On Raising Savages: Hold Up
By Kris Green
I’m not much of a chef. I can cook the basics and have fun doing it, but that’s just it. Maybe the only reason for my wife’s inflated view of my abilities is her own struggles in the kitchen.
Cooking takes time. You need to get a feel for timing. There’s a sweet spot where the food, the meat, the vegetables, the noodles, the casserole is just right. It’s like cooking steak for people who have different preferences. You need planning, patience, and a gut instinct to do it just right and even then, unless you know what you’re doing, it comes down to a little bit of luck.
I come home from work and my wife tells me she’s glad I’m home. Both kids are running around the house, not screaming but loud, when my wife nods toward the stove.
“I was going to put chicken broth on the chicken.”
“You don’t need to.”
“I don’t want it dry.”
The chicken will be ready in about three minutes. It has a good look; slightly dark on the outside with the sauce caking to it like it should. I smile not because I think the chicken broth would hurt it, it just would kill the flavor she had already succeeded with the sweet chili sauce.
“Hold up, let me look.”
It’s hard to have your timing right with the kids running around. My daughter wants to be held. She points at the peas happily saying what they are and uses the wooden spoon to scoop out some onto the stovetop. My son is hungry and a little whiney. The chaos continues while I find a place to set down my bag.
My manager grabs another manager and the three of us go into an office. He must review something with everyone and he’s trying to get it out of the way. It’s a quick meeting. After, we’re in the office talking, and my boss says he’s meeting with his daughter for lunch. His daughter whom he doesn’t see much, and by his own account, he doesn’t like.
“Yes, she asked if we could get lunch.”
I point at him and ask, “She pregnant?”
He cusses at me before he knows what he’s doing. I took him off guard. The other manager, shocked that I would say such a thing, asks me later why I thought that.
“If she reached out, it was to tell him something important.”
But really, that’s not the whole truth. I just knew. Somewhere inside my heart, I felt the truth and just knew in the blink of an eye. The astonishing thing was, when my boss came back from work that day, he didn’t talk to me for the rest of the day. It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I had overheard someone talking about how my boss would soon be a grandfather.
So much of life comes down to just simple faith in things. I wake up early and stumble to my desk. I read because I want my brain engaged as soon as possible. I sip my coffee and journal just the initial small paragraph after asking the internal question of how my soul is doing today. It might be embarrassing if one day my kids uncover a long repetitive notebook of my daily thoughts complaining about being tired more than not.
Somewhere in this routine is a chapter in the Bible and a prayer that becomes mostly silence as I listen for God to speak if he wants, giving him the floor and shutting up my already bustling mind.
On a typical day, I run. I’ll sometimes do weights, but lately, I run. For the last two months, I’ve been drinking a gallon of water a day, so I write down what day it is and then after I work out, before a shower or anything, I sit to write.
My morning routine can take up to and over three hours. Usually, the family is in bed. Usually, like this morning, it’s two o’clock and I have an early day before pushing myself to get going. It requires not only my organization, sacrifice of sleep, but also my family’s grace of knowing I must do this for my own sanity.
My hours before I work with people and do things are an investment in my own health. To keep my mind and body and soul and spirit healthy, I need to put forth the time. I had lunch with a friend who wants to write but never does complain that he just can’t get himself out of bed.
I wake early because I believe I am making a difference in my world. I write and believe something will come of it. I don’t know what. There’s an old expression that says, “God steers, we row.” It’s true.
The faith I have that reading a book about habits, a novel following the personification of fate and then a few pages of Marvel Zombies Volume 4 is that something will come from my weird interests of being a lifetime learner, developer, and active participant in cultivating my soul.
A salad isn’t going to make you lose five pounds. If it does, then you need to go to the doctor. But enough fighting to change your eating habits and striving to be healthy, your body will meet you there. It’s not easy. Change takes time, patience, and a little bit of faith.
It’s an investment. It’s not one and done. It’s slow steps. Why is it so easy to gain weight and so difficult to lose it?
“What kindergarten do you think we should put Tenny in?”
It’s September. My wife, after talking to another mother, got stressed out, feeling like even though we have ten months, we’re behind. Which we might be. I don’t know.
My wife begins laying out the different schools she thinks we should investigate and then we start talking about scholarship programs and the debate between public or private or Christian or charter, which turns out to be like a private school setting funded by public school money. Do we want a heavy focus on academic studies? One school ten minutes from our house spends a lot of time outside in nature.
“What do you think?”
The whole thing makes my head spin. “I don’t know. I have to see it.”
When we visited the preschool my son attends now, I just knew it was the right one. It wasn’t clouds parting. I didn’t hear a voice or someone saying I needed to do this or that, it was just knowing—this is right.
It’s like knowing your boss is going to be a grandfather or not to putting broth in the skillet. But I think it comes from the Spirit of God inside of me. I think it’s stronger because I put forth the time to make it stronger.
I always thought baptism was kind of strange. Thinking about biblical times, I have yet to uncover whether people were being baptized before John the Baptist, or if it was just a thing he started doing. I was never clear if it was a parallel to the priests washing themselves before sacrifices or if it was just a spur of the moment idea from John that took off.
Imagine walking upon John the Baptist, dressed in camel fur, probably looking more like the rugged Prophet Elijah, and shouting out profound yet crazy things. It was known he ate locusts and wild honey. Not one but two gospel authors thought it strange enough to include in their accounts. But not only that, then you allow this man to dunk you into the waters for the repentance and forgiveness of sins. Seems crazy, right?
If there is any indication of people going on gut feeling and trusting their hearts in the Bible—it’s this. There’s something going on here that developed enough attention to where the religious leaders and King Herod took note. It was attention-grabbing. People by the dozens were just going and doing this strange thing by gut feeling. Or maybe another way of putting it is they were inclined to do so by the Spirit of God.
My son’s exposure to God outside of my wife and I is church and Awana. Awana is like Christian boy scouts. It’s a good program that he seems to engage in more every week. He has a Bible verse to memorize and there’s a little book he reads with his mom and little videos that turn the Bible verse into a song. It’s all pretty connected and clean-cut.
I was cleaning the kitchen and my wife was at the dinner table with him while my son was watching the Awana video on her phone when the woman on the phone told my son to lower his head and pray this prayer.
I walked carefully unseen as my son, head lowered, began to repeat the sinner’s prayer. He’s barely four and I felt my heart swell with a flood of emotions as he said the prayer and then raised his head like it was no big deal.
Now, my son starts off to play with his trucks and my wife tells me he’s asked about baptism.
“What about baptism?”
“He said he wants to be baptized.”
As a father, I know there’s a lot I need to do. Not just in general—work, provide for the family, walk around with a hammer and do manly things, mow the yard, collect the weeds in a bin, and in general, fix problems. But biblically speaking, the conversations about God should be coming from me. Right? I’m the head of the household and I should be telling my son about God and everything in the Bible. Maybe I should be hopping in the car and driving down to the ocean and get a-baptizin’.
Inside though, something hesitates. I can’t articulate it until later and even then, I feel almost foolish saying it, like I’m passing the buck, but I struggle talking to my son about God in any detail. We talk about God’s creation, his love, and his power. But how deep can I go with a four-year-old? How deep should I go?
He knows. He asks questions. We talk. But I find when I try to force it, it doesn’t work.
“If you see Bill’s dad, try to talk to him. I think we’re going to try to get a playdate with his parents,” my wife tells me as I leave to take my son to school.
I see Bill’s dad. We smile. We nod. He’s watching his son. I’m watching mine. We don’t exchange words. That’s all there is.
If I’m in the moment, the conversation will be easy to make happen. But if not, then I have to force it. I don’t like forcing it. You can feel it. The desired outcome never happens because there’s something deeply entrenched for good or bad inside of me to try and be honest with myself.
Jonah was told to go to Nineveh. He didn’t. He went the other way. As the great sage once said, “Sooner or later, God will cut you down.”
There’s a lot to the Jonah story, but there’s a little detail that seems to scream out at me when I read it. When finally Jonah relents and repents and goes to Nineveh, I can’t imagine he went preaching the repentance of sins with any passion. I just don’t see it.
He walked the streets and proclaimed God’s wrath. He told people to repent. Then he pulled out his beach chair and mourned not buying an umbrella at Costco and sat outside waiting for Nineveh to be destroyed. Even Jonah didn’t think his preaching worked—at least not entirely. Did he mumble the call for God? Did he walk quickly so as not to see people for too long?
Have you ever forced a kid to do something they didn’t want to do? They don’t do it with passion. They drag their feet. They complain. They make a scene. It’s almost comical. You get the bare minimum and that’s okay. At the end of it, you get the job done. Maybe not perfect, but at least it was accomplished.
Jonah was probably not looking too far off from John the Baptist after spending a few days in a large fish. I doubt he shouted. I doubt there was any sense of emotion. He did not weep for these people—in fact, he didn’t want them to repent at all, which makes the entire book more like a comedy than a drama.
So why did Nineveh repent? People heard and inside, they said, “Hold up. There’s something going on here.”
Something inside their hearts was speaking to them. Something powerful came out of Jonah’s words whether Jonah intended it or not.
I take my son, Tenny, out to a nature preserve nearby. I drive feeling the pressure of wanting to talk to him about God. The internal divide between telling him about God and guiding him into knowing God screams in my ears.
We get out of the car, and he excitedly starts running down these paths where in the distance is a lake, trees surrounding us. The park feels big enough that you almost think if you’re not paying attention, you could get lost, but somehow, it’s never happened.
I tell him to watch out for alligators and to stay close. He’s bursting with a tiny spurt of adrenaline of having one-on-one time with Dad merging with a child’s excitement of the wild world.
I try to calm him. I tell him to get quiet and listen. In the past I’ve sat in nature in quiet and allowed the noise of it to begin to flood around me. You begin to hear the bugs first making their noises and life just flourishing. If you’re there long enough, you’ll see animals walk past that you never knew were around you.
Try getting a four-year-old to calm enough around that and you’ll see, it’s a near impossibility. The talk I had in my mind about how God created everything falls short. We get in the car later after my son has had time to run around. I feel disappointed that I couldn’t get the conversation out that I wanted.
I had hoped to be able to create some God-telling experiences that we could bond over. But after the first one fails so miserably—I think it might be a little while before I try again. It’s too forced. It’s not the right timing. I’m doing it not because of timing but because I feel like, as the head of the house, I have to. I wonder then and later if maybe that’s why it didn’t work.
Why does the Bible tell us to wait on the Lord so much? It’s mentioned over a hundred times. “Wait on the Lord” is in the Bible over one hundred times. I had to say it again just in case you didn’t catch it. But why?
We’re not too bright. Sometimes it’s easier to get precooked food than to hit the oven and dare the fates at what might emerge edible or not. Sometimes it’s easier to let the church childcare talk about Bible stories and the Awana class press my son into Bible knowledge more than I can or have.
Ecclesiastes says, “There’s a time for every season.” The worst time, I think, is time you spend waiting. If the food is in the oven, you need to be mindful of making sure you pull it away from the heat at the right time so that you either on one side don’t get food poisoning and on the other, it’s not so dry you can’t fight your way through.
God doesn’t do what I want when I want it. When I was younger, I hungrily read through books entitled You’re God is Too Safe because I had found there was something barbaric about this God who chose to call me his own. I was trying to understand a God who doesn’t cooperate on my time frame or does what I ask or even sometimes feels indifferent to my suffering, when realistically my suffering doesn’t even compare to other people’s.
“Wait on the Lord” because my time is not God’s. There’s a time for everything, Solomon warns us. There is a time that things will work out and when things fall apart. There’s a time for when the food will be ready and a time when you should start looking into kindergartens and maybe there’s a time to be baptized.
“No,” I say after a week of thinking about it.
“What?” my wife asks.
“I’ve been thinking about it. It’s too early to baptize him.”
I hope I’m making the right decision.
The early church had a process with someone who came to faith before they were baptized. They generally didn’t just roll you out to the river, they had a method to their faith. They wanted to see fruit. They wanted to see that it was something the person wanted. They wanted to know that it wasn’t just a fancy, but something long-lasting.
There’s something beautiful about keeping it sacred and quiet. They didn’t talk to outsiders about the mystery of communion. This probably led people to believe they were cannibals. They didn’t think it was important for people who didn’t believe to know. Come in, find Christ, then let’s see if your fruit matches your claims.
My son doesn’t understand the gospel, not like I do. He doesn’t understand death, and even more than that, doesn’t understand the resurrection. He knows God loves him. He knows sin is when he hits his sister. He tries to do the right thing. But it’s not the time for him to take that plunge. My heart tells me—wait. Inside my heart screams—hold up.
There’s a lot of people I’ve known in the faith who can quote to me the Bible front and back. But when I come at them with Scripture talking or asking questions, they look astonished because there’s something more in my questions or observations. There’s something that came more from what Paul calls, “A revelation of God.”
They have their knowledge because they went to church all their life and went through the classes and the education, but I came to faith a little different. I read the Bible in high school because I wanted to know what it was about. I came to faith out of a desperation that maybe, just maybe, God may make me and keep me sane.
As a father, I want to keep my son from such desperation. But life will find him. I will guide. I will voice reason. But inside his heart, I want heart knowledge to bloom out beautifully and grow more than just the Bible verses and stories he’s memorizing. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 8:1, “Knowledge puffs up.” I want him to know God more than I want him to know about God.
Maybe I’m getting bogged down by details. But maybe not. Sometimes, it’s best to just hold up a little and wait. Wait on that inner voice that’ll tell me to go. He believes in God. But he’s also too young to know any different. So, we will wait and see if the fruit matches the branches.
We get to the grocery store and my son who knows there’s a free cookie in it for him rushes me through the parking lot. I grab his wrist and pull him back when I see the pickup truck that wasn’t close to us, but close enough.
“Hold up,” I tell him. “Look both ways.”
He didn’t see it. He only saw what he wanted.