Children Take Time
My parents spent a week with us this summer. They doted on the cats, my father drank coffee on the deck, and my mother always managed to find another project around the house. By the time they left, we had uprooted a dead juniper bush, rust-protected the oil tank, replaced a ceiling light, lined the cabinets, planted flowers, power-washed the decks, and cleaned out the crawlspace. And that was just on a Thursday.
My parents are intense people who do things with fervor – a 17-hour drive from Illinois to Maine in a day and a half and that same journey back home in one day. They taught me that efficiency and productivity matter. They brought gifts with them: snacks in bulk from Costco – which they lament that we don’t have in Maine – along with irreplicable home-cooked food with names I don’t know in English, things collected for a long time in loving patience for when we’d see each other again.
But the best gift I received from my mother was a long midnight talk – a rare moment when she asked if I was happy, and she told me she was happy. We talked about raising children, and she said she’d never seen a same-sex Asian couple with children before.
I happened to know one, so I showed her photos of my friends – two Asian American mamas with a toddler. She smiled. These friends – they look like me, maybe a little less rested. I told her that we had lesbian couple-friends guiding us on the way to pregnancy – that while it wasn’t easy, we weren’t alone. I think that gave her comfort.
But I’m ashamed to admit that one of my anxieties about having children is how little time they’ll leave me to work – to be useful or productive.
Back in the saddle
After years of punishing myself for bad writing of the past, I’ve started writing fiction again. For the past two months, I’ve woken up most mornings at 4:30 a.m. to write without interruptions (except for the little cat’s early-morning caterwauling).
I credit Ocean Vuong for giving me the permission I thought I needed to get back in the saddle. After vacillating between the seeds of projects for years, trying to rope together what felt like a story people wanted to hear, I’ve started writing the story I’m best equipped to write.
To me, this is sacred time. I start each morning in the dark with a cup of coffee, and before I open my notebook, I say a simple prayer: “God, thanks that I get to be here.” I’m unsure how the story of this story will end, but the practice of showing up brings me joy.
I wake up Zora when my hour is up. I turn off the fan, bring her her robe, and kiss her. Some mornings, she’s holding my pillow. She takes her time getting up, and most mornings, I don’t mind.
A new role
I’ve also recently begun a part-time staff position at my church. In my role, I help our incredible pastor dream up the messages we think the church needs to hear, and I help organize congregants for Sunday services. We are leaning hard into our vision for a flat and wide church, where many can share a message, many can serve, and many can claim the call placed upon them to proclaim the good news.
Sometimes, I get to preach. Here are two recent sermons of mine:
New England Annual Conference Laity Address (actually, an expansion of a blog post)
Next Sunday, I’m preaching on the toxic theology of penal substitutionary atonement.
The list of toxic theologies to which we’ve been exposed is long. I still hold on to my favorite ones – the ones I know are unworthy but without whom I lose my bearings.
I’ve been kept busy this year with travel, most of which is for work. But this week, I had the chance to go to D.C. to advocate for U.S. foreign assistance for food and nutrition.
In the midst of a busy day and under the sun, my friend and I stumbled across a gem on the Hill: a humble fountain in a small hexagonal brick structure with wrought-iron gates and stone seating. The air inside was cool, the ground swept. I searched each entrance and wall for an attribution – for the name of the person who surely funded its creation, for some kind of memorial.
It’s called Summerhouse, as it turns out. No attribution. No raison d’etre. It just was. And that delighted me.
Which brings me to my point…
I’m not free from toxic doctrines, one of which is the commodification of my soul. To what do I owe the problematic notion that it’s only through my productivity that my life has value? That God can be pleased with me? I can blame a slew of social factors, but the onus for my attitude still lays with me. I’m a recovering evangecapitalist: I’m working on reclaiming my sense of self, which I tend to think is predicated on my productivity and individuality.
One noxious defense of homophobia is the idea that queer couples are sinful because they’re unnatural and unnatural because they cannot biologically conceive. Setting aside the erasure of trans people and those with different reproductive systems in that idea, I believe that this, too, is a queer, God-given gift. Through the reimagining of family and creation, we can better understand God’s love for us and in us and through us.
In a time when Israelites were few and their status as a people was low, “be fruitful and multiply” may have been sage advice. In a time of human over-population and in a setting where we predicate our worth on our busyness and job descriptions (What do you do? How much do you make?), let this queerness remind us that we are, all our lives, mere children in God’s kin-dom. Mere luxuriators in the handiwork of the Weaver.
Zora tethers me – protects me against my evangecapitalist impulses. She turns off my notifications when we’re out on a hike. She reminds me to go to bed early. She makes us a hot breakfast every morning, so we start each day slowly and with one another, even when we could more easily slather peanut butter on a piece of toast.
Zora’s impulses aren’t mine. Quality time isn’t my love language, I tell myself. But it’s her ministry, and to me, a good reminder that time and love are all we have.
I’m not disposing of this toxic theology on my own. Like any of the transformations of belief I’ve undergone, this one isn’t done alone, and I can’t fix myself. But I don’t think God keeps Herself up at night about it. She knows I’m working on it. Like a mother watching Her child try to tie her shoes. And she’ll nudge me: the patience of a parent with a toddler, the lovely, lonely hours carving a story out of stone, a chance to speak the things I’m still working to believe, this queer body, a fountain with barely a name.
Painting, Give it Down, by Laura Berger.