is the lead pastor of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, Ohio.
Through his church’s annual Christmas Miracle Offering, over $5 million has been raised for humanitarian relief in Darfur. If you ask me, this guy sounds like a real life Santa Claus. Not one that gives toys to kids, but instead someone who helps keep them from dying.
Just be the first person to A) leave a comment on this post saying you want it and B) send me an email including your mailing address to email@example.com
I wonder what it’s like for a family with at least one kid to arrive to church A) on time or even early and B) not get stressed out in the process while C) actually looking put together. Even if it’s a well-crafted illusion, there are families at our church who appear to fit this description. I have a feeling that I’ll never know what it’s like to be them.
We happen to be members of a megachurch in the Nashville area called Brentwood Baptist. I admit, the place is literally the size of a mall. No exaggeration: You could actually drive two SUV’s side by side from one end of the building to the other. Need another comparison? Sometimes it reminds me of the spaceship from the Will Smith movie, Independence Day.
While I can easily see why the idea of a church that monstrous would intimidate a lot of people, the place is a welcoming magnet for newcomers to Nashville. In fact, my wife and I were both attending service there for months before we actually met back in 2006. Instead of feeling out of place in a church that huge, we have always felt its size and diversity has actually helped us both individually and as a married couple find our place.
There is no need to go through the tired routine of why it’s so hard to get to church on time with a kid. If nothing else, it’s just harder to get out of bed on time knowing it’s not a workday. We really have no excuse: Our church has four different services! Even an additional one in Chinese if we ever felt so daring…
My wife and I found an awesome Sunday School class for couples with young kids. It starts at 8 AM. We hardly ever make it, though.
As if our son Jack doesn’t spend enough time in the care of others during the week, it’s difficult to part with him another couple of hours on Sunday. So the reality of it has become this:
Typically we just show up in time for the main service and sit near one of the many corners of the massive hallways where the service is playing on a TV. That way, Jack can run around where there is plenty of space and soft carpet; not to mention plenty of friendly strangers who love to pay him a lot of attention.
Sure, we’d get more out of the service if we took him to our church’s child care, but even if he’s ready for it, we’re not. Besides, I might not have been able to have shot this video of him walking, which first appeared on The Dadabase Facebook Wall.
Yes, you did read that right. No, this isn’t a rerun from March. This coming Saturday on July 16th as Jack turns eight months old, we return to Music City for keeps.
Imagine you’re me. You were raised in the Eighties and were taught that money isn’t everything but that being happy is. You were constantly told that if you really believe, you can achieve your dreams. So at age 29, you decide to choose happiness over money and move your wife and 3 week old son back to your hometown to be close to family. You willingly choose less money and less busyness with the purest intentions.
Enter four months of unemployment, then living from savings despite eventually getting a job. Then after eight months since moving, you come to the realization that it is not a choice to move your family back to Nashville, but simply the only option.
It’s ironic how it took me four months to find a job and how my wife was sent countless rejection letters for all the places she applied, never landing a job that would keep us from dipping into savings every month; yet in a matter of just a few days and few emails, both my wife and I have jobs lined up in Nashville where we will begin Monday, July 18th.
Our former employers are taking us back. It’s that simple. Granted, this means we have to put Jack in daycare. We will barely see him on weekdays because by the time I drive him home from daycare, he will only be awake for an hour before it’s his bedtime.
So, how do I feel about this? Bittersweet.
We came here truly believing that we would be spending the rest of our lives here; thinking it would be the last time we would have to unpack our things. And when it seemed our expectations were being threatened, we only tried that much harder to make this work. But our resistance was futile.
As I have mentioned before, a married man can never stop thinking about his need to provide for his family. So imagine what kind of psychological toil this constant wondering has taken on my own sanity. For the fact we will be able to pay our bills without dipping into what’s left of our savings; well, that’s more relieving than I can say. But yes, we will have to move away from my family and they won’t see Jack as much as they used to.
He and his cousin were going to be attending the same school and be in the same grade. Not now, though. It’s only a 2 and a half hour drive, but still, things will be somewhat different.
By this point, I am nearly emotionless when it comes having to repack our lives again. Because again, it’s not a choice to be made; it’s the only option.
So I am accepting my fate. I was not meant to live in my hometown with my family. Instead, I was meant to live and work in Nashville, one of my favorite cities in the world.
I am choosing to move forward and be positive about it. There have been a lot of things we’ve missed tremendously about Nashville: Our church, our friends, our quirky restaurants, proximity to Country music stars, and surprisingly more than you would think, shopping for groceries at Publix, where shopping is a pleasure.
As much as I enjoyed growing up in my hometown and the great memories I always have, it has ultimately proven to be the wrong fit for the 2011 version of me, which includes my wife and son. And that’s not my hometown’s fault. It’s just that Nashville is simply where we belong.
My wife and I met there. My wife was baptized there. We got married there. Our son was born there. Heck, even this blog was born there.
One of our mutually favorite movies is Away We Go, starring John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph. As they prepare for the birth of their first child, they travel to several cities to figure out where their new home as a family is. It’s obviously very relatable for my wife and me.
After sticking it out this long, we were obviously more than willing to make this thing work in my hometown. But now it’s time to return to where our home, as a family, is.
Need another pop culture reference? This reminds me of the best TV show ever made (and that ever will be made), Lost. Those who crashed on the island were “chosen” by the island for a purpose. Even when six of them eventually found a way to leave and go back to their homes, they ultimately had to return because the island still needed them there.
For us, Nashville is the island. We just need to watch out for those darn polar bears.