There was a lot of whispering around the water cooler. My supervisor was a candidate for Vice President of the department. Many asked, “Was she qualified?” Others thought, “There has never been a woman in this position before,” and “Is she even suitable for the task?” Although there were at least four other candidates, she was chosen to carry the torch of Vice President. Never had I been so proud of my boss of three years. My coworkers and I had a big celebration dinner filled with joy and plenty of gifts to honor her new-found success. Finally, her hard work had paid off and she was headed for bigger and better things.
After the initial excitement died down, I was hit with the news that there would now be a few more additional changes. Although the promotion was a wonderful achievement, I never considered that I would no longer report to my fearless leader. As she moved up the corporate ladder, there was now a new vacancy in the department and things were about to shift. Her current position needed to be filled and I needed a new supervisor.
There was again a lot of whispering around the water cooler. “Who would be the candidate for the new position?” “Would that person be as qualified as my last supervisor?” and “Is this person going to be suitable for the task?” Many candidates began to come into the office. With each interview, anxiety began to build and an unseen dark cloud began to fill the atmosphere. My work environment was encompassed with a state of worry and fear of the unknown. Finally, a new candidate was hired and things began to change.
Through this experience, I realized three things: God is sovereign, change is inevitable and worry and fear is the absence of faith and trust. I often wonder why God sometimes never fully discloses the stipulations of his blessings. For example, even when there is a promotion, we often lose things in the process in order to grow. As God takes us to higher heights and deeper depths, we may lose some friends along the way and may have to endure a lot of negative “whispers” and our faith may be challenged. We may feel uncomfortable at times, but we cannot let fear overtake our hearts, because even though our situation may transform, there is a time and season for every change and this too shall pass.
We must fully trust God that our outcome will be in our favor and even when we go through the process of not knowing the future, there should be a reassurance that God is in control. God encourages us in the book of Deuteronomy 31:6 to “Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” He also reminds us in 1 Peter 5:7, to “Cast all our anxiety on Him, because He cares for us.” God is with us, through the journey of moving into the blessings He has prepared for us. He is with us when people speak words filled with questions of doubt and uncertainty and He is with us through the midst of change. Leave the unknown results to God, and never fear the outcome of moving forward.
He will turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents
The idea that the hearts of parents being turned to their children and children’s hearts being turned to their parents as an indication of God’s impending reign on the earth is striking. The text suggests that the promises within the commandment to “honor your father and mother” have gone unfulfilled (Exod 20.12). As I’ve endeavored to read through the Bible annually over the last few years, I’ve reflected on how these words send the reader into an abyss of uncertainty in the inter-testamental period while pointing to the pending return of God’s reign upon the earth through God’s Messiah in the Gospels.
These words resonate differently with me now that I’m a few days from welcoming my first child into the world. Over the last 15 months, I’ve been on a quest to find the nurturing father within me. This quest began before my wife and I was expecting our first child when I participated in a facilitator training for the Nurturing Father’s Program developed by Mark Pearlman. This program explores the roots of fatherhood to help men discover the importance of nurturing themselves, their partners, and their children. I discovered that the traditional role of father required so much providing and protecting that it neglected the importance of nurturing. The nurturing father endeavors to maintain an environment where mother and child are protected and provided for physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
I was surprised and disheartened to learn that the target audience for many fatherhood programs is court involved men assigned to these programs to fulfill probation requirements or to strengthen positions in child custody battles. This practice reflects the regressive tendencies in our society that focus more on repairing problems in men than on preparing men for leadership in their families and communities. Although the absence of the Black father is a serious problem for most, research suggests that the absence of the Black father is a myth and that statistically speaking African American men are as engaged in the lives of their children as their White counterparts and are even more engaged than Hispanic fathers.
Perhaps, parenthood can be best understood as a rite of passage. On the one hand, a life-giving force departs the one and enters the other and initiates gestation before the birthing of a new life into the world. A mother’s experience of the rite of parenthood is active, physical, eminent, and public. Her body initiates an internal series that was placed by the Eternal in perpetuity and by doing so elevates her role in the public sphere as a woman with child. On the other hand, a father’s experience of the rite of parenthood is passive, vicarious, and private and is shaped by his relationship with the mother.
In many ways, parenting is a role that all of life prepares you for. I think the best preparation for parenting is marriage and not in a judgmental, legalistic, and moralizing way. The qualities and characteristics that make for a good marriage also make one a good parent. In marriage, you develop the capacity for accountability, integrity, responsibility, and vulnerability required to nurture a child from dependent infant to independent adult.
The father’s quest is characterized by phases of departure, initiation, and return, and it is a journey to turn a father’s heart to his children. This quest was depicted in Denzel Washington’s Oscar-nominated performance, production, and direction of August Wilson’s Pulitzer-prize winning play Fences. Beyond establishing a physical boundary for marking territory and for keeping things out and other things in, a fence became an obstacle to overcome.
As men mature their relationship to fences change. Characteristic of rites of passage, we must demonstrate the ability to jump fences in boyhood, remove fences in manhood, and build fences in fatherhood. During the quest, you learn that straddling fences can be challenging to the anatomy and debilitating to the psyche. You also discover that as a man you must put away childish things, and as a father, you must nurture and lead your children through the rites to adulthood.