This has been the first holiday season that I can ever remember where I have been away from family. Growing up, our extended families always lived far away and we only saw them a couple times a year, but when it came to Thanksgiving and Christmas we always committed to long drives and hurried schedules in order to make sure we saw everybody.
We knew celebrating the holidays in Southern Africa could be tough. Not only are we away from family, but the Swazi’s don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. Instead of leaves changing, the coming of cool weather and football on TV, we have torrential downpours (when rain comes), 100+ degree weather and cricket on TV. Plus, most of the traditional Thanksgiving foods are difficult or impossible to find.
BUT… instead of pouting about it, Beth, Mikayla and I made sure we had one of the most memorable Thanksgivings ever.
Thanks to the wonders of technology, we were able to talk with all of our families overseas (even though it meant waking up in the middle of the night, it was worth it). Also, Beth was able to put together a lot of Thanksgiving themed activities for Mikayla including a song that we will try to post on YouTube when we get a chance.
As for having a Thanksgiving meal, our plans changed many times, but ending up being extremely meaningful. At first, we tried to coordinate with several Westerners that we are close with to celebrate this American holiday. However, due to schedule changes and other circumstances, no one besides us was able to attend. So, we extended an invitation to the Swazis that we are closest with. This included several of the mangers, the office staff, and a couple other people from the mission.
When it came to food, Beth in particular was able to pull off some culinary wizardry (I am sure she will post about it on her blog shortly). Although very hard to come by, we tracked down a frozen turkey and some smoked ham. We had traditional mashed potatoes and green beans as well as the most amazing gravy I have ever had (thanks to the sisters!). We had apple sauce, homemade rolls, deviled eggs, a Swazi version of collard greens along with butternut squash, and of course some sweet potatoes. The award for creative substitution came with a variation of homemade pumpkin pie that we made with butternut squash. It was phenomenal and if you didn’t tell me, I wouldn’t have known the difference.
By far the most meaningful part of the entire meal was being able to share it with the Swazis we are closest to. We were able to explain the traditions and also express our gratitude to them for their support and assistance in our transition.
I was particularly struck by the unintentional symbolism that emerged. In America, Thanksgiving is about spending time with family and we originally tried to replicate and share that with other Americans here in Swaziland. However, what ended up happening was much more in line with the first Thanksgiving. Tradition holds that the feast is tied to the Europeans celebrating with the Native Americas as a sign of gratitude for their assistance upon coming to the New World. While the parallels are not perfect, the similarities were striking. We are outsiders who are new here, and were were able to share our gratitude with those those who were already here as a way of saying thanks for helping us make the transition.
After dinner, we all sat around for hours and enjoyed each others company. We introduced the Swazis to the Wii and as it turns out, they are pretty good at bowling!
As the evening wound down, the tone became a bit more intimate. Several of guys who were still around thanked us for sharing the tradition with them. They also expressed the things they were thankful. Esau, our maintenance manager, said he was grateful to be a part of something that was bigger than just the people involved; because we are doing important things, we can work together even if we don’t always agree. Johannes, our agriculture manager said he felt most thankful when he could look back at all the hard work and see the fruits of his labor. He also said he was excited to see how people from different cultures could come and make new creations with current things (he was talking about Dad’s sweet potato recipe in particular). Mzamo, our HR Director, continued this theme by saying he was grateful for how Westerners could come to Swaziland and make things better without having to change the culture.
At the end of the day, I drove everyone back to their homesteads along with leftover plates stacked high. It gave me new appreciation for the dedication it takes for these people to come to work every day walking miles (some up to 6 miles each way) through the bush.
Our first Thanksgiving in Swaziland brought many firsts for us (first holidays away from family, first time cooking a turkey, first butternut squash pie, etc.) and many firsts for the Swazis (first thanksgiving, first time playing wii, first time to eat many of the foods, etc.).
Looking back a day later, I certainly missed seeing all our friends and family during this time, but at the same time, this weekend did more than anything else previously to solidify the notion that we are in the in fact in the right place.
Now we just need to set up our Christmas Tree and get ready for our first summertime Christmas.
We are down to less than month before we depart for Swaziland and things have been alternating between hectic and laid back. One one hand we have a lot to get done before we leave, but on the other hand we have been able to enjoy some great relaxing time with friends and family. Here is our time frame:
June 27 – We want to be out of our house and have it completely prepped for our new renter. We are in the process of painting, cleaning, moving, etc. Lots to do in the short term to get that ready. On the plus side, we are very excited about the tenant who is moving in. Seems like a very nice guy who wants to stay a while. Great for both of us.
June 28 / 29 – Head to Somerset to spend some time with Beth’s family. We will see them again, but this will be our last formal trip that direction.
July 1-3 – Camping with Friends in the Big South Fork. Again, it won’t be our last time with them, but it will be the last big trip we take in the States for a while.
July 5ish – Catherine and Dave Altmaier are coming through town so we will get a chance to connect with them (Catherine was just in town for a couple days and it was great to catch up.)
July 14-17ish– Spend time with both sides of my family. First in Western Kentucky (and perhaps elsewhere) and then at Kentucky Lake with my Chicago family. We ended up pushing back our departure date to make sure we could see everyone.
July 18 – Casual day with friends. Basically we are planning on just relaxing and enjoying our time with friends the day before we leave.
July 19 – Departure at 5:00 from Nashville. We are planning on having our immediate family there for the final send off.
July 21 – Arrive is Swaziland.
As you can see, things are getting pretty tight. In all reality, the only days we have truly free between now and when we leave is the week and a half or so between the Altmaiers coming heading to spend time with our family. So… if you want to catch up with us before we leave, those are days to make it happen.
In other news, we were able to talk with the Sisters at Cabrini the other day and they are super excited to have us come. Should be a great environment to be moving into. Also, they informed us they will be upgrading our housing. The duplex we were slated to stay in would have been fine for us. The common areas were a bit small and it lacked a few amenities and was a bit rougher. But, the new place is excellent. A good bit more room (especially in the kitchen and living room), better yard / porch with great privacy and shade. It has ceiling fans and mango trees in the front yard. I have included a video a previous resident shot while he was staying there.
And then, totally unrelated… here is a picture of my always cute daughter:
With our move to Swaziland probably only 10 months away, Beth and I have been talking through how we should spend our remaining time stateside. Here is a list of 10 things I want to accomplish before we leave. If you can help me out with any of them, please give me a shout.
Learn to weld – Let’s start with an easy one. I wouldn’t consider myself a handy man, but I am willing to try and figure stuff out. This is one skill I don’t have and would love to pick up just in case the need ever presents itself.
Improve my siSwati – I learned more siSwati in the 10 days we were in the country than I did in the months before trying to teach myself. That being said, I have yet to cross beyond the typical greetings and pleasantries. I would love to be able to have a basic conversation before arriving in the country nest summer.
Take a course on AIDS – Swaziland is a beautiful country, but it holds several dubious titles. It has the highest AIDS rate at nearly 40%! It also has the highest death rate and fastest declining life expectancy. Every issue in Swaziland is impacted by the AIDS epidemic (from employment to poverty to orphan care). I want to take the time to familiarize myself with the disease, its treatment, and its impact on society.
Brush up on my Southern African history – Swaziland has a rich history. It was largely able to avoid the strife caused by colonialism that negatively affected so much of Southern Africa. However, much of the current climate in the area is still impacted by this chapter of history. I want to know more about the Boers and English and tribal conflicts that shaped the area.
Learn to drive a split shift – Another seemingly random skill set I would like to acquire. I have no desire to drive a large truck, but I want to be able to do it if the need ever arises.
Become competent in PHP development – Several months ago, a good friend of mine and I began (re)teaching ourselves HTML and CSS. I know just enough to get myself into trouble. I would like to build on this skill set by adding PHP development so I can design websites and databases for the organizations I will work with and also as a possible secondary income stream.
Sell / Give away / Downsize our stuff – We have been in this process for several years now, but still have so far to go. I still have books to get rid of, a house to sell and plenty of household items to deal with. Most of our stuff is not going with us nor will it be saved.
Visit with friends and family – This past weekend I had my 10 year reunion and also visited with college friends at a wedding. It reminded me how many people I want to see before we leave. If you are in the area, please take the time to give me a ring and I will treat you to a meal or coffee.
Travel – This is obviously related to the prior. I foresee many mini-road trips in the near future to visit people, but also I want to explore our own country a bit more before we leave. I have been fortunate enough travel through most of the country, but Beth has not. I want to be intentional about visiting places, especially in the American West.
Have a game plan for the next 10 years – This move to Swaziland has been over two years in the planning. Beth and I have slowly, but deliberately made decisions about our future and have been willing to change them as needed. Now that things are beginning to solidify, we need to be thinking about where we want to be in the next decade or longer. This means working through things like expanding our family, saving for college, setting long term goals, etc. I don’t expect to have it all figured out, but I want us to be intentional about the direction we are moving. (That is actually the key idea behind the title of my blog.)
Just like the last list, these descriptors are varied. Some are the result of philosophical/theological shifts, some reflect major life transitions, and others have slowly developed based on changing life circumstances.
Here are things that I have become:
A stay-at-home dad
A master of biblical studies (I even have a degree that says so)
A year ago I was a student at Asbury, working at Kaleidoscope, expecting my first child. 12 months later I am a stay-at-home dad with my MA working at a distillery. Quite a bit has changed in 2009. Here is a look back in pictures. [HT: Dave]
January -Stephenson Chapel
[Bowling with the Youth from Stephenson Chapel]
In January I continued my work with Kaleidoscope writing grants, but also began a stint as an interim pastor for Stephenson Chapel. At first it was only supposed to be a few week fill-in gig, but it ended up lasting 6 months. The folks at this rural church in Russellville were an amazing example of community and incarnate love. They put up with my quirks and gave Beth and I amazing support.
February – Ice and Stitches
[Ice damage and damaged knee]
In late January a major snow storm hit the Bluegrass. Along with many other people I spent several days running a chainsaw helping with the cleanup. Most of my time was out at Camp Loucon, a Methodist camp and retreat center near Leitchfield KY. On my third day in I was sawing a hanging limb and it kicked back in a weird way sending the chainsaw bar (the chain was not moving) into my leg. I ended up with 24 stitches in my knee, but was sawing again within 3 hours. Some people never learn.
March – Corsair
[Custom Still at Corsair]
Beginning in October of last year, I completed several distillery tours in the state. They are always a fascinating mix of industry, craft and science. The most interesting was Corsair Artisan, a micro-distillery that just opened in Bowling Green. After several visits, in March the owners asked if I would be interested in helping them out on a few projects. My role in the company gradually expanded and now I am the Distillery Manager and handle most of the daily operations. It is a great mix of duties that keeps me on my toes and works with my schedule.
April – Birth of Mikayla
[Mikayla at 1 week]
Some months carry more weight than others. Thus is the case for April 2009. On the the 28th at 10:36am, our baby girl Mikayla Lillian Kickert was born. She weighed in at 7,7 and was 20” long. You can see more blog posts about her here.
May – Graduation
[Celebrating with the family in all my regalia]
After 3 years, $33,000 ($21,000 out of pocket), and over 3,000 hours of work I finally graduated with a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies from Asbury Seminary. This time was certainly formative, but looking back at it I am not convinced I would do it again if given the choice. It was simply too much of a sacrifice for what it yielded. For me, graduation was more than just an achievement – it represented a transition to freedom.
June – Blogging / Time with Family
[G-ma Morgan meets Mikayla for the first time]
After graduating and ending my stint at Stephenson Chapel I discovered a void in my life. I no longer had an obvious outlet for my creativity or an avenue to work through my thoughts. In order to fix this I began blogging (technically I took blogging back up, but my previous attempts had never amounted to anything). Also during this time Beth, Mikayla and I had the opportunity to spend a lot of quality time together and visit with family. We basically had 2.5 months together and took full advantage of it.
July – Garden
[The garden at the height of the growing season]
While not specific to July, one of the highlights of the year was our garden. This was the first year we moved it to our house and it was also one of the best crops we have had. It was a great escape and the food we produced was excellent. Here is an earlier post about our garden and one about lessons learned throughout the year.
August – Stay-at-home Dad
[Watching Mikayla while Cooking]
When Mikayla was born Beth and I decided it made sense for me to stay at home with her during the week. In August, my “job” started in earnest. I had never pictured myself as a stay-at-home dad, but I have really enjoyed being able to spend time with her and it means the whole family gets more quality time. To be honest with you, sometimes I wonder what Beth was thinking when she trusted me to not do anything stupid with Mikayla. So far so good… for the most part.
September – Grandfather
[Grandma and Grandpa with Mikayla]
Some transitions are harder than others. One of the tough ones for 2009 was the passing of my grandfather. In his life he had overcome many illnesses and obstacles, but his last few months were filled with pain and everyone knew in September it was his time to go. I wrote some of my thought about the transition of life here.
October – Long Term Relationships
[Kickerts and Altmaiers at Abrham’s Falls]
It is amazing how fast time goes by. In October, Beth and I celebrated our 5 year anniversary. A few months earlier we had celebrated 10 years together (dating+marriage). Even though it sounds trite to say, I could not imagine my life without her. That same month we spent a great weekend with old friends (Dave and I go back to Ms. Fitzgerald’s first grade class). For Beth and I, Dave and Catherine are the type of friends that you can jump right back in with even after several months apart and never feel like you missed a beat.
November – Camry
November represents one of the most frustrating months of 2009. A few months earlier the engine in Beth’s Camry blew (read about it here). After a month of trying to figure out if was worth fixing, we finally bought a used engine to install. Long story short, the engine was bad, we hit a bunch more hurdles, we have spent 3x the amount we planned on spending and as of the first week of January we still don’t have a car. Ughh…
December – Christmas
[PJs, Hot Cocoa, and Pictures]
Since this was Mikayla’s first Christmas we made sure we spent part of Christmas day at our home together. We were able to initiate some family traditions of our own (Beth has a great post about it). One of the things we did was get dressed up in our pajamas (I had to buy some), make hot cocoa and take fun family pictures together.
Overall 2009 did not turn out the way I would have expected it to, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else than where I am right now.
I was talking with someone the other day about my ability to work at Kaleidoscope without compensation. She was very confused… how could Beth and I support ourselves if I was only working minimal hours a week at a low rate and us practically living on a teacher’s salary. It was easy I told her… we live simply. We drive old cars, don’t buy new clothes, have a modest house and save our money. Unfortunately these simple exercises are entirely foreign to too many people.
In the last year our take home income has decreased by over 30% and we have a new member in the family. At the same time, our savings have gone up and “happiness” has significantly increased. In the last year, my primary job has gone from full time to part time to very part time to no time. Instead of stressing about money, we have actually been able to give more and save more. In fact, since Mikayla has been born, our monthly expenses have continued to drop.
What accounts for this? Have we fired our butler? Have we sold off hidden assets? Have we joined a commune?
Not at all… we have just continued to re-evaluate our priorities and moved towards a simplified life. Time with family is more important than extravagant vacations. Food from the garden is better than eating out. New clothes are not needed when you aren’t trying to impress people who do not even care about you in the first place.
Sure we don’t drive the nicest cars (when they run), and Lord knows we don’t have the slickest attire. We aren’t on everyone’s “Who’s Who” list and we don’t get to experience the newest greatest things, BUT…
We are as happy as we have ever been, we stress less, and the time we spend with family and friends outweighs any possession or experience one could buy. I regularly wake up excited about what the day holds and not worried about what I have to get done. Those things are priceless.
There is no way I could go back to the rat-race of life. In only people knew the peace and happiness that comes from a path of downward mobility…. There is a reason that Jesus told his followers to sell all they have to give to poor. It is not so that the poor can be liberated, but so that the wealthy can.
What would happen if we were honest about character flaws?
How would things look different if we were willing to admit our shortcomings and if we were able to have honest conversations with those we love about theirs.
I know I have my issues. I can be arrogant and self-centered. I am over critical of others ideas and too often insist things go my way. I am better at coming up with ideas than I am with implementing them. I can be too goals-oriented and overlook the people involved. I don’t always give people the benefit of the doubt and am impatient. I procrastinate and sometimes don’t follow through with the things I commit to…. (I really could go on much longer, but that is the point of this post).
Since Mikayla was born, I have been much more introspective about who I am versus who I want to be. I am idealistic by nature and want things to be the best they can be (which probably is as much a contributing factor to many of my flaws as it is a solution). The problem is I don’t always know when I am exibihiting these behaviors. What is worse is I am sure there are others I have not listed that I don’t even know about.
I want to work on these issues, but I also know that owning up to them is painful. Towards the end of my high school years, I began realizing areas where I had been a jerk (and by jerk, I don’t mean just saying something hurtful… I am talking about being a real asshole). I tried to make apologies where possible, but I know I was never able to right the wrongs. Even now, I will be telling a story a cringe when I think back to some of my choices, or how I treated people. It is painful for me to realize these flaws, but it is worse to not acknowledge them.
I not only want to be willing and able to examine my own life, but I want to have the kind of friends who are comfortable telling me when I am being an ass, or when I have stepped over the line, or when I need to buck up and apologize, or admit I was wrong. I want to be a better person even if that means having some painful conversations, or having my pride hurt.
On the other side, I wish I was better at being honest with those I care about about things I see in their lives that concern me. I have always been a direct person and rarely shy away from conflict. But, if I am honest, most times I am direct it is for my own selfish reasons. I have been hurt, and I want them to know. Well, I want to be direct because I love my friends and family and want them to be better people — whether or not it affects me directly.
I have never really been one to gossip and talk about others, but I do find myself judging others actions much more frequently than I would like. I assume people’s motives when I really have no idea. Often when I have had difficult conversations with friends about why they do things that they do, I have realized my perspective was wrong in the first place.
If I were most honest with those I care about things that concern me, I believe one of two things is most likely to happen. Either I will gain a deeper respect for them by understanding their perspective, or, they will hopefully take to heart my concerns and in the end be better people.
All too often we are not cognizant of our flaws in the same way those around us are. We may not even realize we are hurting people with our words or actions. Equally, when we think we understand someone else and wish their behavior was different, the fact of the matter is we simply may not understand the larger picture.
Being open and honest is almost always awkward and it is often painful, but I feel it makes us better people and allows us to understand and care for those around us in a deeper way. I have seen friendships fail because people were unwilling to be honest about concerns or hurts and assumed the worst.
So, what would happen if we were open about our character flaws and receptive to others criticism and honest with those we care about about our concerns?
I can’t answer that globally, but I can say that those are the types of relationships I want to have. I want to acknowledge my flaws and be aware of when they are showing through. I want to know when I cross the line and when I hurt people so I can be a better person and so I can try and make things right. I don’t want to judge and be critical of others actions and motives if I am not willing to have a straight forward conversation with them. I want to be a better person…. and… I want the same for you.
So far Beth and I have discussed what we like, what we want to accomplish, and a bit about who we are. Today our list of 10 will look at what we like to do. Here are my top 10 favorite activities:
Disc Golfing – I was introduced to disc golfing while I was in college. I love it because it offers an easy escape outdoors, even if only for an hour or two. You can play by yourself or in groups. Best yet… is relatively cheap. You could play ’til your heart was content for $2 if you buy a used disc. For $20-30 you would be well on your way. Compared to my other outdoor activities, this one is by far the cheapest.
Discgolfing with some of Beth's students.
Gardening – Beth and I are on our third year of gardening, and the first in our own backyard. I just got in from harvesting okra, tomatoes, corn and peppers. Here is link to post I wrote earlier, and some pictures of the garden from today.
Rock Climbing – My first experience climbing was in high school at an indoor gym. I ended up buying my own equipment and then getting involved in an outdoors group my Freshman year in college where I got into real rock climbing. In the four years fighting fire in Idaho I expanded my experience. Now I only climb a couple times a year, but I treasure each one. It is not just the activity, but the comradery found sitting around at the bottom of the rocks too.
Climbing in the Bitterroots, circa 2001
Backpacking – I was backpacking before I even knew what it was. I was lucky enough to have parents that valued the outdoors and introduced them to me early. In fact, my first camping trip was before I was a month old (at least that is what Dad says… but his memory is not what it used to be.) I try to have one big trip every couple years, but is has been a few years since I have been out. Just this week I went back through my pictures from a trip to Colorado. Backpacking is one of those things that is fun to prepare for, to do, and to talk about later.
Purifying water while backpacking in Colorado. (The day before we found an outfitter's stash of beer).
Traveling – I have been very fortunate to be able to travel quite a bit in my life. I visited over 30 states in 18 months when I was in college and currently have visited all of the lower 48. I have been to Mexico (kinda), Canada, Costa Rica, Germany, Austria and Italy. I enjoy traveling not only for the experiance, but also because it often forces me to reassess my own understandings of the world.
Conversing with friends over beverages – I enjoy good conversations in relaxed settings. Like the activity above, this includes lots of things. I enjoy talking theology, philosophy, politics, and anything in between. I enjoy good drinks and people who enjoy good drinks.
Being with my family – One of my favorite activities is simply being with my family. Not doing anything in particular… just being. I love a lazy Sunday in a cozy bed, or a evening of talking with my extended family. I feel very natural with my family and am comfortable just hanging out.
Family picture at Kentucky Lake.
Working with my hands – Most of my work is cerebral, whether it is grant writing, or studying, or planning. After 20 years of schooling, and 5 years of jobs mostly made up of life behind a computer, I find great relief in working with my hands. If I get stressed out, I will work in the garage; if I have spent too much time writing grants, I get respite from mowing the lawn. I love my current job at Corsair Artisan Distillery because it includes science, craft, mundane tasks and grunt labor. My time fighting fire was probably my most fulfilling job at the end of the day (but not in terms of long range impact).
Practice Rappells at Moyer in Idaho, circa 2003.
Driving long distances in the car alone – Everyone needs a way to relax and collect their thoughts. Some people golf, some people go for walks, some people journal. For me, the most calming time is driving alone in the car. Often I do this with the windows down and the radio off. When I was in Seminary, I would often leave at 4:30 in the morning and drive 2.5 hours. I would have loved my sleep, but seeing the sun come up while I processed my thoughts was the most therapeutic thing I could do.
Researching – In all honesty, this is probably my favorite activity because it includes so much. I enjoy spending time in the Library combing through old journals and abstracts to find a hidden gem of information for a paper. I love pouring over a map trying to find the best route. I love browsing wikipedia to learn about random things like historic natural disasters, or the standard model of particle physics. I often get into a topic and try to read everything I can about it. I spend hours trying to understand things like PHP so I can edit a blog. And, if I am honest, much of the time I waste tinkering around on the internet is linked to this activity.
For two months Beth and I have been on a hunt. We are not trying to track down wild game, or looking on ebay for a rare collector’s edition of barbie… no, we have been trying to capture Mikayla’s “pouty face.” For all intents and purposes Mikayla is a very content baby, but when she does cry she usually gives a warning first… her pouty face. Even though it is obvious she is about to get upset, it is too precious to not laugh at. Unfortunately, every time we have tried to capture it on film, she has either cheered up, or progressed into a full cry. However, tonight was the night… after many attempts we finally captured it in all its glory. Here are the fruits of our labors:
The face is right, but we forgot the flash -- too dark and grainy.
Again, we are close, but unfortunately I cropped her head.
The lips are right, but the eyes show more terror than poutiness. (Perhaps that is because I had just almost dropped the camera on her).
Oh so close, but no eye contact.
Ahh... there it is.... captured for posterity. (of course after this point she had gotten so worked up it took 10 minutes to get her to stop crying.)
It has been a long time since something has really gotten my blood boiling, but at 1:00 in the morning while I waiting on videos to render I came across this video.
Let me give a disclaimer first. I have always approached Mark Driscoll with some hesitancy. Most of the time I don’t disagree with what he is saying, but I do question his delivery. To put it simply, I tend to put the emphasis different things.
That being said, this commentary on gender roles is completely out of line and personally offensive. In case you don’t know, I am currently a stay-at-home dad and this was a decision Beth and I did not take lightly, but are completely happy and at peace with the decision.
Okay, enough with the disclaimers — on to the video:
Lets start with delivery before we dive into the deeper points. I am convinced Mark thinks he is a better pastor if he drives people out of his church. He seems to take an arrogant pleasure in the fact that some of the stuff he is saying will piss people off and cause them to leave (by the way… this seems to be par for the course.) I am sure he would say he is sticking to his guns in the face of a fickle society. Don’t get me wrong, Christians need to be unwavering on some issues and refuse to compromise. However, even on issues that stand at the core of Christian belief, there is no need to enter the conversation by speaking down to those who hold opposing views. There is no room for discussion or clarification. For Driscoll, this is how it is and everyone else can go to hell. It is one thing if he takes this attitude on things like the divinity of Christ, but he is talking about stay-at-home dads here. If I remember correctly (and I too have read the whole Bible) there is no definitive passage addressing the evils of stay-at-home dadding, so we are all forced to interpret secondarily what the witness of scripture is.
Continuing with my critique of Driscoll’s tone, I must call him out for on some of the offensive things he said (and implies). First, I think it is clear that Driscoll thinks all stay-at-home dads are deadbeats. Forget his theological rational, his argument revolves around an assumption that it is not manly to stay at home. Furthermore, he basically says that men suck at nurturing. That may be the case for him, as he clearly admits, but lets not paint with too broad of a brush. His statements about men not being cut out for the job of staying at home relies on stereotypes, is short-sighted and is offensive to those who do a great job (may I point to my man Lee Fowlkes.) Furthermore, he builds his case on the assumption that women cannot adequately provide. These comments are not based on biblical exegesis, but on ignorance. If he wanted to make statements about the topic from a (conservative) biblical viewpoint he could have said something like “The bible outlines certain roles each gender should follow. To deviate from those is a sin.” Saying that would have been more biblically based without conveying arrogance, ignorance or hate. The bible does not give him the right to judge the effectiveness of males parenting/nurturing skills.
Now, on to his arguments. Driscoll bases most of his discussion his interpretation of 1 Timothy 5:8
If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.
He has taken the phrase “does not provide for his relatives” to mean the “a man should be the breadwinner.” But be careful here and go back and read the verse. Is it addressed to men? No! The verse says “anyone” who does not provide for his relatives… So a wife not providing is as bad as a husband. This is bolstered when you realize this whole segment of 1 Timothy is addressing how to care for widows. Paul addresses gender roles, but he doesn’t do it here. Even if you take traditional approach to Christian gender roles and insist on the male being the head of the household, you must admit scripture does not say the man must bring home the bacon.
Since Driscoll is a man who values “The Word” lets take a look at the word. In 1 Timothy the word for provide is pronoeoand has nothing to do with providing physically. Instead, it implies thinking ahead (pro=before) and planning. It is used 3 times in the NT and tends to carry an administrative nuance. So even if this did apply to directly and only to men (which it doesn’t), a first year seminary student could tell you the exegesis doesn’t allow for a reading that points primarily to providing physically. Driscoll says “if you are an able bodied man it is your job to provide for the needs of your family” and then he goes on to talk about work and material provision. Where is he getting this, because he sure didn’t get it out 1 Timothy. He is clearly reading what he wants to into the text. Even if we throw the greek (and context) out, we must admit that “providing for a family” is a multi-faceted thing. A father could provide all the money in the world, but if he is not taking his turn changing diapers, he is worse than an unbeliever (sarcasm intended). If anything, American fathers need to know that God calls them to provide holistically for their families. The last thing we need is more distant fathers.
“If our father is our basis for God, and our fathers abandoned us, then what does that tell you about God?” – Tyler Durden in Fight Club
Okay… lets look a bit deeper at how he chooses to answer the question. The question was “What are your thoughts on stay-at-home dads if the mother really wants / needs to work.” His answer reveals his convictions on gender roles. Not only does he speak out against men staying home while women work, he makes it clear he believes a woman’s place is at home.
Personally, if a woman wants that, I think its a great option. BUT… it is not the only option. Again, even if you go into a discussion of gender roles, we have to understand what scripture says and doesn’t say. It clearly does not say a woman should stay at home with the kids. Driscoll bashes the “culturally relevant” argument, but in doing so he neglects the social situation of the day. Thank God we have come a long way as a society and women now have choices and are not considered property. Lets not adopt an archaic social structure (i.e. slavery) just because scripture addresses that cultural circumstance. But again, that is not even relevant because scripture is silent on whether women should stay at home. But I digress… I want to return to affirm women who choose to stay at home. I think this is a much better option than paying someone else to raise your children. Likewise, if women do work, I think that is a perfectly fine model as well — as long as your family is being cared for.
Lets return to Driscoll’s argument and something his wife says: “”It is hard to respect a man who does not provide…we need to take the word seriously.” While I agree it would be hard to respect a man who does not care for his family, lets not forget “the word” does not use this phrase to address material, but actually care and foresight. She then quotes Titus and Paul’s words to this young missionary. Again, if we look at the context, Paul is giving some suggestions on what to teach to a new church. There is one phrase in chapter 2 that says “women should be busy at home.” Now… is there enough in those 6 words to base your entire post-marriage career path on? I think not. Can a woman (or man) be busy at home and have a job. Absolutely. Just ask my wife!
Lets end on a Driscolls closing. He says there is nothing in scripture that allows for this sort of family structure. First, I would also point out there is nothing in scripture that clearly lays out the structure he insists on (mother at home, dad bringing home the bacon). But more importantly, I would disagree with him. We do have a model of this. Check out Lydia in Acts 16:
Lydia’s Conversion in Philippi
11From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day on to Neapolis. 12From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
13On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.
40After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and encouraged them. Then they left.
The text clearly shows a woman working outside the house. The household is identified by her name rather than her husband’s and she is in a prestigious business. I will grant a couple points: She was not a christian when described as working, it is possible her husband is dead / she is not married. However, what I find important here is that the text is neutral and does not paint Lydia’s work outside the home as a bad thing.
Lets get personal for a second. Beth and made the decision together for me to be a stay-at-home dad. We realized that we could provide for our family best if she worked and I stayed home. We are not giving into cultural trends, we are biblically asking how we can best provide and following through. Let me say this too. Beth is not working just so she can make the money to sustain the family. She is working because the job she has allowed for more ministry than anything I could get. Plus, it freed me up to engage in ministry of my own that I would not be able to do if I was working full time. Forget killing two birds with one stone, we just took out a flock of geese with a boulder: Beth can minister as a teacher, I can minister during the day, Mikayla is raised primarily by her parents, financially we can give more to charity and the church…. and the list goes on.
Driscoll’s conclusion to the question asked is very direct: unless there are extreme circumstances, it is outside God’s will for a man to be a stay-at-home dad. He even goes as far as saying such an action would require church discipline. Once again, I must ask… on what grounds? It is so frustrating to hear his pastor rail so heavily on the importance of the scripture, yet when you take even cursory glance at his arguments you realize his preconceived views are more heavily at play than the authority of scripture. We aren’t even discussing interpretation of difficult passages. Driscoll is ignoring the context and running with a flawed ideal.
This is not just about me getting my feelings hurt. This man is calling into question the career and family life of a significant number of godly people. Heaven forbid godly men and women abandon their life just because some pastor misreads (or ignores) the implications of Scripture. If Beth and I were to act on his advice and take up his model for a godly family, we would be living on less, giving less, Mikayla would have less time with her parents, Beth would leave a job she loves and I would have to take a job I hate, our opportunities for ministry would decrease and our stress would increase. Is that really the biblical ideal of providing for one’s family. I think not.
I would leave his church over statements like this (and perhaps that would only stoke his ego) because I think they are dangerous and ignorant.
Beth and I are not ignoring the call of God, we are embodying it. We are not clinging to culture and rejecting biblical truth, we are clinging to godliness and rejecting naivety and closemindedness.
Thankfully, after writing over 2000 words on the matter my blood pressure has returned to normal and maybe I can get some sleep. 😉
*I found this video while searching for stay-at-home dad blogs. HT to athomedaddy.