ParenthoodReformed

Anticipation

In a frenzy of thoughts and emotions I wrote the first draft to this piece.  It was written in the eye of the storm, so to speak; that time right after the panicked shuffle to the hospital and right before the final stages of labor kicks in.  There was a small window of time when all was calm and the nurses were tending to my wife and I was able to write out my thoughts.  There was a real part of me that was simply seeking to somehow capture the moment, to put words to the indescribable sentiment of the whole experience.  There was also a very real part of me that was simply seeking to do anything I could to keep myself from freaking out.  Writing tends to be very therapeutic for me and I know I was just trying to calm myself a bit.  Whatever the motivation was, though, I am glad that I was compelled to write!  Every time I read this little excerpt I am instantly transported back in time to the day of my son’s birth.  I also find myself reflecting a lot on the nature of anticipation, hope and faith each time I read this.  

I also wrote another piece a few days after our son was born.  So, there will be a second part to this article.

Anticipation: originally written on Dec. 3, 2015-9:42 a.m.

In this delivery room I sit.  In this room I eagerly await.  My son is coming.  My wife will soon be delivering him into this world.  God is on the verge of teaching us just how precious, utterly unique, and unrepeatable a human life is.  In this place I learn the real definition of anticipation.  I know what it means to have a blessed hope as I await the birth that will change my life forever.  The future is on the cusp of greeting me in the now.  Right now I am not yet what I will be, but momentarily I will be that which I have never been before: a father.

Begetting a life changes a person.  It brings with it a healthy dose of self-awareness.  In the naivety of my youthfulness I never exhibited much concern for the importance of my own life.  Things are different now, much different.  In this moment, the personhood of my own son is already beginning to shape me even before his first cry is let out.  I have never felt the necessity of being so necessary before.  Never in all of my life have I examined my integrity so closely.  Never before have I scrutinized myself so intensely.  Never before have I grappled so immensely with the notion of the man that I feel I need to be.  I know that I am loved and valued, but I have never felt the weightiness of being someone special to somebody else quite like this before.  Prior to this day I never invested much thought in considering my own mortality.  Now, I have never been more afraid to die.  The stakes for my own existence seem so much higher now because I know that a life will completely depend upon the well-being and integrity of my own existence.

In giving life to someone, one cares in ways that he never has before.  Begetting a life makes the urgency of the self all the more immediate.  The impending future has caused me to care deeply for the life I now lead as I anticipate my son’s blessed appearance.  I wrestle with who I need to be for him whenever he arrives.  In this instant, my son is both here and not here.  He is both now and not yet.  The thought of his coming, however, has entirely reshaped who I am in this moment.  His absence in his impending presence has altered me radically.  Thoughts of a future of being with him have gripped the me who lives in the present.  My son is present to me already, even though he still abides in the realm of the still-coming.  Thus, my future self seems to be bursting forth as everything in me anticipates the coming of his countenance.  The thought of seeing his face for the very first time is changing me now.    

In this room I have learned what it means to hope for and to profess the future.  In this room I have learned a bit about what it means to anticipate the Parousia of Christ.  In this room I have learned what it means to place my faith in and to be shaped by a future which Christ’s coming holds out to me.

           “He will come again in glory

            To judge the living and the dead

            And His Kingdom will have no end.”

In the delivery room it wasn’t just the thought of my son that was present.  He truly was present in my wife’s womb.  He was present to us in a different way than he is now.  His presence was a veiled one.  He was there but yet to be seen.  He was there but his face was hidden.

Life with God is this way.  In the Reformed tradition we are prone to say that God is both “now and not yet.”  He is present but He has yet to be fully unveiled for us.  While we experience the fullness of God now, there is a fuller fullness that is yet to come.  In the renewal of the creation all will be unveiled, all will be revealed.  In other words, God truly is fully present with us now but in the future (if we can call it that) we will experience His presence in a much fuller way.  We will behold Him.

The future that God holds out for us should shape our present.  The thought of beholding Him in an unveiled way should radically transform our lives here and now.  We don’t seek to better our lives out of some sort of moralistic or legalistic sense of duty.  Rather, we seek to become the persons that we want to be, that we need to be, on the day that we stand before our Savior in the fullness of unhindered communion with Him.  The thought of the coming undisturbed fullness of communion propels us forward.  We anticipate that fullness of life and relationship and we yearn for its reality now.  We desire to speed its coming.

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TJ Humphrey

TJ Humphrey

TJ is a student at Nashotah House Theological Seminary and aspiring to be ordained as a priest in the Episcopal Church. He is an avid reader, especially in works that deal with relational ontology, liturgical theology, and the ecclesial life of the Church. For fun, TJ loves to spend time with his family, travel, go backpacking in the mountains, watch a good hockey game, sip on a good bourbon, and geek out with a good theology book.