As I have stated in this space before, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. In my home, extravagant Christmas celebrations faded as I grew older, but Thanksgiving is the one holiday where my family is the most disappointed when we can’t all come together and thank God for his blessings of the past year. However there is a special feeling to Thanksgiving this year, as it is the first that I celebrate as a parent. Both my wife and I still feel the surreal nature of being parents to a new life while at the same time feeling like our daughter has been around forever. And although it is very cliché, there is really no feeling that I have felt that is quite like holding my daughter in my arms and having her smile at me.
More than a few people told me before my child was born that I would come to have a greater understanding of my relationship with God after I became a parent. Those people presented the concept to me with the idea that I would learn more about what God goes through in dealing with me as I play God for my daughter. Maybe it was implied, but the first spiritual lesson I learned from my daughter was not from the position of how God must feel, but from the perspective of realizing how much I can be like my daughter. While those positions are not far from each other, the difference struck me one day as we prepared (again) to change and then feed our child.
Ever since I was a teenager I have taken to speaking to babies as if they are adults (someone please tell me I am not the only one who does this). So it should come as no surprise that I talk to my daughter the same way. One evening my daughter was crying because she wanted to be fed. Par for the course basically. Babies always cry when they are hungry, or when they are anything for that matter. For some reason on this particular day I decided to address the issue with my daughter. I picked her up and said,
“Why must you cry every time you need to eat? You have been with us for a while now, and there has never been a time when your mother or I have not addressed your needs! Every time you cry, we are there to make sure you are OK. If you need to be changed, we change you. If you need to eat we feed you. If you need to be held we hold you, and if you need to go to sleep we rock you. Mommy and Daddy will never not be there to take care of you. When are you going to learn that and stop crying for everything?”
As I said these words to my daughter, I was transported back to about the same time five years ago. I was over two years into a career change that caused me to leave a lucrative, but ultimately unfulfilling career as an attorney. That career change saw me go back to school to start an MA in Religion (at that time it was unfinished) and I was also starting a PhD program, although there were rumors that the program would be discontinued. My wife and I had only been married for about 4 months, and we moved her to Texas to join me in my PhD program. In the first few months there she couldn’t find a job and we were living off of wedding gifts and my graduate stipend. We were often frustrated, wondering when God would answer our prayers for economic stability and our dreams of having a family. Those were difficult days, and the four years we spent in Texas was not easy. Fast forward five years, and I am standing in my own home, where my wife and I have jobs in our chosen professions, and I am playfully chiding my daughter for not trusting her parents. That was when I realized that I was my daughter. Despite the fact that God answered all our prayers from that night, we still occasionally wonder how we are going to make ends meet or how we will accomplish all the new goals we have established. I still cry every time I need something. I could almost hear God saying to me, “You have been with me a while now, and there has never been a time when I have not addressed your needs! I will never not be there to take care of you. When will you learn that and stop crying for everything?”
This Thanksgiving I am thankful for a lot of things. I am thankful that I have a beautiful healthy child. I pray she feels the love her parents have for her. I am thankful for answered prayers. But I am also thankful for the reminder that I don’t need to cry as much as I do because there is God that has always known what I needed and always stands ready to take care of me.
 To finish the story, the program was discontinued, but they allowed those of us who started our degrees to stay until completion. I am one of the last to graduate with my particular degree from that institution.
Jason Hines is an attorney with a doctorate in Religion, Politics, and Society from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is also an assistant professor at Adventist University of Health Sciences. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues at www.TheHinesight.Blogspot.com.
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