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Prayer and Daddy Issues

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The message at church on Sunday was on prayer, specifically the part in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus tells his followers the difference between a good prayer and a bad one right before giving the example known as the Lord’s Prayer. The pastor today made several good points about what prayer is supposed to be like and laid out a few things that were meant to encourage us to pray.

I’ve never been good at praying. For some reason it’s always felt so uncomfortable to me to talk to God the way we’re encouraged to by Jesus himself. The thing that is supposed to make it easy to pray is that Jesus refers to God as “your Father” who already knows what you want and who has your best interest at heart. What’s gotten me stuck for so many years is that it’s hard for me, and I imagine for others who grew up this way, that picturing God as a good and loving father is a completely foreign concept. I think I’ve talked about this before, but I’ve finally been able to conjure up an apt analogy.
Maybe some of you grew up like this, maybe you didn’t, but did you ever have a friend whose dad was maybe just a bit scarier than yours when you were a little kid? Like maybe he was a bigger guy, or had a more intimidating look,or didn’t smile as much, or maybe just smelled more like alcohol or cigarettes than your own dad. That’s how every dad was for me when I was a boy for the simple reason that there was a masculine authority there that was completely unfamiliar to me. For me, praying to THE HEAVENLY FATHER feels like approaching my friend’s dad to ask for a favor that he doesn’t owe me. When you grow up without a dad (or with a super crappy one, I’d imagine) it skews your perception of who God says he is for the simple fact that our feeble minds can’t comprehend who God actually is and have to draw comparisons to familiar ideas. God is consistently referred to as a father throughout the Bible which says two things to me: that we are to see Him as approachable and loving, and that fathers have an incredible and important responsibility/opportunity in their child’s lives.

To me, praying is still in my mind the equivalent to interrupting my friend’s dad while he’s busy with his own kids to ask a favor I’m not owed. My honest hope (and prayer, I guess) is that through being an earthly father myself I’ll begin to better understand what a good loving father really looks like and feel more at ease approaching my own Father.

Written by matt

February 12, 2013 at 8:53 pm

(Nothing to do with New Year’s)

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I’m finally getting around to reading the Steve Jobs biography that came out over a year ago. I’ve only read the first several chapters so far, but as I expected there’s tidbits that spin my little brain.

The thing that really got me thinking showed up in the first few pages. It’s a widely known fact that he was adopted at birth. He had grown up knowing that. According to the book, the first time Jobs had a negative reaction about being adopted was when a fellow child had asked him if that meant this his real parents didn’t love him enough. His adoptive parents made it a point to instill in him that it wasn’t that anyone didn’t love him, it was that they chose him because he was so special.

At this point in the book, the biographer tries to probe Jobs and people who had been close to him about his true feelings about the fact that he was adopted. His friends had recounted several instances of Jobs saying that he had a hard time with feeling like he had been out and out abandoned and how terrible that felt. Jobs’ own words were that his parents had always told him how special he was and that he knew he was usually the smartest guy in the room. He said that his being adopted didn’t really affect him and that his biological parents were nothing more than sperm and egg donors.

I grew up saying the same thing about my dad; that he was a sperm donor and that’s all I ever thought of him as.

There’s a scene in “The Dark Knight Rises” where the young cop (whose character’s name completely eludes me right now) who grew up in an orphanage confronts Bruce Wayne about being Batman. He tells Bruce that they had met before when he was still at the orphanage. He remembers Bruce getting out of his limo and smiling huge for all the other orphan boys, which is how he starts to piece together that Bruce is actually Batman. The young cop knows that every one of those orphans has a bit of a dark side to them that they practice hiding so that the rest of world doesn’t shut them out, and he had practiced faking that same big smile that he saw on Bruce that day.

I call your bluff, Steve.

Written by matt

December 31, 2012 at 9:05 pm

“So, how’s does it feel to be a dad??”

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I’ve never heard that question prior to six weeks and five days ago. Now, it’s all I can do to go a day without being asked that. It doesn’t bother me. I’m sure most people have questions they get asked all the time. Being in a touring band for a good long time you get very used to hearing the same questions all the time and so get used to having your awesome (and always witty) stock answer ready to deploy. I’ve been answering this question since he was born and for the first time with one of these types to questions, I’ve probably answered differently every time I’ve been asked. There’s simply not a good (conversationally short) answer that could really communicate everything I’ve been feeling. This blog is my attempt at really explaining how I feel so far about being a dad.

First, there’s the wide range of emotions. Now, a year ago, after spending some months in counseling I would occasionally make the joke of, “Yeah, counseling is going great. I’m up to four feelings now.” Having a kid has kind of opened the flood gates as far as that’s concerned. I’ve felt things I didn’t know were even possible. Here’s a small sampling of the different feelings I’ve recently experienced:

-Absolute joy at seeing my son for that first time
-The weight of knowing God holds me responsible for him
-Euphoric peace when we take naps together
-Frustration at not being able to figure why he’s crying this time
-Sadness at seeing him cry with his little lower lip quivering
-Immense pride whenever he does anything
-Deeper love than I thought possible watching my wife be such an amazing mother to him
-Out and out rage towards my father for choosing anything else than what I get to experience with my son
-Curiosity about what my son is going to be like as he grows up
-Surprised at how much I’m not grossed out by all his bodily functions that need constant attention
-Sheer unadulterated exhaustion

That’s just a sampling and it’s already more than double my previous number of feelings.

Before having my son, I would ask new dads all the time what it felt like to be a dad and a recurring theme was them saying that there’s no words that can do it justice; that it was so intense they couldn’t really explain it. Being on this side of it now, I think I understand what they meant by that.

Do you know what white noise is? Or the snowy static that used to come on old analog TV’s? It’s not really the absence of a certain picture or frequency, it’s actually every frequency on display at once. The TV static is every light frequency at once and white noise is every audio frequency all at once. Part of the reason it’s been so hard to accurately tell people how it feels to be a dad is because of the number of emotions involved. The hardest thing to explain is that I’ve literally felt every emotion I’m capable of feeling all at the same time all the time. It is, in a very real sense, a constant white noise of emotions.

I think I have my witty stock answer for when people ask me that now.

Written by matt

August 28, 2011 at 9:04 pm

Reflections on a Father’s Day

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(I wrote this late Sunday night, but haven’t gotten to finish it until today.)

I really wanted to have a great blog post for Father’s Day. It’s been my entire life that I’ve seen this day as something that I’m left out of, and this year is the first one that I’ve gotten to celebrate. Despite the fact that it started out with so much promise, it ended with a bit of a letdown.

This was the first Father’s day that I really feel like I got to celebrate instead of doing my usual reflections on my abandonment issues. My lovely, nine-months-pregnant wife made me breakfast this morning and really went out of her way to emphasize how much of a great dad she thinks I’ll be. She knows what this day has meant to me previously and what it gets to mean to me now. I even (coincidentally) got a very welcome surprise phone call from my sister. It turns out one of my brothers is also expecting a baby only a few weeks after me. Lastly, I had a show tonight and that always puts me in a good mood.

About halfway through the four hour drive though the day took kind of a weird left turn. I’ll spare you the gritty details, but suffice it to say that there were many phone calls and frantic text messages with a few more (likely) uncomfortable phone calls in my near future.

I tend to be a “live and let live” kind of guy for the most part. The phone calls will be uncomfortable for me because it’s the opposite of that, but it’s for the good of myself, my wife, and very soon, my son. And it’s just not fair. It has so little to do with me and I don’t want to do it and I shouldn’t have to.

That’s the trick, though, isn’t it?

The more I learn about what it means to be a man and a father, the more I hate that I would much rather just let things go at the risk of those things negatively affecting my family. I’m beginning to understand on so much a different level of what it means to sacrifice for your family and to lead and protect those who God places under you. This isn’t to excuse them, but I’m even better understanding why so many men just check out of the whole thing: it’s really freaking hard.

I’m not gonna check out though. The first reason is accountability, meaning everyone who reads this gets to administer a very serious ass kicking if I ever do check out. Another reason is that is that I’m already beginning to feel rewarded by doing the occasional really tough thing. I get to look at my wife and see how much she loves and trusts me, and one day I may get to see that from my son.

Written by matt

June 19, 2011 at 11:53 pm

Late Night Thought

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I often wonder what would happen if I truly felt free to write the things I feel like I need to.

Alright, I can’t end this week with that one sporadic and depressing thought. Instead, I’ll leave with a thank you to Karl over at guitarforworship.com for his amazingly kind words on his last post. I also have to say thank you to the entire team over at Newsong Church in Irvine for having me be a part of their Easter services and welcoming me and my wife as family. I feel extremely blessed by both of these parties and I honestly haven’t felt so loved by so many people as I have over the past week.

Written by matt

April 25, 2011 at 1:40 am

State of the Blog Address or something…

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I do the utterly vain thing that I’m sure almost all bloggers do but none seem to talk about: I check my site stats. I can see how many people have visited my blogs and read my posts. The number is very low. Sometimes I can get a little bummed about that; like my words and thoughts are so valuable and deserve to be read by more than an average of four people a day.

First, I have to remember that I’m not that much of a genius or a writer that I need to be heard by more than a handful of people. Frankly, I don’t know of too many that are. Second, I have to admit that some of my thoughts (and, let’s be honest, ramblings) maybe aren’t good for too many people to read. For example, due to a change in privacy policies or something, some people’s Twitter accounts no longer automatically update their Facebook profiles. This is what’s happened to me, and I’m feeling almost relieved by that. I now feel like I have fewer people to potentially (and probably) offend. Maybe even fewer infuriating comments to sift through.

Here’s hoping that what I write from now on will be more focused and worthwhile to the precious few people who take minutes out of their lives to read this nonsense.

Happy Balentimes everyone!

Written by matt

February 12, 2011 at 7:13 pm

I don’t call, I don’t write…

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It probably seems like I haven’t written anything in a while, but I have. A newer friend of mine has inspired me to create an entirely separate blog focused on the ins and outs of musicianship, specifically playing bass, in a church setting. I’ve been posting over there recently, and it’s been quite fun to put down my thoughts about that otherwise boring subject in a place where it’s (maybe) not so boring. It’s also been a nice exercise in “technical” writing.

That’s not what I came here to write about tonight though. I’ve begun to notice something in my life that needs definite work. At this point, I’ve realized that I’m not awesome at relationships for a couple reasons. The first reason is one that I’ve actually written about here before, which is that I tend to not be overt with my verbal communication. This is something I’m excited to have figured out now and not when my kid is a teenager wondering why I never told him I love him. The other reason is that laziness is one of those deep down root problems in my life.

What I’m figuring out is that I’m not a very good friend to people because I never take the first step. I never really take the initiative to talk or hang out with people I care about. Sadly, the reason for that is most often that I’m just too lazy to pick up the phone. It’s quite easy to blame some of that on the fact that my schedule is not anywhere close to what most people’s are, but that should only necessitate me making more of an effort. It’s not anyone else’s fault that this is the life I chose. Also, it’s not like there aren’t a million ways of non-intrusively getting in touch with someone. I can only imagine what kind ruined friendships I’d be responsible for if I had to sit down and physically write a letter to keep in touch with someone. (If this blog is any indication, I’d need to buy stock in white-out.) I really want to blame culture for my poor relationship skills, too. I mean, how could I possibly be expected to keep up with the 300 friends I have on facebook? That’s BS too though. All that does is make it way easier to keep up with 300 people.

I rely way too much on waiting to run into people or on them making that first move to call or text or something. I’m actually starting to wonder how many people I’ve inadvertently pushed away because of that. I haven’t spoken to my half-siblings in probably two years for no other reason than I apparently can’t be bothered to make a stupid phone call. I don’t even communicate with the guys in my small group outside of when we meet. That’s just bad. The scary part is that now that I’m starting to really put all this together, I’m responsible for it.

So how does a lazy person be a purposefully better friend to the people he truly cares about?

Written by matt

January 31, 2011 at 9:10 pm