Anyone who is close to me or has inquired about my stance on the matter of God and organized religion knows where I stand. Those of you who do not know can suffer through my ramblings on the matter here:
Suffice to say, organized religion and its cast of characters often times creeps back into my life and causes me to deeply reflect upon the wisdom and life lessons that they admittedly contain. About a year ago, a very dear and close friend of mine who I have completely lost touch with (who shall remain nameless) handed me a note as I strolled into work one day. The note contained his hand written words of encouragement for the latest “development” in my life. You see, I was going to be a 30 something suburbanite grandpa soon - emphasis on “30 something”
37 to be exact.
Before I can share his profound words and how it ties in with religion, I must make you suffer through a bit of my history. Don’t worry, I will be brief.
I knew from a very young age that I wanted to be a family man. Wife, kids, lawnmower, cushy government job, the whole works. At 18 I joined the Navy and by 19 I was already living with a girl who had a 5-year-old from a previous relationship. I was playing dad pretty early and loved every minute of it. I couldn’t wait to have my own kids someday. Soon that relationship ran its course and shortly thereafter I reconnected with my high school sweetheart and and first real love.
Marriage soon followed, I was 20 years old. I was open to kids, but she wasn’t at the time. Needless to say, Navy life soon destroyed our short two year marriage along with any prospect of me having children of my own. We got divorced and she soon found a new husband with whom she quickly had several children.
Soon after that I met my beautiful wife Staci who already had a four-year old little girl named Arianna. I immediately fell in love with them both. Things moved fast and next thing you know, I was walking down the aisle again. This time being led by the cutest 6-year-old flower girl you have ever seen. I was finally a “dad”. But, I wanted my own kids – biologically speaking.
By this time I was 24 years old, soon I would be working in that government job I had hoped for and purchasing the house I had dreamt of. I had my instant family and soon adopted little Arianna. Once again, I was playing dad to child who was not my “own”.
Having children with my wife soon became my primary concern. We tried and tried. Soon we found ourselves in doctors offices being told our chances were very slim. Soon, slim chances turned into no chances, no chances turned tears, tears turned into the option of adopting. Adopting took a great deal of introspection, but soon I was willing to play “dad” to a child that was not my “own”.
Classes, certifications, background checks, and home inspections soon came only to be followed with a letter stating we did not “qualify” to adopt foster kids. This was followed by extreme bitterness and emotional outbursts about the parents of crack babies and mom’s who abandoned their children in dumpsters. Soon, the pain of knowing I would never have children of my own or be “qualified” to raise other people’s children turned to bitterness. Bitterness gave way to acceptance and I began to focus on new goals such as living out my days with my wonderful wife and getting Arianna raised and on her own. I had completely shut down to the idea of children, but at least I had my Arianna…
But you see, God (if you believe in such a thing) has a funny sense of humor. Right about the time I had completely given up on my dream of having children and shifted my focus to living out my days as a child-free adult with my wife at my side, Arianna told us that she was pregnant. She was 19 years old.
I would be lying if I told you that I didnt have concerns about being able to bond with a child that was not related to me “biologically”. Of course, I had plenty of family and friends surrounding me that were telling me otherwise. But I was so sensitive to the subject of children that I had completely shut down. I wanted nothing to do with them, they were simply a source of pain.
Then Jace entered into my life.
Of course my family and friends were right. Blood has nothing to do with connecting to children. It took this little boy to bring me back from a place of bitterness and spite. He has injected life into me again.
So what does all this have to do with religion and God? Well, the words that my friend had written to me had to do with the story of Joseph. Joseph, according to the story, raised someone else’s child from the moment of conception until his Son’s death 33 years later. He did not waver, he did not resist, he did not become bitter. He simply saw it has his duty to provide for a child that was not biologically his and he saw it through. How honorable is that?
My good friend related me to Joseph and I never forgot that.
Being a dad (or grand dad) has nothing to do with blood ties. It has everything to do with being committed to a child no matter what the circumstances are that surround that child’s entrance into your life. I may not have children of my “own”, but what I have is something much, much more rewarding. I have the chance be a dad and a grandfather to two people who would have never known either had I not stuck through the hard times.
I think I should be proud of that.