I'm a Dad! And we had a teacher.

A month ago now, Shawna and I welcomed Ellis (aka El Minimanny) into our home, lives, and hearts. Parenthood is no joke. The challenges we’ve experienced while being faced with sleep deprivation makes me look at all parents with awe! Especially single parents. You all have my profound respect!

For the past few months, I’ve been reciting Psalm 23 in my practice of silent prayer. In all honesty, I’ve never liked this Psalm, but for one reason or another, I felt a bit drawn to finding some of its depth. In this short amount of time, it has now become one of my favorite passages of Scripture.

A line I’ve often found myself returning to through many days is, “He leads me beside still waters.”

How rarely does that feel true. In the chaos or confusion of the moment, the last thing I find easily accessible are refreshing still waters. But as I’ve meditated with this passage and learned to give my Shepherd my attention, rather than give it to my circumstances and confusion, I’ve found that, in being still, He has led me beside still waters the entire time. I've also found that there is a thirst in me.

I am thirsty. It is a need, desire, and compulsion within me that is beyond my comprehension, but drives the current of all my actions and way of thinking.

Only 4 weeks ago, we welcomed Ellis into our arms and home. I can’t help but keep thinking that with his birth, we were reborn. (Lord knows we’re all sleep like newborns right now). Everything is new to him and at least something about everything is new to us now too. Things I would have thoughtlessly or selfishly done before he was here are now lit with a new hue. He’s on my mind.

The most challenging part of parenting for me so far has been learning the differences between his cries:

  • hungry
  • dirty diaper
  • tired
  • gassy
  • other

He can’t communicate with words and wouldn’t know what to say even if he could. Ellis doesn’t realize he is actually tired or that he has soiled his diaper, he just feels discomfort and reacts impulsively to it. We’ve all been there. And although we all grow up, learn to talk, and find ways to live life, I don’t think we really learn to sit with and observe what it is we’re really thirsting for. 

The experience reminds me of a Henri Nouwen quote:

Your body needs to be held and to hold, to be touched and to touch. None of these needs is to be despised, denied, or repressed. But you have to keep searching for your body's deeper need, the need for genuine love. Every time you are able to go beyond the body's superficial desires for love, you are bringing your body home and moving toward integration and unity.

Ellis has really been teaching me about my thirst and hunger for love. The need to be cared for as well as to care for. Just because I've learned to walk, talk, interact, and operate in our culture does not mean that I've made any progress in understanding who I am or who others are. And although I may have ideas of things that I want, I'm often still clueless as to what it is I really need.

Who can map out the various forces at play in one soul? I am a great depth, O Lord. The hairs of my head are easier by far to count than my feelings, the movements of my heart.
– Saint Augustine

Thank you Ellis. I am thirsty and learning to find still waters beside me. The Shepherd has my attention.