Gratitude

You don’t have an income or a bedroom that belongs to you.  You don’t have clothes that haven’t been given to you.  So, beautiful son of ours, remember to be thankful because your entire life is still so early and so young that it’s all a gift.

Walking into your room, which I still say is my home office, you are surrounded by gifts, things given, including the words painted on your walls which were done by Auntie Sheila and Uncle Alan.  When you’re able to read those words, they too will remind you that you come from some where, that your life was given to you and given to us.

Everything around you, unearned by you and really unearned by us, is a bold or implicit sign to be grateful.

Listen. Obey.

As your mother told you–and as I’ve said to you before–when we put you into the hands of someone else, that’s the person we trust.  So that’s the person you listen to.

Be it your teachers or other relatives, if you don’t listen to the people we give you to, you’re also not listening to us.  And for now, you have to listen to us.  You don’t get to not listen.  And not just because we’re bigger than you.  We actually know more than you.

We know that when you do your own thing, that thing is still so underdeveloped that it makes no sense in the world.  One day that will change.  One day you have more choices than you do time.  One day you’ll pick the menu and the shoes and the time we leave and return.  But you don’t drive.  You don’t know the city’s grid.  You don’t understand the nuances of roasting a chicken, even if you’re a good sous chef.

So, hear me, hear your mother.  And we’ll let you stay with us.  If you don’t listen, you’re only a quick walk from the Swansons, a short drive from either of our mothers, the full house with your cousins and my brother, a spot next to Champ’s cage at your other uncle’s, or slightly longer commutes to your aunts.  I’m sure even Grammie will take you if we call her and say you’re on a flight.  But I’m also certain those lovely people will have similar expectations.  And they–though they may fight me on the point–will not love you nearly as much as me and your mother.

Intimate Partners, Violence, and Other Related Things

There is a misconception that abuse is limited to physicality (or heterosexual relationships) but it’s not.  I believe emotional, psychic and psychological abuse is also unacceptable and just as damaging.

There is so much worth rehearsing in our heads, pushing into our ways of being, and practicing in our relationships in those words and in the post below.  I’ve been encountering more conversations about intimate partner violence, relational abuse, domestic violence, whichever brand you’re familiar with.  And among the many things I question and consider, I come back to how I’ll raise my son to live in the world.

But I’m a pastor and a teacher, and I always (and almost immediately) question what I’m saying and showing and putting forward for the people who are a part of my spheres of ministry and influence.  I hope the men especially that I know are doing the same things as they listen to the news, watch television, and engage in barbershop talk.

The sinister evil of abuse is in its pervading, serpent-like ability to creep and dance and stand in culture as if it belongs, as if the world is as it should be when people harm one another.  Of course, it is a part of my faith structure, my theology, my talk about God-in-relation-to-God’s-stuff to say that the world is not exactly the way it should be and that such violence is only a grand, bold, and startling show of how bad the world is in these instances.

Relational violence is a narrow version of violence, and violence in its broadest sense is wrong and misdirected and worth our being troubled over and changed by.  But this type of violence, this violence that happens between people who supposedly love each other, people who are related to each other, is so destructive.

I tell couples in my church who are preparing for marriage that marriage is so potentially and actually effective, for good or bad, because marriage is one of those mystical vehicles that God uses to initiate, enrich, or nurture grace in our lives.  Of course, I can say about other vehicles and not marriage alone, but my point is to say that the impact of marriage is in its strong placement in our lives.  We do marriage daily, and when we give ourselves to certain practices daily, those practices–loving practices, misshapen practices, and so forth–eventually because the ways we get whatever we perceive God has for us.

Further, or in other words, marriage specifically and loving relationships more broadly construct how we understand, accept, and exhibit love.  Those relationships influence and shape us.  So when those relationships are inherently and historically violent, we attach all types of meanings to that violence in the context of a relationship, right?

We think that relationships are supposed to be violent and that when violence isn’t present, the relationship is off.  We believe worse things, too, like our prospects for better love or different love are low.  We set ourselves into a theological or psychological framework to judge our love and our promise-keeping by our settling with abuse.  We believe our faith demands that loyalty and commitment be expressed through the daily submission of our whole selves to the foolish presentation of hatred through words and gestures and the lack of good words and good gestures.

I’m grateful for all the good teachers and tutors who help me walk through the conversations (hushed though they may be) happening in the media these days.  This post–and perhaps all the posts over at the Crunk Feminist Collective–needs to make its rounds.  Read the full post here.  And share it.

The Year of the Child

And you have come,

Michael Ahman, to share

your life with us.

We have given you

an archangel’s name–

and a great poet’s;

we honor too

Abyssinian Ahman,

hero of peace.

May these names

be talismans;

may they protect

you, as we cannot, in a world that is

no place for a child–

that had no shelter

for the children in Guyana

slain by hands

they trusted; no succor

for the Biafran

child with swollen belly

and empty begging-bowl;

no refuge for the child

of the Warsaw ghetto.

What we yearned

but were powerless to do

for them, oh we

will dare, Michael, for you,

knowing our need

of unearned increments

of grace.

I look into your brilliant eyes, whose gaze

renews, transforms

each common thing, and hope

that inner vision

will intensify

their seeing.  I am

content meanwhile to have

you glance at me

sometimes, as though, if you

could talk, you’d let

us in on a subtle joke.

May Huck and Jim

attend you.  May you walk

with beauty before you,

beauty behind you, all around you, and

The Most Great Beauty keep

you His concern.

By Robert Hayden (For his Grandson)