A few days ago I was in a Wal-Mart with my daughter Claire and I saw that they already had Halloween costumes out. There were two high school girls looking at the different outfits and I happened to overhear their conversation. The one girl thought that the costume she was looking at was not “skimpy” enough. Yes, she actually used that word. The conversation ended with them deciding to go to one of those pop-up Halloween stores in town to get something that would be more “fitting” for their needs.
Every year I see some of my Youth Ministry girls’ pictures on Facebook from Halloween parties and I dread the potential of seeing one of them in these “skimpy” costumes. I dread it because:
So this is my open letter to my beloved ladies of Youth Ministry. I love you girls so much that I want to say this before Halloween comes around and you buy your costume.
Maybe this year the skimpy, inappropriate Halloween costumes are hitting closer to home because I am a father to a baby girl. Maybe holding Claire as I heard the above conversation had me see her in those two high school girls. Regardless of the reason I don’t think that the skimpy costumes are necessary. So here are this Youth Minister’s 6 reasons why I would advise against the skimpy costumes.
There are so many cool, creative non-skimpy costumes out there that can highlight your creativity, intelligence, gifts, talents as well as your beauty. My challenge for you is to not get sucked in by the worlds desire to make you into a thing, an object, a means to an end.
You are holy. You are sacred. You are precious. So be all of those things.
I love gazing at my daughter. Not looking at, but gazing. When I think of gazing I think of staring with the intent to acknowledge the worthiness of the object I am gazing at. I look at toast. I gaze at my wife and daughter. They are both exquisite and beautiful. There are moments when Claire gazes back, smiles, laughs, cries, and poops on me. Still, I love gazing at her.
A few weeks ago I was studying my notes for a class I am taking when I noticed Claire gazing at me with her hand straight out as if calling for me. I succumbed to this chubby mini-hand and laid my head next to hers. We just lay there. Eventually I lifted my head and stroked hers with my fingers. Something about this moment was different. I was noticing her little baby bumps (which I assume are pores), her eyelashes, nose—everything. She is perfect and lovely to behold.
As I often do, I started telling Claire that I love her and that she is beautiful, strong and smart. I told her how much she means to me and that I would do anything for her…even lay my life down. At one point I remember saying, “I don’t think you will ever understand how much I love you.” I believe that statement. I don’t know why but I just know this.
As those words came out of my mouth another voice spoke, not an audible voice (not crazy) but That voice that has been speaking to us since before we had being. I felt that God the Father was doing the same exact thing I was doing with Claire, except that it was with me. He had His head laying next to mine; stroking it and telling me how much He loves me, and would do anything for me…even lay His own life down. It’s as if I could hear Him saying, “I don’t think you will ever understand how much I love you.”
Discovering fatherhood is so much more than learning about my daughter. It is discovering that God as Father is gazing at me…at you…at us. He acknowledges the worthiness of how lovely we are to behold. There are moments when we gaze back, smile, laugh, cry, and poop on Him. Still, He loves gazing at us.
A routine 3:00 a.m. diaper change turned ugly at about 3:01 when I discovered that Claire had pooped up to the back of her neck. How does that happen?! Seriously. The physics of it just blows my mind. I’m sure there is a YouTube video out there explaining it with simulations and quadratic equations, but I digress.
The problem with this particular blowout was not so much that Claire was caked in it, but that the diaper was not disposable. My wife and I’s inner hippie got the best of us before Claire was born when we decided that we would use reusable diapers. This isn’t your great-grandma’s dinner-napkin-with-a-safety-pin diaper. This is a technologically advanced diaper that makes those hundreds, even thousands of dollars a year in disposables vanish. What these “BumGenius” company folks don’t tell you before you buy them is that there’s this nasty, sticky, Spiderman web like poop that doesn’t come off easily. It’s the kind that you need laser to remove it from the diaper. “It’s still attached!” “Get the laser, hun!”
They sell a sprayer attachment that connects to your toilet. It works—20 gallons later.
So I cleaned Claire off, changed her and then did battle with Satan’s forgotten child in a technologically advanced diaper. 20 gallons later, I claimed victory. I thought I was going to need a priest, but it worked out.
I went back to Claire’s room because she was making some noise. She was probably traumatized from the experience. I know I was—it was up to her neck! I walked in and smelled poop. I thought that maybe some had passed Claire’s head and hit the wall or something crazy like that. I sniffed around and found the source—in Claire’s new diaper. Apparently Satan had another forgotten child.
I began the cleaning process again (this time I used a disposable diaper—who’s the bum genius now?!). I began to pull the Velcro strap of the new diaper close when I heard a foul noise followed by a smell. Claire had pulled off a Hat Trick and it was only 3:10 a.m.
At this point I am beyond upset and I lose it. I start quietly yelling (which is hard to do) at Claire for this unnecessary level of bowel activity. She starts crying. I start crying, which is followed by shame, guilt, and many other terrible emotions.
I put Claire to bed and head to the living room to let the whole ordeal set in. “I yelled at her, God! For pooping!” More shame. More tears and the realization that I might not be as good of a father as I think I am. As I sat on the couch upset at myself, and asking God for patience and strength, I felt that God had something to say.
As usual I wasn’t expecting this.
God was showing me that Claire’s bowel movements are an image of my life. I sin. God comes in to clean the mess. I sin again—almost immediately—and God comes in to clean the mess again. As He patiently and lovingly cleanses me I go ahead and make another mess—the Hat Trick. Yet, God patiently wipes away the nasty, foul and unpleasant reality that is my brokenness. The diaper reality is this: we sin, seek forgiveness, God cleanses and heals, and we sin again. However, our heavenly Father is much more patient than this rookie dad. When I look at the analogy of this diaper fiasco I realize God is right and that, yet again, discovering fatherhood is more than learning patience with Claire and diaper cleansing techniques. It demands that I recognize and accept God’s never-ending patience with me, and my own constant diaper Hat Tricks.
*No technologically advanced diapers were harmed in the making of this blog*
I’m sure by now many of you have seen the VMA “performance” that Miley was in. If you haven’t don’t look for it, your souls is better of not watching it. Lets just say she pretended to be something less than human on stage.
My first reaction to Miley’s performance was not shock, disgust or embarrassment. I was thinking to myself, how did she get to this point? Where along the way did this 20 year old think twerking (if you don’t know what this is you are better off) on stage in her underwear was the right thing to do? The sad thing is that anyone can become what Miley was on stage that night. My daughter, your daughter anyones daughter. We all have the potential to be incredible people or to chose something less…twerking.
The picture in this post is of Miley Cyrus when she was a baby. Here is a child with infinite potential in all aspects of life. A child with dignity, worth and goodness. The Miley on stage at the VMA awards is that same person. The same dignity, worth and goodness is there. I think she just forgot, or maybe was never told about it.
A few years ago Glenn Beck (*diclaimer: I am neither a fan or foe of him*) did an interview with Billy Ray Cyrus where he asked him about his daughter, Miley:
“Are you at all concerned?” Beck asked the young star’s father, Billy Ray Cyrus, at the time. “I mean, the odds of Miley turning into Ron Howard — meaning sane — pretty low. Living in Los Angeles, being a child star — hello? Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, name a million others…”
Cyrus was confident that his daughter had a “great head on her shoulders” and a “great heart.” He also explained that he tries to be her “best friend,” while letting his wife act as the disciplinarian.
“I taught them how to build a good snowman, how to ride a motorcycle, how to ride a horse, how to roast a wiener properly over a fire, and a good marshmallow,” Cyrus explained. “…But discipline I always left up to the mama. She was really, really good at that. That never was — I never was really good at that.”
There is a lesson to be learned here. Billy Ray is not to be blamed for Miley’s VMA spectacle, she is her own person and has a will and intellect to chose. One can though wonder what Miley would be like today if dad had disciplined her, told her no, change that outfit, you are grounded, don’t you ever twerk–ever!
There have been tons of articles, seminars and books that talk about the crucial role of a father in a child’s life. If you are a dad please understand this: you set the precedent to what your child will understand a man is supposed to be. You also set the precedent for helping your child discover their dignity, worth and goodness–especially a daughter. If you are a coward, lazy, angry, raunchy, immoral, good, caring, faithful, selfless…then this is what she will understand a man to be. Why is it that every now and then we hear women say, “I just seem to attract all the losers and jerks.” The reason is probably because that is all they have seen and known.
As a Youth Minister I have ministered to some girls who have forgotten or were never told that they have dignity, worth and goodness. The majority of those girls had no fathers or if they did, were around but not fully, actively and consciously participating in their lives. So that is what they learn a man is: not around, not able to focus, not really invested in their lives.
Men, we have a responsibility to be more than a provider of house, food and education. Building snowmen, roasting marshmallows and teaching our kids how to ride a horse are great bonding experiences, but not enough for them. I realize I only have a 5 month old, but I cannot settle for anything less than my daughter recognizing that she is an unrepeatable, exquisite, beautiful human being. We must remind our children that they have dignity, worth and goodness. More importantly, we must live out dignity, worth and goodness in our everyday lives so that they can see it and understand that this is what they deserve!
If we do not…expect worse things than twerking.