Last week as I drove my nearly 2 year-old son home from daycare, I was in a somber trance as I let the music of Live’s Throwing Copper album flow through the stereo speakers of my Honda Element.
As I listened to the 8th track of the album, in which the title itself consists a word deemed too obscene to spoken on cable TV, yet it is the normal word for “poop” in most other countries, I realized that in a couple of years, I probably won’t get to listen to whatever I want to in the car anymore; as least not without giving him some lengthly explanation:
“You see, son, that word is a bad word. You can’t say it in school or at home because you’ll get in trouble. It means the exact same thing as “poop” but, as a society, we collectively give more negative power to the other word, therefore we’re not supposed to say it.
I know that almost sounds conflicting with what I normally tell you about how we shouldn’t care about what people think about us, but this is an exception. We have to go along with the rules of society on this one.”
Type any “cuss word” in the search box on The Dadabase and you’ll probably come up with no related articles. It’s just not my style.
However, I’m not too worried about the words that society chooses as “inappropriate.” I’m less concerned about any particular words and more focused on the messages we send with all words we use instead; as well as the tone we use when we speak.
As a person whose religion teaches him to loves his neighbor as himself, the challenge for me is to refrain from using language that is judgmental, condescending, prideful, or laced in gossip.
To me, that’s the kind of language that is set on fire by the flames of hell. Not the word “hell” itself.
So as my son grows old enough to understand society’s goofy rules on which words we can and can not say, that’s what I’m going to teach him:
“Don’t say those certain ‘cuss words’ because then you’ll get in trouble. More importantly, let’s focus on the words we can say. Let’s find ways to build people up with our words.”
Granted, my words are no good if I’m not already taking my own advice.
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.
Exactly five years ago this very moment, on October 5th, 2006, I met my wife. And that’s exactly what I intended to write about today. I was going to explore how differently our lives would be today if that fateful night at a taping of a CMT show never brought us together and ultimately, how Jack would not be here today as the star of The Dadabase.
But instead, I’m psychologically processing the fact that this is a picture of our recently water damaged living room in our townhouse which we are supposed to be moving back into this weekend. God bless this mess:
And this is actually one of the tamest pictures. The rest are saved on a friend’s digital camera to send to our insurance company, State Farm. But I don’t have the right cord to upload them to my laptop tonight.
Truly, I am the kind of person who avoids drama at all costs. Some people are wired for it, like the people on Facebook who seem to constantly attract romantic partners who are destined to cheat on them. But not me. I duck out every chance I get when it comes to the mindset “why does it always rain on me?”.
Is it “the blogger’s curse” that I am experiencing?
In a cosmic effort to make sure I always have something interesting and relevant to say, must I feel compelled to move back to my hometown in Alabama only to move back so that I can learn to manage my finances better, then literally on the move back to Nashville have one of our cars break down so that we have to buy a new car, only to find that a few days after our renters moved out of our townhouse, that there was a loose washer on the upstairs toilet, causing my thousands of dollars worth of water damage?
Thank God our insurance policy was written up right before this happened and that our deductible is only $500. That goes well with the unexpected $250 I had to pay for two new tires on my car last week because I evidently ran over two nails in the road and the day of work missed last week when my wife was sick.
I get it that that trying times like these only mold us into more mature versions of ourselves. And I totally I am obsessed now with budgeting and saving as much money as I possibly can in every way. So really, I’m over this whole “life lessons” thing for a while. I would love a mental break.
We (jokingly?) said to each other if only pot were legal, tonight would be the night to try it. But then again, we’ve said that inside joke to each other more times than we can remember, throughout all the other challenges we have faced during these past few months.
In this moment, I am not seeking life lessons of self improvement and maturity. I’ll settle for mediocre and immature. Maybe I should start watching reruns of Two and a Half Men.
We are strong and we will soldier on. We may be lost and holding hands, but we’ll find out way out of this mess. It helps that Tom Petty’s song “I Won’t Back Down” has been playing on repeat in my head all day. (“You can stand me up at the gates of Hell but I won’t back down.”) My wife is taking this so much better than she should and I think she’s dealing with it slightly better than me. I am so blessed to have her and our son.
Our house will be repaired with enough (insurance) money; hopefully. But my wife and son are beyond priceless. Thank God for them.
*Editor’s note: I am letting my wife sleep instead of making her correct today’s Dadabase post; considering the circumstances. So do me a favor, leave me a comment for any typos or punctuation errors that you find and I’ll take care of them. Thanks!
“Purgatory is the condition or process of purification or temporary punishment in which, it is believed, the souls of those who die in a state of grace are made ready for Heaven.” -Wikipedia’s definition of “purgatory”
I’ve never actually met anyone who truly believes in purgatory, yet I feel that the general population is familiar with the idea of it.
On the final episode of Lost, the people from the Island who had ultimately lived their lives for the goodwill of others instead of greed and selfishness, reunited and reminisced in purgatory before entering Heaven together.
For those who are not Lost fanatics but like the band Coldplay, in their song “42,” some of the most memorable lyrics include the refrain, “You thought you might be a ghost; you didn’t get to Heaven but you made it close.”
Most of us don’t believe in the actual place, but for me at least, there is something pretty fascinating about the concept. I think it’s so easy in this life, in this culture, in this country, to feel like we are lost, or at least that we don’t belong wherever “here” is. We want to think that we deserve to transcend this lowly and boring situation, asking the question:
“What am I supposed to learn from this? Why am I here?”
My life has been filled with stretches like that. Even right now, my wife and I are having to adjust back to the busyness of our full-time jobs in Nashville, this time with a kid; which is a completely new balancing act for us. We are having to figure out and work out our new lifestyles and schedules, making time not only for the three of us, but for the two of us, as well.
It’s a purification process that is not easy; but it is necessary. We can see how natural it can be to let your kid consume your leftover energy and thoughts, slacking on making conscious efforts to keep the marriage relationship fresh and engaging. But we don’t want our lives to end up like Everybody Loves Raymond.
Ultimately, we are being forced to mature our marriage relationship. This “forced maturity” is sort of the whole point of purgatory. You suffer until you overcome.
Not that I am constantly immature or naive, or maybe I am (?), but I am always needing to grow in a way that I never could have without entering my newest purgatory.
But really, the more I think of the literary device we know as purgatory, the more it just seems like a straight forward yet abstract way to describe life itself; the condition or process of purification or temporary punishmentin which, we are made ready for Heaven, at best.
We may figuratively compare our lives to hell at times, but really, hell is an eternal end; it’s never-ending loneliness and destruction. Purgatory is temporary.
I don’t mind viewing life as purgatory. Until I pass on in to the afterlife, I will always have much more growing up to do, more necessary suffering, and one more level of maturity to reach- even if I live to be 80.
“So take your lessons hard… and when your car crash comes don‘t be misled.” Convince yourself that everything is alright, ’cause it already is.” – “For Nancy” by Pete Yorn
In last week’s cliffhanger episode, I closed by saying that I was counting on a miracle in order to remain in Alabama, knowing that our savings we had been living off of since December 4th would be running out in the next few weeks and that every door and window had closed for us regarding a long term job. And more importantly, I needed a job with good insurance, since there are 3 of us now. I avoid drama at all costs, but in order to be true to the reality of “dad from day one”, I couldn’t play down the real life happenings of coming to terms with the fact that our leap of faith may end with us moving back to Nashville, despite all our efforts to move to Alabama.
That was last Wednesday. It literally felt like my world was collapsing in on me, which I realize is no comparison to the literal collapsing that occurred in Japan last week, but still, it was the most intense thing I have ever lived through. Maybe a better comparison is that it was like being in a car wreck, where I was in the driver’s seat, running the car through a guard rail, causing my family to be flipped upside down a few times as the car rolled over, not knowing if we were looking up or down.
It helped me to literally understand the phrase, “hell of a week”. I never so literally felt such a heavy, demonic presence around me. Not like dark storm clouds and a violent storm; more like a silent, heavy overcast. It was so subtle, yet terrifying. I truly felt that my family was caught between two spiritual worlds- with one army that wanted us here and one army that wanted us gone. With that being said, there must be some serious unseen reason why my family should or shouldn’t be living here in Alabama.
But as I had always expected, the scarier that things got in my real life during this move, it would only make it that much more obvious when God miraculously provided for us. In order for this real life story to be more legit, it had to be obvious that it was no coincidence if things worked out in the end. I, the protagonist, had to be that desperate and completely dependent for God’s intervention. And I couldn’t just paint God as a genie who grants wishes. Also, like Abraham being willing to sacrifice his son Isaac, I had to be willing to give it all up. I had to become humbled more than I ever have before.
As I put it last week, “Perhaps there’s a thin line between bravery and foolishness. The way I see it, that thin line in my case is actually having a steady job.” I could also compare it to that “bankrupt/million/bankrupt” wedge on Wheel of Fortune.
That was last Wednesday. Less than 24 hours later, in what felt like a loopy dream, I found myself in a job interview at the place I truly had my heart set on when I moved here. (Interestingly, this is not the position I referred to last week; this is something completely different.) It’s a Marketing position for one of the world’s largest playground equipment companies. I know it’s the perfect fit for me. Today I took my drug test, so unless there was something extra in the brownies last night, I start this coming Monday (March 28th).
But… the good news isn’t over yet. God is more creative than that for this story.
Something else happened in the past week that is pretty dang awesome. Something that I didn’t initiate. Instead, out of nowhere, I was approached. It’s bigger than just simply having one of my articles or “dad from day one” entries being published in a magazine. I don’t think it would be wise to give away all the details at this point, but just know that it involves me signing a contract, it will take “dad from day one” to a whole new level and audience, it means I will be teaming up with a major publishing company (in a regular paying gig), and it should officially begin within the next month or two…
So, that is what has happened since “Part 1″. What a week. Granted, I realize now more than ever, there is no where telling where anyone may end up for the duration of their lives. I honestly never would have believed that I would ever have moved back to Alabama, or more importantly, that I would ever want to. But as far as my own plans, I want roots again. I want solid ground. I want anchorage. I don’t want to even think about moving again.
Admittedly, I wouldn’t be surprised if all this dramatic struggle is a necessary part of the story of “dad from day one”. With rare exceptions like the movie Napoleon Dynamite, a strong plot is vital to build a solid story line- not to mention, it’s absolutely necessary for character development.
So, will we be moving Jack back to Nashville? With an exciting and fulfilling job starting Monday here in Fort Payne, a big secret “dad from day one” reveal coming up in the next month or so, and a juicy income tax return coming our way soon, I suppose it’s as safe as possible to say that we can keep our anchor down in Alabama.
It’s the ultimate irony that we moved to Alabama to settle down, yet it has been such an unsettling experience until now. And it’s pretty interesting, too, how these doors opened the very week that the winter season ended and the spring season began. Man, the symbolism. The dead of winter surrenders to the resurrected life of spring.
Please, God, let this good ending and new beginning be real.
“You got to go through hell before you get to heaven… ’Cause it’s here that I’ve got to stay.” – “Jet Airliner” by The Steve Miller Band