With Father's Day passing this last Sunday, it got me thinking about the first night I was a father. My wife and I were in the hospital room with the portable crib close by. We were both exhausted from the events of the day and laid down to rest as our baby slept peacefully. As I attempted to go to sleep my mind kept thinking about this precious new life sleeping close by. The very act of birth changed who I was because I was now also a father. I accepted the added responsibility to care for this life and raise him with love and compassion. My mind wandered through what this meant and the hopefulness I had for what my baby's life could be.
I also vividly remember the concern I had for this baby. Was he still ok? Is there anything that could obstruct his breathing? What if I am asleep and can't respond if he needs me? These worries had me getting up multiple times to check that his little chest was going up and down. It was after some time of doing this dance from bed to crib that I found myself praying. It was in this prayerful moment where I accepted the thought and fact God gave him lungs to breath and I have to trust he can do that. It was reassuring as I was reminded that in life is power. This little baby though dependent on others is already adapting to this new world. I also recognized that no matter how hard I try I cannot always be there when things go wrong.
As a father I have to remind myself of these first moments often. When my worries sneak up into my thoughts I tell myself God has empowered us to grow and use the abilities we have in this world. Sometimes it will be difficult however we are resilient and powerful in nature. My role is helping them navigate the waters of their life while upholding their worth and value.
I'm An Imperfect Father
I am human and many times I am not at my best when it comes to parenting. Especially when there is added stress from relationships, finances, employment, etc. that impact our mood. Kids have a way of making us transform from a peaceful cat to a ferocious beast just because our litter box has been moved.
I too often overreact, jump to conclusions, blow things out of proportion, or am inconsistent in my approaches. This after the fact brings shame and guilt for not being who I hope to be as a parent. I have come to find we often do not share these thoughts which are very common. We do the best we can with what we have. But that doesn't mean we cannot work at being better and research various strategies that can help improve our approaches.
What Kids Need
Kids need love, compassion, and empathy from their caregivers. When we as parents are able to love our children and help them navigate the rough waters of their life in an empathetic way their brain responds positively. It trains their inner neural processes to feel safe knowing they have the ability to make decisions, problem solve, and work through stress. Most of our first brain development happens from age 0-4.
One study showing the impact of trauma and stress on children is the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study (ACES) conducted by Kaiser Permanente in the 90's which looked at health conditions of obese people who experienced various trauma in their childhood. What they found was the higher number of traumatic experiences or household dysfunction among youth created more severe health concerns as adults. So what our children experience from the households we create and the interactions we have produce a lifelong affect. That's why its so important we uphold our children with value and worth and find ways of dealing with our own stress in effective, non-harmful ways. If you want to take the quiz and figure out your ACE score click here.
So what are some good resources to help with parenting? There are tons of information out there on the internet but here are a few.
Collaborative Problem Solving - Developed by Dr. Ross Greene and Dr. Stuart Ablon in conjunction with Massachusetts General Hospital as a response to the research of adverse childhood experiences by Dr. Bruce Perry. Its an approach focused on listening and creating open communication with your child while also empowering them to come up with potential solutions to concerns. If you want to learn more watch this video "Rethinking Challenging Kids".
Parenting 101 - This website was developed by the Child Development Institute which gives basic tips on parenting and how to handle various challenges.
Conscious Discipline - Is an approach focusing on creating a safe, connected, problem solving environment for your child. It works on developing choice in kids and uses moments of conflict as opportunities to teach and learn. To learn more go to the website.
God As A Father
Being a father has added a new dimension to my spirituality and understanding of God. With this added role, responsibility, and privilege I get to witness and be a part of lives growing into who they were created to be. It is truly incredible to witness the process of ongoing change. It seems everyday their perspective of the world positively impacts mine if I let it. The lessons I learn about being a father lets me continue to let go and trust in my heavenly parent.
Many times God is depicted as a male fatherly figure. This can make some uncomfortable depending on our own beliefs about the divine or our relationship with male figures growing up. The words we use try to identify the divine so we can have some contextual way to perceive God. It can be useful to try to see God in various ways to expand our understanding what God can be.
For me God as a father figure paints a picture of a loving, compassionate parent who helps me navigate the world I live in. He allows me to make decisions and learn as I decide the journey of my life. He suggests potential directions or options but ultimately the decisions are up to me. Throughout those decisions he supports and empowers me to be my best and to do it with happiness. Throughout my journey he is with me though I may not realize it.
There are times when the storms in life may be too much. During them I am always welcome to find comfort in his arms until I am able to travel again. It is in his loving arms I find peace, love, and empathy. He knows me for who I am at my core despite what roles and names I take on from the world. It is this genuine, precious life he sees and loves. His constant love abides in me.
Everyday through my kids I am reminded of this love God has for me and how he is working in my life.
Thank you for all the positive comments and those following along!
This week be thankful for the children we have in this world and say a prayer for them.
Hope' is the thing with feathers--
That perches in the soul--
And sings the tune without the words--
And never stops—at all--
And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard--
And sore must be the storm--
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm--
I've heard it in the chilliest land--
And on the strangest Sea--
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.
- Emily Dickinson
Hope has been the driving force behind change throughout time. Great speeches such as "We Shall Fight On The Beaches" by Winston Churchill, "Inauguration Address" by John F. Kennedy, and the "I Have A Dream" by Martin Luther King Jr. stirred hope in people. Hope for a new life, hope for a changing world, and hope for a different tomorrow.
When we hope our hearts cry out with an unspeakable desire for positivity in the world that is yet to come. Hope is about the anticipation and preparation for that world. So let's look deeper at hope: the motivation of hope; the complex relationship between faith and hope; and Jesus' role in hope.
The Motivation of Hope
In 1991, Professor C.R Snyder developed was is now known as Hope Theory. Dr. Snyder defines hope as “a positive motivational state that is based on an interactively derived sense of successful (a) agency (goal-directed energy) and (b) pathways (planning to meet goals)”. When we have motivation and various strategies/ pathways to achieve it than we move forward. Hope is not wishful thinking but a predictive outcome and a cognitive system in which new plans are created despite barriers/ challenges that come.
A study in 2010 by Liz Day found hope being a better predictor of objective academic achievement over intelligence, personality, and past academic achievement.
Another study in 2012 by Martin, Rand, and Shea found hope was a greater predictor for success among 1st year law students rather than LSAT scores or undergraduate grades.
Hope vs. Faith
Hope has been intertwined with faith for many years. You may be someone that is questioning your faith or not certain of what you believe. Despite your current faith hope gives us an opportunity to explore and engage in communities, practices or different ways of life. The website Hope and Optimism shares a great 4 minute video describing the in depth connection between hope and faith. It speaks to the importance of hope even if we do not have evidence or certainty of faith. Please take the time to watch it by clicking on the above website.
The Hope of Jesus
So what does hope have to do with Jesus? The first week of Advent (Dec. 2nd) is focused on the virtue of Hope. Advent means the arrival of a notable person, thing or event. In the liturgical calendar Advent is all about the arrival of Jesus. Jesus escorted in a new way of living that turned the world upside down. Advent not only prepares us for his birth but reminds us of the expectation and promise we have that God is working with us every moment, every hour, every day. The hope of Jesus is not just the hope beyond this life but the hope that this world is moving toward the obtainable goal of justice and peace. That our communities uphold the rights and beliefs of one another and affirm them with a loud shout saying "You are worthy." You see the hope of Jesus this Christmas season moves in you. Allow it to flow in your actions and words as you proclaim your hope for humanity.
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
- Romans 15:13
Let's end with the Irish traditional folk song "Canticle of the Turning" by Rory Cooney. It speaks of the hope we hold dearly this Advent season.
May Hope flood your heart this week. Let the hope of a new spiritual journey drive you forward this Advent season. Follow along next week as we explore the virtue of Peace.
Craig Hidy like the majority of ministers in Community of Christ is a bi-vocational, self sustaining ordained minister. He is a member of the Midlands Mission Center Emporia Team and an ordained Seventy. He and his family, live in Topeka, Kansas.
What is a Seventy?
The Seventy carry out missionary work for the church in close association with other missionary leaders. They represent Christ primarily as ministers of evangelism through witnessing, inviting, and church planting. They especially proclaim and promote Jesus Christ’s invitation to faithful discipleship through vibrant witness, and train individuals and congregations in witness and invitation. They particularly minister with seekers, individually and in groups, to share the gospel in relevant ways and to invite response. They support sacramental ministries by preparing people for baptism and/or confirmation, presiding at sacramental services, and performing most sacraments. They promote community by inviting individuals, households, and families to respond to Christ’s call to discipleship. They promote justice and peacemaking by inviting people to experience all aspects of Christ’s peace through active discipleship. They create ministry partnerships with mission center officers, apostles, elders, and evangelists.
The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of Community of Christ. We believe individuals should be allowed to have their own opinions and be at different places in their faith journey.