Church Letters to Maddie

Being a dad

Tonight I had to go to the home of someone I love on Easter, because the dad of the family just raged-out and left in a fit. Said he wasn’t coming back that night. I went over and prayed with them, helped finish the meal that the dad had started, and just got some normalcy restored as much as one can do in those situations.

But truth be told I’m still mad about it. The dad claims to love Jesus, and I believe that he does, but the choices he makes routinely are options I think should be off the table for men who love Jesus.

I’ve been a dad for a very short period of time, only almost 2 years at this point. But I definitely know what I want, what my goal is:

I want my daughter to be primed to hear one day that Jesus loves her like a father without her earthly father messing up what that means.

I pray often for my little girl while I hold her at night before she sleeps- God let the way that I love her through the years- with a firm commitment to the truth and what’s right, with a grace and mercy and love for her. So that one day, when someone tells her she is loved by God the way a dad loves his daughter that my actions don’t mask or disfigure that beautiful analogy.

My dad is a good man. He works hard, provides for his family, and lives honestly. But we don’t have much of a relationship. The idea of him knowing me, or even more, the idea of me knowing him, seemed so far fetched to me growing up. So when someone told me about God, and I heard God constantly referred to as our father figure, I spent years laboring to earn a love, of a being I didn’t expect knew me or wanted to know me. But rather a figure who wanted my respect and obedience. While God does want my obedience, and my respect, He wants so much more than that. It took me years to begin to see the fuller picture of our God by combining my view of my biological dad, with my surrogate father, Bob Lane. With other dads I watched.

Those are all things I had to unpack and learn when I grew up with an honest, good tempered, hard working father! So all the more, when a dad decides he’s had enough and just needs to go “cool off” for a few days to blow off steam, I get righteously angry! That man has two sons, learning daily from his example. Not just for how they will one day lead their families, but also in what God means when he talks about forgiveness, mercy, love, long-suffering, patience. And they’re gaining a warped view of God in those things!

One day someone is going to tell Maddie about Jesus, and I want to not get in the way of that. I want to live in such a way that she says if God loves her as much as her dad, and in the way her daddy does, then she wants to hear more about God!

And my twist for the evening- I know that I have it in my heart, on my mind and in my actions, to live this way for my daughter. But I know that Jesus is just waiting for us all to figure out that it’s supposed to be this level of vigilance for how I interact with all people! Would years and years of people be more interested in Jesus because of how I love them. Would my actions not leave a wreckage wake behind me, but people hungry for the gospel. Would God use my deep passion and concern for how I influence people spiritually to grow beyond the walls of my home and instead reach round the world.

God, forgive me for my narrow focus. Let me love Maddie with all I have and all I am. But also let me see those around me, those that I will one day make the gospel easier or harder to see, and help me to serve you in every relationship I have, not just the one where love flows so freely, and not just the days where I find it easy. Overflow me with concern for the gospel, for Maddie and the whole world. And prepare me for the hardest of days to still live this out, not for my own accomplishment, but for your glory and usefulness. — Amen

All God Letters to Maddie

Wrote this for work

Maddie, she’s new here.

So this is my daughter Maddie. She’s still pretty new here to the planet. Rather than spending my bio talking about me, I’m gunna talk about her, and what I want for her.

I want her to grow up and know Jesus. I don’t want her to just know about Him, I want her to love Jesus in with the depth and genuine passion with which I love her. I want her to avoid my mistakes of rampant pride and wasted years, and I think being plugged in to not just a church, but the right church will help in that greatly.

I want her to be at a church that doesn’t just talk about Jesus in the abstract, but one where Jesus busts into our day by day lives and we welcome Him in to take over our thoughts, our words, and our every action. I want the people she lives in community with to drive her deeper and deeper into the arms of Jesus. Not just being a social club, but an ever expanding collection of people who see their need for spiritual rescue, and so eager to share it and welcome the newcomer that one day no place but heaven can hold them.

I want her to be mentored by people who love Jesus, and love her. I want her to go to a church that communicates well, communicates often, and communicates about the things that are important, and not just urgent. I want her to go to a church passionate about the timeless nature of God’s word, but fired up about the ever changing ways to reach people with the good news!

I do my job not because it’s a job, but because it’s a calling. I love being a part of our app, our website, our podcast, our video and photography teams, our leadership team and support staff, and any role they want me in here at Morning Star. For me it’s never been about the job, but it’s only about the goal of making Jesus known in this city. And all the things I dream of for my kid, maybe you dream of them for your kids too, and for ourselves. And together let’s love Jesus in the way that makes this place what we want for the next generation.

All God Letters to Maddie Love

Musings on six weeks in

I’ve prayed to die more times than I can count. From about 14 or 15 onward, I’ve been praying somewhere between 20-200 times per day to die. I pray it as a song, in words, in moans. It’s been the one counterpoint in frequency to “I love you” said to my wife, and “I live to serve” said to everyone.

But Maddie was born a bit over a month ago, and suddenly, once. Like not for one day, but one time on one day.

Some people would feel bad if they prayed to die. But for me it was such a surreal moment where almost out of habit I find it being asked, then I stopped and thought for the first time, maybe ever, that I genuinely just feels odd now to pray that.

My love for my wife was enough to stick around. I have her my word and I kept it that I’d stay. But I can’t pretend that it was always what I wanted. But then Maddie shows up and I don’t just choose to stick around- I want to.

Baby girl, when you grow up and you read this, if one day you do, know that the combined love I found I was capable of between you and your mother is quite literally reason to live for me.

I didn’t hate life, I wasn’t discontent, I was just bored. The sum total of the remainder of my days just seemed so predictable that I did dangerous things, ruined my life even at times, just to mix it up. But then you show up, and it’s just the right type of unpredictable. You’re certainly not boring. And I enjoy the way you make each day a challenge.

I figured out pretty much an expert level how to love your mom perfectly. I’m not saying I’m perfect but I’m saying I’m certainly the perfect husband for her, and she is the perfect wife for me. But right now the things that I don’t know about how to be a good dad to you could fill volume after volume of books. I’m enjoying the discovery, relishing each moment where I realize just how not enough I am. It’s fun being so incredibly insufficient that I know I have to rely on Jesus to even possibly make this time worth it. I don’t speak of worth it for me, but worth it for you – that my time here would be well spent in making you feel loved, and reflecting the love of Jesus to you. This is a journey I’m enjoying, and I only pray that one day you would so fall in love with Jesus not because we force you into it, because we love you in a way that shows how Jesus loves us.

I can’t wait to see how you grow up, but even in this moment I’m enjoying watching you grow day by day. We laugh at your funny faces, we smile when you do, we cry when you hurt. I love you so much little kid, and you haven’t done anything to earn it yet. Just like that is how God loved me. Not based on what I did, but because he’s the father who wants nothing more than whatever is best for us. I hope our loves shows that to you in a powerful way. 

All Letters to Maddie

Baby Maddie

Hey Kiddo…

Man, even that feels odd- I haven’t settled yet on what I’m gunna call you. Sometimes it The Kid, other time TK for short. Kiddo, Maddie, Laney, Maddie-Lane- I’m all over the map. Who knows…

I love you. Right now, you barely even exist- you’re just a dream and a bump in my mind and your mothers belly. You kick back when I give you a jostle, much to your mothers delight and then pain. Sometimes you’re moving around so much and so forcefully I know that with all that energy, you’ll definitely be more like your mother than me. But then you listen to what we’re saying, and I swear you’re responding to it, and I know you’ll be like me just enough.

I talk about you all the time, we just had a baby shower yesterday where so many friends came together and just gave overwhelmingly and genourously to help with the random stuff I never knew I’d need if we had a kid, and some things we knew we’d need.

I’ve never truly loved anyone but your mother, and your name-sakes in this world. I struggle with sociopathy, and it’s been one of my life’s greater fears that if I had a kid, I wouldn’t love them the way I know I should. That my list of people for whom I feel genuine human emotion is so short, that if you didn’t get loved like that, I’d be broken about the damage I’d be causing you.

But you need to know, that’s not a problem. You haven’t even shown your face yet, and I’m so head over heels in love with you that I can’t stand it. I was walking down the hallway last night, and thinking “this is the hallway I’ll be a dad in. Here’s where she’ll live, and I’ll have to storm down the hallway at one point when she gets in trouble!” Even in that thought, the idea of being your dad, revealing the love that Jesus and your mother have had for me, in the way that I love you, sounds like so much fun that I can’t hardly wait to get started.

Right now, you’re a little over a month from showing up. I’m working at a church, Morning Star, and I spend my side time doing projects to show you I love you, that you’ll never even notice or think about. I painted your room last week, cleaned out all of our stuff so we’d be ready when you showed up with a safe and pretty place for you. I’m making sure your mother eats, because she’s pretty bad at that, and I constantly, with a smile, remind her to not starve my child.

I think all the time of what sort of person you’ll be. What you’ll look like, what you’ll talk like. The personality you’ll choose, the way you’ll live. I went to a wedding for a young lady that I mentored this weekend and about burst into tears thinking of the day when you do the same.

Then I worry and wonder what sort of dad I’ll be. Will you know me as a stern disciplinarian, will you think of me as your dad, daddy, father or papa? I hope that this growth God has started in me to more and more feel empathy and love continues, so that you get to grow up with a dad that you know beyond a shadow of a doubt loves you and only wants the absolute best for you. I’m sure you’ll hate it when I’ve got to punish you, but I hope you grow up knowing you’re loved even when feeling it might be more difficult.

Anyway, kiddo, I can’t wait to meet you. I’m praying for you like there was no tomorrow, dreaming of all the ways I want to pour out my life so that you would know you are loved beyond measure. We haven’t even held hands for the first time, but you’re holding my heart.

Love Always,
Your dad

All Letters to Maddie

Tiny Human

Holy crap, holy crap… holy crap. Some moments, you wonder what they’d be like if they ever happened. You wonder if you’d be excited, angry, sad, or what? Moments that transcend life as usual, and change the course of your thoughts and actions from there on out. I’m experiencing one of those now. But I’m always surprised to be an accurate assessor of self on the big things. I always wonder if this time I’ll be wrong, be timid where I expected boldness or vice versa.

I know this was true of me when it came to diving with sharks. I always talked a big game about how much I’d like to dive with them, but I was always hedging my bets in how I talked about it, because I’d never done it. For all I knew, once it happened, I’d be afraid, fearful, timid- who knows till it happens, right? Then finally after years of dreaming about it, we’re on a trip in the Bahamas and someone looks over the side of the boat and shouts “SHARKS IN THE WATER!” and I didn’t even think- I wasn’t finished getting my gear on or ready, but completely on instinct, I just jumped head first into the water, and worried about putting on my mask and fins once I was in. Reality revealed the truth of my desire.

Well, turns out, I feel the same way about being a dad. My wife just came to my work to inform me she has a small collection of pregnancy tests that all came back saying there’s some human child growing in her. (I’m assuming human, but hoping it’s a safe assumption). Turns out, nearing 40 isn’t too old… I’m not surprised I guess, but I’m pleased to be wrong about what trajectory I’m experiencing here. I thought this was the downward spiral, the end of a good and exciting journey. Turns out, I’m supposed to only be getting started. Time to stop drowning in the salt, riding like a kid, and in general being me. Time for Jim Smith 4.0!

I’d always wondered what I’d do if she told me she was, would I be scared, regretful, etc. Turns out, no. I’m joyful, excited, and hopeful that this kid could be lucky enough to turn out nothing like me. Where before I was ruled by fear that if I had a kid they could end up a copy of my worst and Natalie’s excesses, instead now I’m optimistic that it could be the best of both of us. (I have my nephew Logan to thank for that optimistic outlook).

So anyway, yeah. Looks like here goes everything!