Sometimes I say that my wife is a fan of clean starts. By that I mean that she likes the feeling of freshness that comes with a conceptual new chapter. For whatever reason, clean starts make me uneasy. I like the sense of connection that is a long, winding path with lots of sharp turns and curves and places where it circles back on itself. I like the sense of history. My own history. That of my boys. My family. My country (for better and worse). So though I’ve thought a couple of times about starting a new space that might more cleanly represent my current journey, the idea has never picked up any traction in my heart.
Breaking into Blossom is my journey. Loss, love, babies. The blossoming and the actual breaking, which is of course much more violent than I understood when we named this space. And though the way in which I’ve come to God this past year is staggering in its intensity (is certainly an awakening), God has been with me here and in my life all along, and my obsession with God has been a part of everything I’ve ever done, or written, or wanted, or held close, or let go of. Even looking back through the posts here makes that clear. So this space is still just about us. Our little family. But as the boys get older it becomes trickier to write about them so publicly. Their privacy matters more and more as their self-hood grows. So, though there will still be plenty of stories about our babies, the thread that I’m most at liberty to expose to you is my own journey, which of course has always been true. And some of that journey right now is my burgeoning faith.
Among the things I’m currently reading (and I’m reading theology and scripture and history as fast as my under-slept and rarely alone self can manage) is The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, in which Robert Louis Wilken explores the thinkers of Christianity’s first few centuries, uncovering what set them apart from the secular philosophers and scientists of their time. They were no less invested in a rigorous scholarly discipline, but, Wilken writes, “they did not argue that there is a God because there is order; rather, they saw design in the universe because they knew the one God. God was not a principle of explanation. In seeking God they sought to understand the God they already knew.” Later he adds: “by thinking and writing they sought to know God more intimately and love him more ardently. The intellectual task was a spiritual undertaking.” This mirrors my experience of God. My new forays into theology are driven not by a question of whether or not God is, but by a desire to understand what God is. I crave, of course, the structure and immersion of the classroom. I wish I could take coursework in theology – maybe another degree – which is absurd and wildly impossible. But my priest guides my studies with generosity, deep wisdom, and patience. And the benefit of not being in school is the ability to construct little syllabuses around whatever I want to understand. The matriarchs of Genesis. The historical Jesus. Vulnerability and Christ. I am a little obsessed with this painting (by Francisco de Zurbaran), and I might spend a month reading with it in mind. Post-PhD me is learning what it is to be a scholar with freedom, and though freedom has never been my thing, it is not without its graces.
But what I’m never far from is gratitude. Seeing the good, feeling thankful… none of that has ever been hard for me, but now my gratitude overwhelms me. And there aren’t even words to explain how blessed I am to have stumbled into a job that supports my family while also feeding and offering space for this awakening. It’s still almost impossible to believe that I’ve been given this opportunity. We were in trouble. We were committed to raising our kids the way we had been, but we couldn’t make ends meet for much longer on one salary. It’s a struggle that I know most of you know. To be offered something that so deeply feeds me, that gives me the flexibility to still spend lots of time with our kiddos, and that pays me well enough to afford great childcare for the hours I do need to be away. I just don’t know many parents who are offered such a gift as this job has been for us. So though I miss my babies immensely – miss being there for all of the hours – there’s little doubt that this is right for us.
All of this gratitude comes, though, in the shadow of our contemporary American race crisis. We are lucky to be a part of a church that urges us towards action, and certainly a community that does so. And I’m grateful to be married to an activist who is deeply invested in lending her energy to dismantling the white patriarchy. I take my lead from her – and from those around me – and struggle to find my way towards service with prayer and sorrow, which aren’t enough. So some version of this is what most nights look like around here.
But the boys, for their part, are mostly thriving.
Louis is in a grouchy place lately, but I remember this from around fifteen months with Bram. Teething, wanting to nurse all the time, being vaguely uncomfortable in his body. Less watchful joy than we’re used to seeing with him, but it feels like a phase. He is keenly aware of everything that goes on around him, and he’s the most determined little fella you could ever meet. The strength of his will is impressive and beautiful to watch, but also every bit as exhausting as you would imagine it to be. He is a life-force of energy and focus and intensity. But he’s also so much in love with all of us. He lights up with pride when we witness some feat of his, and though he’s constantly moving, he’s also still so at home in our arms. He is a wild, sweet, thoughtful child.
And Bram, at three and a half, is like a real, actual BIG kid. He is curious. He craves mastery and has the focus to attain it. He is still, above all other things, a storyteller. Books, music, folklore. He loves to learn, but his learning all has to come to him via narratives: novels, songs, history. He is deeply invested in our family’s spiritual journey. He loves St. Luke’s and our priest. He loves the space of the sanctuary and the ritual of liturgy. It seems as though my work there makes sense to him: he seems to take the fact that I would teach in that space, that I would serve, as a logical evolution of our days. And he wants to understand that which is sacred. A couple of weeks ago, he was praying in his sleep. He performs the fraction (the breaking of bread) with food at our table. He asks questions, loudly, during the liturgy. I mean, he’s still a kid, so he still gets restless, but he also understands what we’re doing there in an instinctive way that is interesting to watch. He loves to be outside, too, but he’s awkward on his bike or his scooter, which is maybe because we don’t focus on that stuff enough, but which also just seems about him. Even outside he wants to tell stories. To find Journey’s crayons. To be a construction worker. To be any of a hundred characters from as many books. He is happy and an absolute joy to be around.
And Jax and I are, of course, legally married. Which is difficult to believe after all of these years. The legal recognition is meaningful, and it has changed how I feel more than I thought it would, though I’m not sure how to explain that change. I guess it’s just nice to feel upheld in such a sacred and complex pursuit. To feel that our struggles and our growth and our defeats and our victories are all housed within a system that is at least marginally invested in our success.
I love Jax so much, and I still see how gorgeous she is (which is saying something when some days I barely have time to look at her). Marriage during these early years of parenthood is TOUGH, and we have plenty of rough days.weeks.months. But we are as much of an us as we’ve ever been, and that alone is profound and mysterious and sturdier than I ever imagined. So, my legal wife.
And my legal family at a little gathering in our downtown park, just a block from our downtown church, in our beloved city, celebrating our dignity and rights as American citizens.
And my angelic boys. Who (as parents have said through the ages) just flat out amaze me.