Why do we dedicate our children?

This coming Sunday, Laura and I will stand before our congregation and have Micah “dedicated to the Lord.”  In every church that I have attended (of which I consider Grace to be the fourth), we have this phenomenon of having two ragged parents up on the platform, handing over their screaming baby to the pastor, whom he subsequently prays over and quickly hands back before something comes spewing out of its mouth.

Although it may be the cynic in me, I tend to believe that this is one of those many rituals that is done out of habit in the Church, with any underlying or historical meaning lost in the trendy clothes, the photo ops, and the laughably cute behavior of the baby.  So why do we dedicate our children?

I’m sure part of it stems from a lack of other rituals that other off-shoots of the Judeo-Christian brand have.  We aren’t circumcising our sons on the eighth day as the Jewish people do (and why should we?).  As good and proper credo-baptists (i.e., those that hold to believer’s baptism), we do not perform any sprinkling or pouring on our infants, welcoming them into God’s covenantal family as most other churches stemming from the Reformation do.  Nor do we catechize and administer first Communion as the Romans do.

So what is a Bible-believing, born from above, credo-baptist to do?  Or, probably better, why have Laura and I decided to “dedicate our children?”  The answer is not to parade them up front and watch the congregation ooh and aah.  For us, the answer is in the way Jace, the senior pastor at Berean Bible Church (church 3 of 4), always described it.  It’s less about dedicating the child, and more about dedicating the parents.

To be sure, the Bible talks about Hannah dedicating Samuel to God after his birth.  Joseph and Mary presented Jesus to God.  But in as much as we are presenting Micah to the Lord, it is ultimately our son’s choice later in life whether to follow in that path.  I tend to think that both Samuel and Jesus were exceptional cases.  What I’m interested in is what I have a stake in:

Are Laura and I committed to raising our sons in the nurture and admonition of the Lord?  (whoa, KJV tradition poking through…)  Are we recognizing that, while we are the primary spiritual caretakers of these boys, we still need help in the process?  Are we asking for accountability and encouragement along the way from those that we do life with?

The answer to all of these is yes.  We need the Sunday School teachers, and the nursery workers, and the youth leaders, and every one else that volunteers their time in order to contribute to the spiritual well-being of our boys!  We rely upon our family members.  We need our friends.  We humbly request that you build us up when we are at our wit’s end, and that you point out to us when we seem to be lacking in any given area.

This is why, at least on our part, why we are doing what we’re doing on Sunday.  Yes, we’ll dress spiffy, take a few pictures, go out to eat afterwards, and hopefully not have any meltdowns in the process.  But in the end — make no mistake — this is about our promise to God and our boys, and asking our fellow believers to help us in the process.  We are dedicating ourselves to the task.

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unless the LORD watches over a city…

I’m sure most parents have been there.  Life is crazy and chaotic when you bring a newborn home.  You are constantly on edge from all the crying and fussing.  Yet, just as you are falling into a deep sleep, you realize that you haven’t heard the baby cry, whimper, or fart in ten minutes.  You roll out of bed to make sure the baby is still breathing.  Even with our two-year-old, who now sleeps on the other side of the house basement, there are nights when I go totally OCD on checking the locks on all the doors and windows, and I lay in bed thinking of scenarios of how I could rescue him if the house caught on fire.

Yesterday, I dropped said two-year-old off at my parents’ house for a few days, and he loves the pool.  I’ll admit, it made me nervous.  It makes me nervous that he can open doors and climb steps and *bam* there’s the pool.  It’s not that I don’t trust my parents, it’s that freak accidents happen, and I know because I’ve seen more than enough in my close circle.

It can drive a parent crazy.  And every time it starts to drive me crazy, I hear the voice in my head quote Psalm 127:1…

Unless the Lord watches over a city, the watchman stays alert in vain.

Daniel and MicahMy boys are not my children.  Well, I suppose they are in the sense that they are my physical offspring, but in the spiritual sense, I am merely their caretaker.  Their pedagogue.  A man given a stewardship by God, for which I will be held accountable.  I find it intriguing that the same psalm goes on to say in v. 3:

Children are a gift of the Lord, the fruit of the womb is a reward.

Everything we have has been given to us by God, and the day will come when we as believers will be judged, not to determine whether or not we have eternal life, but to evaluate what we did with what we were given (Luke 19:11-27Matt 25:14-30; 1 Cor 3:12-162 Cor 5:10).  Children are one of those things that we have been given.  At the end of the day, I cannot protect them to the extent that I would like, and I surely cannot extend the grace of eternal life to them.  I cannot make them choose good and turn from evil.  My responsibility is to train them up in the way they should go (Prov 22:6), which is plenty difficult enough.

When it comes to their health, safety, and well-being, though, I can only do so much.  I can only cover so many outlets and lock so many doors, and put so many bumpers up on their big boy beds.  No amount of worrying is going to change that.  When all is said and done, it is as Solomon says, “unless the Lord watches a city, the watchman stays alert in vain.”  Unless God is protecting my boys, everything I do is pointless.

on raising a son…

My wife considers herself a “boy” mommy.

I never really thought I’d be a “boy” father.

In fact, I never really thought of myself as a father period.

It’s not that I didn’t want kids; indeed, the opposite has always been true.  It’s simply that I never thought myself worthy of being a father (or a husband, for that matter).  How could God find someone so selfish and sinful and give them a responsibility of children… of sons?!

When we found out that our first child was going to be a boy, I was thrilled and overwhelmed with the daunting task of raising a son.  In my mind, daughters are easy.  Buy a shotgun and shoot at anything with a penis within a fifty foot radius.  But with a son, I felt (and still feel) the weight of having to teach him how to dodge those bullets.  The bullets of fathers of those daughters that they will pursue.  The bullets of adolescence.  The bullets of balancing their sensitivity, their emotions, their responsibilities, their determination and drive.  In short, teaching them to be men of God.

Today, seventeen months into this experiment called fatherhood, I think I’m learning more than Daniel is.  It’s a daily growing process.  While he’s learning words and numbers, I’m learning patience and selflessness.

And somehow God deemed it necessary to entrust another son to us.  A son whom we have named Micah — Who is like Yahweh?  For who is like Yahweh in His faithfulness, His goodness, His steadfast love, and His grace?  Who is like Yahweh that, in His eternal wisdom, would grant me a second son to raise up in His discipline and admonition?  I don’t deserve these blessings, but yet I will do my best to fulfill my responsibility to them and to the One whom gave them to us.

If Daniel and Micah do learn anything, it won’t be because they learned it from me, but in spite of me.

sDg

on circumcision…

Disclaimer #1 — Yes, this is a post on circumcision.  Yes, I will be talking about the penis.

Disclaimer #2 — This is in no way a response or critique of those that have decided to have their sons circumcised.  It is a personal decision that is deserving of mutual respect and annihilation of ignorance.

When you find out that you’re going to be a father, you realize that there are a myriad of decisions that need to be made, some major, some incidental.  I already posted on one of those decisions — vaccines.  Laura and I also mutually decided that we would want to homeschool, even though I had never, ever, thought I would want to, having been a product of an excellent public school education.  On January 19, 2011, when we found out that we would be having a son, another decision we had to make was whether or not to have him circumcised.

At first, Laura wasn’t sure why I would want to leave him intact; after all, it has become the “norm” to have boys circumcised.  We discussed it, I researched it, and sure enough, one of the first questions the nurse asked (even before Laura was out of recovery) was whether or not he’d be circumcised.  And I said “no.”  Over the next few days, as people visited, some even asked, “Has he been circumcised yet?”  Or, “When does he get circumcised?”  One curious friend (one of my best, I might add) called a few weeks before and bluntly asked, “Tell me you’re gonna have him circumcised, right?”

It was at that point that I laid out my reasoning to him why, in fact, we would leave him intact.  For those of you that are curious yourself, or have already given Laura an earful, or think that I’m crazy, I’d like to give you my thoughts on the matter, arguing from the perspective of the reasons people give for circumcising.

First, the argument from religion: “God commands it.”  Actually, no.  In the beginning, God created man with a foreskin.  It was a part of His original design.  It wasn’t until Gen 17:9-14 that God commands Abraham and his male descendants to be circumcised as sign of the covenant between Himself and Abraham.  Circumcision was there to remind the nation of Israel that if they do not follow God’s Law, they will be cut off from the blessings of God’s people just as their foreskin was cut off.  Talk about a vivid illustration!  Today, ever since the death of the Son and the giving of the Spirit, Israel is no longer God’s premier entity on Earth, the Church is.  The Church does not have the same relationship to God as Israel did, nor do we have the same set of rules — which includes circumcision.  In fact, Paul goes to great, extensive lengths to deny the necessity of circumcision (1 Cor 7:18-19; Gal 2:3-5).  Now Paul talks about the inward circumcision of the heart (Rom 2:29).  Paul goes toe to toe with Peter in Acts 15 to discuss the matter, an argument Paul ends up winning.  To say that we should be circumcising today based upon the Bible is, quite frankly, to be ignorant of Scripture.

Second, the argument for hygiene:  “Do you know how dirty the foreskin is?”  I’d imagine that it does indeed get dirty.  So does the circumcised penis.  Do we cut our ears off because they get crusty behind them?  Do we pull out our teeth because they have many cracks and crevices for bacteria to grow?  No!  We wash behind our ears.  We floss and brush our teeth.  Regardless of whether a guy is intact or circumcised, they are going to have to clean their penis.  Either way, if it is not regularly washed, it’s going to smell, just like every other body part.  I think a better case can be made that it is more hygienic to be intact.  The foreskin is meant to protect the glans and, for the first ten years (on average), is fused to it.  Parents don’t have to worry about feces getting in contact with the glans as circumcised boys do.

I’ve also been told horror stories by friends who had other friends whose mothers would forcibly retract their foreskin and scrub it so hard it hurt.  But how is this an argument against circumcision?  Let me be clear: I have no plans of ever retracting my son’s foreskin.  He will be the first one to do so, and he will be the only one to do so.  I will instruct him as to proper care, just as we will with brushing his teeth, washing between his toes, and wiping his butt after he goes to the bathroom.  There is no hygienic difference.*  In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics has come out and said there is absolutely no medical reason to circumcise.  (Although they still see no problem with injecting our babies with toxic and animal products.)

Third, the argument from societal pressure:  “Don’t you want him to look like every other boy/you?”  Actually, the rate of leaving boys intact in the United States has risen dramatically the past two decades.  We’re one of the few countries in the world that still has a high circumcision rate.  In addition, I don’t know how often my son will see other men’s penises.  I would hope it would not be a regular occurrence that other men are noticing, especially since we’ll be homeschooling (let alone kids haven’t showered after gym class for decades now).  I plan on educating my son that it’s nothing to be ashamed of; indeed, he’s the way God originally created man.  If anything, it’s up to other men to teach their sons that there is nothing wrong with their friend who still has his foreskin, and to not perpetuate the ignorance that they themselves have.

Fourth, the argument from its resurgence in America.  When the pediatrician came to the hospital to examine Daniel, he had asked us about circumcision, as well.  When we told him that we were going to leave him intact, he breathed a sigh of relief and said, “Oh good.  The whole reason why it became popular in America, anyway, was to curb masturbation.”  I got a good chuckle out of that one.  Not to be crass, but ask any circumcised guy if it curbed his desire to masturbate.  Between that and his support of our vaccine decision, we would have so gone to Dr. O’Croinin with the Pediatric Group if Kaiser accepted them.  We loved Dr. O’Croinin.

Fifth, it’s not my body.  I will not make that decision for my son.  Yes, by the time he is old enough to make that decision, the procedure would be far more painful and recovery time far longer.  But it’s not my decision.  I’ve had friends that have had their sons circumcised, but they couldn’t bear to watch the procedure.  For me, if I can’t watch a medically unnecessary procedure because of the empathetic pain, perhaps it isn’t necessary.

Dr. Sears has an EXCELLENT little blog on the matter.  Some are the same reasons I gave here.  You can find it here.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask me and we can talk about it.  It was ultimately my decision, as Laura deferred to my judgment on the matter since I’m the father.  I’m not on a crusade to convince fathers otherwise, but to shed light on the issue so that we aren’t circumcising our sons “just because.”

*Perhaps the case could be made that God commanded it because it was hygienic — that it was part of the laws of cleanliness, and not part of the ceremonial law.  The Bible does not say either way, but I felt it worth noting so that the charge could not be leveled against me that I didn’t take that under consideration.  I did.  Thanks.

on a little gas…

This past Sunday, I celebrated Easter along with my church family and all my in-laws.  It was a great morning of worship and a great afternoon filled with the typical Pearson laughter, eating, singing, game playing, and the ever-exponentially-growing baby pandering and coddling.  Between Emma and Adie (who are two years old), Charlie (eight months), Allie (seven weeks), and Gabe (six weeks), there are PLENTY of babies to go around.  And with a plethora of babies, it’s almost certain that there’s going to be at least one miserable at any given time.  As we were all sitting in the living room singing some southern gospel hymns, Tim was holding Gabe and I was holding Allie.  For the most part, Gabe was grexing and Allie was in a contented post-feeding snooze.  From time to time, though, Allie would start fussing and squirming.  She’d start to cry when all of a sudden my right hand would feel the little rumble of some post-feeding gas.  With that, she’d settle right down and fall back asleep, only to start over again in a few minutes.  Once I caught on to what was happening, I’d try and encourage her as the gas pains started — “It’ll all be okay, Allie.  I know it hurts and it’s uncomfortable, but give it a minute and you’ll feel so much better!”  In the meantime, I’d be walking around bouncing her (which Jenn said I had down perfectly — woohoo!) just waiting for her to quiet down.

After going through this cycle a half-dozen times or so, it hit me — Allie lacks the knowledge and perspective to perceive the physical discomfort as fleeting.  To my niece, it hurts, and it hurts NOW, and it hurts BADLY.  She probably doesn’t remember that there was a previous episode five minutes ago, and that in the grand scheme of things, the pain subsides as quickly as it attacks.  I was then reminded that I am the exact same way.  I may not squirm and cry on cue every five minutes, but the questions of faith and God’s goodness constantly ebb and flow in my mind:

Father, how are we going to pay that bill?  How am I supposed to raise a son?!  What job do You have in store for me?  Why do I feel so isolated and insignificant?  Can I please feel like a semi-adequate husband?  Where are we going to live?  Is Laura going to have to go back to work in the fall?

And I forget all the ways that God has provided in the past.  He has given me so much that I by no means deserve — my wife, a son (though I’m still not sure why God’s entrusted a son to me), an incredible family (both biological and in-laws), and friends that are utterly unparalleled by any other friends in the world.  I have a roof over my head (see: incredible in-laws) and a car that I love (see both: biological family and unparalleled friends).  And I somehow managed to get through many, many years of school without ever taking time off to work full-time.  But yet, I still feel the pain.  I still have the questions.  My mind can’t/won’t consider and work through the logical process that God’s got it all under control.

Right now, I’m sitting at Turnabout Cafe with Tim, and we asked the question: “When does the pain end?”  Will there ever be a time where we’re not constantly moving from one gas-pain to another gas-pain?  In this life, on this earth, we may have moments of ease and clarity, but we won’t be free from it all until this earth is gone, and we are living on the new heavens and new earth in our new, glorified bodies (no flatulence, either!).  In the meantime, we need to encourage one another, just as little Allie needed some encouragement.  It WILL be okay.  Maybe not in a few minutes, months, or perhaps even decades.  But one day, the pain will subside, and it will be eclipsed by something so much greater and glorious than this pain and hardship will ever be.  That’s why this blog is entitled Awaiting That Day — because I know there’s something far greater than the right-here and right-now that is in store for me.  As Paul writes in Romans 8:18-28:

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.  For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed… For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now.  And not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits —we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.  Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience…  We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.

Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Oh — and here’s Allie and me:

on birthing class…

I cannot believe that I’m adding a “Fathering” category to my blog topics.  Holy crap.

Today Laura and I drove up to Anne Arundel Medical Center for an eight hour class on labor and delivery.  I feel like there should have been more information, but I guess labor and delivery is what it is, and the body just goes ahead and does what God has programmed it to do.  We took a tour of the Clatanoff Pavillion, which is where all things women and children are housed.  We already know where most everything is since, just as recently as Thursday night, Laura and I were there to welcome the arrival of our newest niece, Allie.  I’ve got to say, I love the way Clatanoff is laid out, and the homey feel of the birthing rooms (I don’t think I ever would have imagined saying such a statement), and I’m glad that Laura’s insurance has cooperating doctors that allow us to deliver there.

One of the more interesting moments today was when we were introduced to one of the pediatricians who has practicing privileges at the hospital (another interesting moment was realizing just how large ten centimeters actually is, but that’s something I never, EVER, plan on blogging about).  I loved his attitude, his independent thinking, his no-nonsense, no-holds-barred approach.  He slammed traditional thought after traditional thought, until he broached the subject of vaccinations.  And then he said unequivocally that vaccinations have nothing but benefits and that research that demonstrates links between vaccinations (MMR in particular) and autism is simply false.  And at that, he lost me.  To be sure, I am not a medical doctor, nor have I ever performed clinical research on the side effects of vaccinations.  But there must be more to the story than “Vaccinate your child according to the American Association of Pediatrics.”  I find it disconcerting that vaccinations (or insert any other “once-believed-to-be-harmless” item [asbestos, anyone?]) have been previously pulled from the market for various reasonings, including levels of mercury that were later deemed to be toxic.  Or even vaccines that are still in use today have not insignificant amounts of aluminum and chemicals.  Or were cultivated from aborted fetuses.  Or contain cow or monkey tissues.  Yet somehow we deem them safe to inject in the most vulnerable of us all?  And this pediatrician stood up there and basically said that he wouldn’t accept anyone as a patient if they wanted a modified vaccination schedule.  Even the pediatrician that everyone loves down here in Calvert County states in his patient guide that “this practice intends to vaccinate all children according to the guidelines put forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control.  If you do not wish to vaccinate your children it is probably best that you seek care at another practice with practitioners that share your healthcare beliefs.”  Are there any doctors that are willing to think outside the box and work with parents who maybe envision a different view of health?

Because I wanted to research vaccines further, a few months ago I spoke with two people who I knew had alternative views on the matter: a friend and fellow voice major from PBU, Kristen, who followed the accepted route for her first son, but then decided to follow her gut and go all alternative on the second; and my sister-in-law, Naomi, whom I love dearly, and whose time in classes and research I have come to admire.  Within a week’s time, they had both recommended The Vaccine Book by Robert Sears, so I figured it was worth a purchase.  Contrary to the reviews on amazon.com, this is NOT an anti-vaccine book.  Evidently anyone that does not have a “follow the status quo” attitude, or heaven forbid, has a “question the status quo” attitude, is deemed worthy of judgment.  Instead it’s a candid look at the current vaccine schedule, the pros and cons, the ingredients, and a look at just how important certain vaccines are.  Sears never once advises to skip a vaccine; in fact, at the end of the book, he simply recommends a modified schedule in order to minimize the amounts of certain ingredients (particularly aluminum) at any one doctor’s visit.  Laura and I have both read the book, and decided that, yes, there are certain vaccines that we definitely want to utilize, but that there are some that simply are not necessary, and potentially harmful. There are also a few cases where we know we want a particular brand of the vaccination because of ingredients.  Rather than take the calculated risk of injecting our son with a foreign substance whose ultimate effects we do not know, we are making an informed and mutual decision to do what we believe is best.

Now hopefully we can find a pediatrician who can respect that!