When you see us dropping the kids off at school in our slippers – a little shot of whiskey in our coffee – have pity.
The divorce rate for stay at home dads is significantly higher than marriages where dad brings home the bacon.
This is not a happy place.
A few years ago, I was working as a pastor, with a cozy little web business on the side. Since my schedule was more flexible than my wife’s, I was on tap for getting the kids to and from school.
But our kids were struggling. They’re all adopted, still crossing swords with the aftershocks of whatever they experienced before coming home to us. They needed one parent to go full-time.
And I was blown-up tired.
My wife’s career is a bigger deal than the one I had scratched out, and far more lucrative, so I drew the short straw, passed the web business off to a girl I had been working with, and stepped down as a pastor – which was a good thing. I’ve never been good at pastoring.
I’ve had lots of career dreams and aspirations in my life. Stay at home dad never made the list. Read more →
We got in a huge fight about 2 months into our dating relationship.
She said something akin to “debt is wrong.”
I, having a relationship with debt that closely resembled my relationship with oxygen, got offended by this. Most of my friends had insane credit card balances too.
I seriously reconsidered breaking things off – having such a fundamental difference of perspective might get toxic. So I went to my pastor to discuss…
He did a really good job of listening to my side of things, which led me to believe that I was in the right, and should consider a different direction with this relationship.
Then he turned a complete 180, called me a freakin’ idiot for entertaining the idea of me, breaking things off with a smart, beautiful woman who happens to have a super healthy view of money. Strongly implied in this dressing-down was the idea that someone like me was super lucky to find someone like her. Read more →
Our youngest daughter was 8 months old when we adopted her from an orphanage in Ethiopia. She had some difficult trauma to navigate, and it would take time to win the right to be Dad.
One week later, as she lay on her changing table, we locked eyes for a moment. She seemed to be thinking, “Maybe this guy’s legit.”
All I could think was, “This kid’s black.”
I was completely taken by surprise.
I grew up in the metro Dallas area in the 70’s and 80’s. Jim Crow was 10 years out of its misery on my birthday, but Northeast Texas was still a difficult place for people of color. I entered my teens desperately seeking the approval of the cool crowd, which always poked fun at black people. There were never any black kids in our squad, and we seldom talked about them without invoking the n-word.
When I became a Christian, I was introduced to a new crowd, one that didn’t value disparaging others. My outward racism quickly ground to a halt, but the damage had been done. Like most of my friends, I lived with a very firm conviction:
there must be something wrong with black people.
Decades later, staring into my daughter’s huge, coffee-brown eyes, I was confronted with the racial prejudice I had engaged, entertained, and tolerated most of my life.
I eventually fell in love. I became her father—in her eyes and mine. I can’t imagine any kid, even a biological kid, feeling more like my kid than this kid. I see a human being, wrapped in beautiful brown skin, with all the potential of any other person.
But my feelings for this one black person had me convinced that my prejudice against all black people had been put to bed.
Living in the Wrong Story
Like so many in America, I’d come to believe that if blacks can’t make life work, it’s their fault. We’ve adopted a mountain of legislation to protect them. They’re now more educated and empowered to pursue their dreams than ever before.
I saw prisons full of blacks, and my favorite news outlets were often awash with the misdeeds of ne’er-do-well nonwhite folk. The voices I trusted reassured me over and over again, “there must be something wrong with black people.”
A few years after my daughter came home, I was introduced to an entirely different story when my exasperated non-white spouse encouraged me to read a book.
Ten years ago, author, lawyer, and social activist Michelle Alexander claimed that our criminal justice system is recklessly skewed against the black community. Her book, The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, is a mob of statistics, history, personal narratives, and testimonies that I had a hard time believing.
So I fact-checked her over-the-top story. It was 10 years old after all. Maybe things had changed.
I spent 6 months poring over crime, arrest, incarceration, and drug use information provided by the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Few would argue their legitimacy.
I wish I hadn’t looked.
There’s no need to recount the studies, charts, and other proof that our country has a big problem here. People like Michelle Alexander have been vocal about this for years—their work is now a quick internet search away. I was shocked and embarrassed to learn that I’d been in the dark for so long.
All of this was accompanied by a bit of righteous anger. I had just been introduced to our country’s morass of racial inequities, and began to think about how I might do my part to change things.
A racist person wouldn’t do that, right?
Emancipated by a Large Group of Black People
We now have two kids from Ethiopia, both attending an inner-city school near our house. Every morning, we walk through hallways jam packed with black people, then sit in a crowded auditorium waiting for teachers to gather their classes.
My racist inner voice goes off the chain in these spaces, telling unflattering stories about people I’ve never met, simply because of the color of their skin. That woman looks like she’s still in her pajamas—lazy. I wonder if that guy’s in a gang—criminal. Look at that piece-of-junk he’s driving—irresponsible.
I’ve since gotten to know a few of the parents, some of the teachers, the principal. Where I used to see people who need to clean up their acts, I’m starting to see heroes who have a mountain of barriers stacked against them. Many could be playing the victim, but aren’t.
I’m adopting a new understanding about the black community. But the old story is still there, and won’t leave without a fight. Each morning, I engage in a sort of emotional-intellectual war, trying to give this new story space to grow roots.
I’m still tempted to believe that my racism has been put to bed. But if I’ve learned anything, it’s that I’ll always have work to do. Once you embrace this spirit, it’s super hard to get rid of.
I don’t think I’ll ever be done.
What’s Missing in Our Attempts at Reconciliation
While I’m ashamed to share my predicament, I know I’m not alone. There is no shortage of voices claiming that racism is a problem among people of faith. A growing number of these are white Evangelical authors, scholars, and pastors.
We should listen. Every time the spirit of racism has taken hold of a country, the devout are often its unwitting supporters. It is arrogant to believe that us church folk are immune.
It’s not that we don’t care about justice, equity, and solutions to our segregated Sunday mornings. These topics have been growing in popularity for years. As a seminary-trained church leader, I’ve had numerous conversations about our responsibility here. And we’ve made some unprecedented strides.
But we typically excuse ourselves from the question: “Are we racist?” Me? You?
We don’t feel racist. And we get mad enough when the topic of systemic racism is broached. Imagine how angry we’d get during a sermon on personal racism.
It’s not a question we should be skipping.
I have an elderly friend, Miss Asie, who was raised by sharecroppers in Mississippi long ago. I asked what she thought would be more powerful: whites and blacks going to church together and fighting racial inequity, or white Christians dealing with their own racism?
She chose the latter.
There are lots of us. White Evangelicals occupy one of the most powerful demographics on the planet. If we were able to somehow manage mass-repentance, Asie knows that mountains would move.
As discussions about racial healing become more prominent in our churches, it’s mission-critical for each of us to back up and ask:
Do I have negative feelings about the black community?
Do I say “All Lives Matter” because I feel like blacks exaggerate their experiences with racism?
Do I feel like blacks are mostly lazy, uneducated, entitled, criminal?
Do I tell myself stories about people I don’t know simply because of the color of their skin?
Am I racist?
I asked that question, diabolical as it is, and never imagined the answer would be yes. I have black friends, black children. I’ve been to multiple meetings about racial equity, reconciliation, and integration. I’ve marched in the MLK marade on Colfax with my friends from Black Lives Matter.
It was a difficult thing to admit, and began for me a journey of repentance that’s been less-than-cozy. But the power and clarity that came with the pain have been well worth it.
I had no idea how free I wasn’t.
Now, I’m left with some deep concerns about the impact that racism is having on our attempts to bring healing. Would our reconciliation campaigns find new freedom, power, and success if they were accompanied by repentance at the personal level?
Is our racism holding us back?
This unholy spirit has constrained our country since day one. It chained me up for years. I have no problem believing that it’s constraining God’s church as well.
When I was in grad school I had a crush on a girl who I thought had a crush on me. When I asked her out in the library she squirmed a bit and said, “Hmmm… I’ll need to pray about that.”
I said, “Oh, yeah, OK” and walked away feeling like the biggest idiot this side of the Mississippi.
A few days later, while I was studying in same said library, a girl I knew walked by and asked me if I was going to go on a school-sponsored trip to Mexico. I said I had a ton to do and wouldn’t be able to make it.
We talked for a bit about life. She said she was taking a break from med school to take a few missionary classes at our seminary.
When our conversation wrapped up, she walked away and I thought “wow, that was the most amazing conversation I’ve ever had.” To this day I can’t get that girl out of my mind.
And you can bet your ass I went on that Mexico trip.
When I came home from the trip, Prayer girl decided that she wanted to date me, so we started hanging out. But I couldn’t stop thinking about Amazing girl.
Questionable at best to date one girl while being interested in another – but these were my days of confusion.
And I’ll never forget the night I decided to break up with Prayer girl and start dating Amazing girl. Read more →
I wish I would’ve learned this in my 30’s, it would’ve saved so much grief, frustration, relational entropy – emotional energy.
I’ve spent most of my life believing that situation determines happiness – the right job, a good boss, money, etc. I’ve had multiple careers as a result – nothing salves a crappy life better than a drastic change.
There have been some fun moments, tons of things to be learned, not many of which have helped in my latest career – Stay At Home Dad (SAHD). Regardless of where I’ve landed vocationally, there’s always been a nagging compulsion to change everything as soon as life becomes stale, boring, unjust, or downright bad.
Feeling like I can’t be happy until things change has always made me downright bitter, especially in those times where I was powerless to change things. There’s nothing worse than being stuck, feeling like you’re supposed to be somewhere else.
Everything changed in my late 40’s when I was assaulted in a men’s airport restroom.
I left my wife at the gate with 3 ancy kids, hoping to be back in time to board. This particular facility was attended by a soon-to-be elderly gentleman of Middle-Eastern descent. Read more →
We no longer answer to grandma’s prudish sensibilities. We have more money, a better grasp of our physical universe, and much, much more freedom than any generation before us.
We’re more mature than we used to be, like the way a teenager is more mature than a six year old.
That’s a good thing. If we can grow out of it.
In the meantime, here’s a short list of big things that betray our country’s teenage tendencies.
Smarter Than We’ve Ever Been, and More Arrogant
Our knowledge of the universe stretches far beyond our ancestors’ – and is growing at breakneck speed.
But every time we make a huge discovery, we simultaneously uncover ten times as many unknowns, stacked upon the vast universe of unknowns that already exist. We should be humbled by this, but we’re not. And the stuff we don’t know? Psssht. We’ll soon figure it all out. Read more →
To my knowledge, I’ve only had one neighbor that hated my guts.
And I hated her back.
My wife and I had just bought our first house, in Denver, a place where the cheapest houses aren’t very cheap. You’d think after paying all that $$ you’d at least get a decent neighbor.
On our first night, Elaine called my attention to the old, beat up, crappy van that was parked in full view of our living room window. Our neighbor parked it in front of our house because she didn’t want to look at it from her living room window.
She was older, super wealthy, apparently, and kept the old van for sentimental reasons. I never said anything about it – felt too weird to begin our relationship with a complaint.
That was the first of many annoyances.
At the time, I was attempting to start a church – something I would later learn I’m not very good at. I was stressed out most of the time and didn’t have much time for the people closest to me, much less a crazy neighbor.
Long story short, all the bad neighbor stuff she threw my way I returned in kind.
After a few years, things finally blew up.
My dog yipped a few times from our porch one evening and bad neighbor let me have it – she YELLED, standing in her yard, loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear.
At this point, I wasn’t just fed up with her, Read more →
Last year, walking on the beach in Costa Rica, I had an epiphany. Maybe the reason I was feeling so bad was because I was 40 pounds overweight. I made (another) commitment to drop the pounds, got on the plane, and got to work.
But this time I did it differently
The Problem with Quick Weight Loss Plans
The first thing I decided to change was my level of commitment. A quick weight loss goal requires no long term commitment to losing weight. Even if you manage to lose weight, it’ll come back because there’s been no real change in attitude.
I highly, HIGHLY recommend that, instead of committing to lose 10 pounds in a month, commit to losing 1 pound a week for 10 weeks. That will require something a quick weight loss plan doesn’t require.
Some random nobody from nowhere shows up on the Judean countryside, rounds up a group of losers that nobody in their right mind would ever listen to, and turns everything upside down, for generations to come.
He claimed to be the “messiah” that the Old Testament prattles on about. That’s crazy.
He claimed to be God. His followers would later write, “yep, it’s true, He was God.” That’s crazy.
His followers also claimed that this nobody would die and remove the “sins of the world.” All of them – past, present, future, yours mine, etc. Crazy.
Top it off with the whole resurrection thing and Christianity gets really close to the top of the world’s craziest religions list.
Maybe that’s why so many Christian people are crazy.
When I first drank the christian Kool Aide, I was going crazy. My Baptist girlfriend had just dumped me at a local breakfast establishment, my dreams of becoming a military pilot had been dashed to bits, and I was deep in the throes of PTSD from something horrible that had happened years prior. Read more →
I have limited emotional energy reserves with a side of three children – I have to be super careful with my worries, fears, etc.
So, a few years ago I made some pretty massive changes to the way I think about the opinions of others. I’ll invite/encourage you to do the same. But a quick disclaimer:
These are simple steps, and I promise that they’ll make perfect sense to you, but they’re not easy. Turns out I had become a bit addicted to the things that kept me chained to my perception of how others thought about me. Little about what follows was a quick, easy, “change of mind” kind of thing.
Insecure About Something That Never Mattered
I’ve been worrying about this for a long time – millions of hours spent sweating over my mistakes and shortcomings – how others might be talking about me, or laughing.
My habit began in middle school. I was a “dork,” surrounded by other kids who loved to poke fun about the way I looked, or something stupid I did. I had no idea how to handle it, so I agreed with them, and accepted their labels.
Like so many in our culture, I entered adulthood believing that I was only good if others thought I was good. If someone hated me, or laughed at me, that meant I was bad, and it hurt. The opinions of other people began to matter way more than they should have.
Having lived like that for most of my life, I can now declare with the utmost confidence that the negative opinions of others don’t matter. Worrying about them doesn’t “work.” It doesn’t do anything but bad things. Read more →