My Dear Children

Little children, guard yourselves from idols. ~ 1 John 5.21
My dear children,
I hear others talk of passing on a vibrant faith to their children
and I get a little queasy. My gut tells me about all you’ve seen in me
has been a man wrestling the angel of doubt and refusing to concede,
so that if you’ve inherited anything from me its likely a stiff neck.
Oh well. Consider it fodder for your future therapy sessions.
But on this night I want to write to you to warn you of an insidious
impostor roaming about seeking whom he may devour with lies
and lines as to who is in and who is out, who is cherished and who
is tolerated, who is the true church and who only manages motions.
This is the fickle god born from the fears of men, an impotent prick
of a deity who along with wood, hay, and stubble will not survive the fire.
Whatever you may or may not choose to do in regard to matters of faith,
promise me you will guard yourselves from this heartless wonder.
You must know the weary faith of your father rests in the foolish belief
in what the old ones call the love of God, the undying affection in which
there is no shadow of turning, the fierce devotion to every thing that once
erupted from the imagination of grace, the fondness for this very world
with all its pain and all its riches. This love holds everything together,
even when, and maybe most especially when it all looks to be falling apart.
This love sees you not as some project to be improved upon or a humpty
dumpty that one day will finally and forever be put back together.
No, my children, this love sees you as it has always seen you, as created
in the image and as such an heir not to some vibrating faith so much as to
the house and lineage of everlasting kindness. Yes, children, this is the God
I have long wrestled, the one who daily smiles upon your father’s stiff neck
and I pray the necks of his children after him. Reject any other gods for
the chaff they are. They concede too easily and know nothing of mercy.

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  1. Michael Kates on March 11, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Most excellent! Thank you.

  2. Sheila on March 11, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    A refreshing antidote to the triumphalism I’ve encountered of late.

  3. Shaun C. on March 11, 2014 at 4:52 pm

    From one wrestling father to another, thank you for this.

  4. Oak Hill Studio on March 11, 2014 at 7:43 pm

    Best thing I’ve read in a really long time. Thank you.

  5. Susan Irene Fox on March 11, 2014 at 10:05 pm

    Mine, too, John. Loving, kind, merciful and full of grace, quite willing to freely give it with a smile and a bear hug to those of us quite undeserving, bringing us to tears. Bless you for your richly written words.

  6. thewarwithsarx on December 20, 2014 at 10:39 pm

    I had to search for this post today. I remember reading it back when you first posted it and I was blown away. For some reason I thought about it this afternoon and wanted to read it again. I never have appreciated much poetry before, but this one really touched me. I’m sorry I didn’t leave a comment when I initially read it. I think this piece is excellent. It actually might be one of the best things I’ve read in a while. I’m not kidding. It really describes my heart and what I want for my kids. It’s so tempting to want to conjure up some “vibrant faith” to pass on to them. Lately, I just can’t find that kind of faith. What I can give, as your poem reminded me, is something real. I want them to see me wrestling with the Lord. I want them to see me seeking him despite my depression, worry, and doubt. I know that if I don’t let go of Him, I will gain something real – a painful limp that means I’ve really touched God Almighty. This is what I want them to see in the end – that the God of everlasting kindness smiled on their father’s stiff neck and saved him.

  7. Jewels on December 21, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Love seeing through your perspectacles, John. (And thanks Glennon Melton for the perfect word)

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