Though the big event is still several months away, my hands know the softness, the feel of his healthy pudginess. My arms and back anticipate his weight. The soft, smooth feel of his hair long ago embedded themselves on my soul. Even the texture of the unpleasant, though common, are familiar. The feels of my unborn grandson are already writing themselves to my hard drive.
My nose tingles when I think of the smells. Both virulent and healing aromas weave themselves together in memory and hope. The smell of both rancid and aromatic are equally regarded when they tangle with my already boundless love for the boy to come. Hasn’t he always been? (Jeremiah 1:5)
Impulsive, divine tears and silly grins compete for top bill at the sounds of giggles and gurgles months before the first sound wave reaches my ear. Angst and worry have their moments as well when I well up at shrill sounds of illnesses that will have to be endured by the small one. He won’t understand and my heart will break. My limbs tense into rescue mode as I think about the communication sounds that will burst forth from one so new to earth.
The half-smiles, the pout I’ll love so much, that expression my son used to make that I’d forgotten, and even my grandfather’s nose have already inscribed themselves upon my heart. All of God’s hopes and dreams have conspired to create this winsome sight.
I can taste the boundless joy. My own, that of the remarkable woman who carries him in her womb, my very tall baby boy, and the confident and optimistic God who still believes in humanity.
She married my daughter on Saturday. Though we have long considered her part of the family, I’ve struggled to tell others how important she is to me. I’ve been without a simple label that communicates who she is to me.
Calling her “my daughter’s partner” or “my daughter’s girlfriend” only explained who she was to my daughter. The awkwardness of “my daughter’s significant other” did little to uncloak my love for her.
Add my fear of the bigotry of anti-LGBT sentiments to the failure of our language too often caused me to stutter. I’m ashamed to admit I sometimes avoided expressing my love for her because of fear of bigoted Christians.
I love that young woman. During a short period of time years ago when she and my daughter were apart, I went into a mild depression. Yes, she’s that wonderful! She’s also that perfect for my baby girl!
For twelve years, I’ve been marginally successful at expressing my love for her to others. And then this year, the law finally caught up with love, allowing two soulmates who met in college to marry.
I am thrilled to call her my daughter-in-law!
Now when I tell someone about my daughter-in-law, they immediately know that the relationship is deeper and more important to me than a random friend of my daughter. Not only did the Supreme Court finally validate the legitimacy of love between my daughter and her beloved, they validated my love for her. My daughter-in-law is connected not just to my baby girl, but to me.
It didn’t feel like Christmas to me last week. Maybe that’s because it wasn’t; it was New Year’s Day. In a family of adults it was a no-brainer to switch our seasonal gathering to a day that was more convenient.
My daughter’s girlfriend is in the grocery business. I am a pastor. My wife is a hospital chaplain. We all have challenges getting one day off together. I am off on Christmas Day but am beyond exhausted following the intensity of Advent.
No, it didn’t feel like Christmas but that wasn’t because we were a week late. It didn’t feel like Christmas to me because I live in a multi-faith family. Our celebration was strictly secular.
Please don’t misunderstand me. This is not a piece by a Christian pastor complaining that there is a war on Christmas or that I am somehow persecuted. There is not and I am not.
I am also not unhappy about the spiritual journeys of my two adult children. I am thrilled my son has found Judaism, a faith through which the divine speaks to him. My daughter’s journey is harder to define but she has found Buddhist thought and practice meaningful.
We weren’t always this way. Both my children made their Christian Confessions of Faith and were baptized by immersion when they felt moved to do so.
My daughter sang Away in the Manger nearly as soon as she could speak but a particularly acidic church exacerbated her doubts as she began to question as adolescents question. The LGBT hostile teachings of so many churches and churchfolk didn’t help, either.
My son, who once wondered aloud to me if God was calling him to ministry, continued to search well into his adulthood. He was one of those rare young adults who found a church when he moved into a new community, but it wasn’t until he discovered Judaism that he found a faith that spoke to him.
As a Christian pastor, I am sad that the state of the church is such that so many young adults find no relevance in or are rejected by the church. As a father, however, who follows the teachings of Jesus, I am convinced that the extravagant love of the divine is actively involved in their spiritual lives. I am not worried about their personal salvation or their immortal souls. I speak proudly and openly about each of my biological and embraced children and their journeys.
I practice in my own home what I preach.
I trust my children. I also trust the Spirit to do the Spirit’s work. That is, if the divine has led my children to this place, I needn’t worry. God has not failed me yet nor will God fail my children. As the bumper sticker says, “God is too big for one religion.”
All that said, it didn’t feel like Christmases past last week.
Like the church in the twenty-first century, my family continues to transform. Neither the church nor my family are the same as they were in the past. That is a reflection of the divine nature. Ever creating, ever changing, ever transforming the divine lures us onward.
No, it didn’t feel like Christmases past last week. It felt like who we were in that moment: a family of three adult couples who love one another. We are a family of at least three faiths and six spiritual journeys who are learning to navigate the world as we find it while loving and respecting one another.
That is no small accomplishment.
Though I feel some sadness at what once was — excited children, the mythical simplicity of a one-faith family — I love who my biological and embraced children are in the present.
No, it didn’t feel like Christmas but that wasn’t because we were a week late. It didn’t feel like Christmas to me because I live in a multi-faith family and we’ve widened the circle. Our celebration was secular but not strictly so.
The essence of the divine was fully present in my multi-faith family last week. Our gathering was not like when my children were growing up. It was not like when I was growing up. What it was, was a seasonal gathering in which I felt God’s loving touch in every hug from my biological and embracing children
In the end, that is what matters. It’s not dogma and faith labels that matter but the divine love that holds humanity and creation together. That is enough Christmas for me.
My mantra over the last few days has been, “It wasn’t supposed to be this way!” No, I’m not talking about my baby boy getting married. I always thought that would happen. Neither am I in any way disappointed in who my son Isaac is marrying. I adore Breetel; I couldn’t have picked anyone better.
Two weeks ago I got sick. Very sick. Sicker than I’ve ever been. It was (and is) serious, requiring treatment and time before I’m fully myself again. I don’t yet have the energy level that I’m accustomed to having. And, so, I tire before activities are over. I excuse myself and go to bed early when I’d like to socialize.
“It wasn’t supposed to be this way,” I whine. My image of this wedding weekend included a stamina that I simply don’t yet have. But I’ve been missing the point.
I’ve been looking at this the wrong way. I’ve been viewing this weekend, especially my role and my stamina, through the wrong set of eyeglasses. Two weeks ago, I would not have been able to be here.
I am here.
Though I am not at my peak, I am present in this weekend in which two families are getting acquainted. I am present as two families unite to celebrate that our children have found love. They’ve found the soulmate kind of love. They’ve found the kind of love in which one couple is greater than the sum of two individuals.
Slipping on the right the right set of eyeglasses, I realize this is exactly the way it’s supposed to be.