the kingdom of heaven is a spike in the back of my head

I had this whole blog post idea worked out about all these new "green" products on the market. But then today someone took a four-inch wooden spike and shoved it into the back of my head, and I just stopped caring.

I had planned to talk about how weird it is that they have all these earth-friendly, natural products like organic yogurt and all-natural toothpaste, but that no one seems to be noting the irony in the fact that these products are being packaged in miniature, plasticized portions.

Before I could write this, I went to pick my three-year-old son up at his jiu-jitsu lesson. I was lying there on the mat taking some pictures of him and his teacher/uncle when he ran over, plopped down beside me, and spontaneously reached up to kiss me on the cheek. It was perfect. Picture perfect. Then someone came into the dojo behind me. My son turned and the aforementioned spike plunged deep into my cranial space as I heard him say, excitedly, "That's my step-dad!"

Less than two days since I learned my ex-wife has decided to re-marry. Less than two days, and I heard those four innocently-spoken words no father should ever have to hear.

The air around me became perfectly still, charged with tremendous import as the axis of the world shifted, just a bit. I had this brief moment where I thought, "This is it. This is where I ball up and roll, screaming, towards the abyss." Instead, I felt nothing. A vice clamped down on my chest, sure, but not the tearing-ripping-rending I would have expected. Numbness echoed through the hollow void, and, suddenly, it did not matter. Nothing mattered... nothing. Why should I care about some stupid plastic products? Why should I care if no one cares enough to invent a frickin' bamboo toothbrush with a frickin' screw-on, removable head? Why should I care if all the people in all the world get together and burn themselves down to a black, stinking, misshapen, toxic blob? Why should anything at all matter to me, when all I wanted in that moment was to be annihilated - to have my wreck-of-a-life wiped from the memory of God?

But then I remembered the kiss.

I remembered a son's unreserved love, a love that knew no bounds and cared nothing at all for the torn mess we adults have all made of our relationships. I remembered that my boy also loves a man who is not his father, because as a child he lives in the reality of his moment - not in the wish-was, and might-have-been. I remembered Jesus, who told his pretentious followers to let the little children come to him and forbid them not, for of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.

This world may be a crap-hole. I may not want to live in it. But it is also a joy-veined mystery. The kingdom of heaven is NOW, in the kiss of a little boy.

I think of him growing, as I once did. Losing his innocence. Hurting, and being hurt. Breaking, and being broken. I look at all this plastic, and all these wars, and nuclear reactors built on fault lines, and genocidal maniacs with machetes, and I look at me, a man who hurts men and especially women, just for a little release. And I think,

"God, damn us all!"

"Look at what we are doing to this jewel of a planet! Look at what we are doing to this angel... my child! God, damn us all! And me, God, damn me first"

But then I remember the kiss.

I remember the kiss, and I beg instead for a little more mercy, a little more time to get it right - to stop poisoning our home in the name of convenience and selfish pride. I beg for the grace to love my son's new step-dad, just the way he does; to forget the pain of a put-upon name and just love. I beg for the hope I do not have. I beg, again, for love.


  1. Is it possible that clarity and grace are mutually exclusive? That clarity only comes in the abscence of grace and vice versa? That humility is looking up at the face of an avalanche and not praying for a miracle but at the same time wanting nothing more than to live?

  2. It may be, Anonymous, that you are right. Or at least, a little right. I find that peace comes not from trying to remove tension from seemingly opposed opposites, but rather in acknowledging the love that flows through it all, despite the tension.

    *Note: when I say things like that, I become suspicious that I am speaking gibberish :)

  3. CAC = crying at computer. Sending a hug from an adult who loves you and loves that you are growing and maturing even as we look on. The word you are seeking is 'strengthens'.

  4. This makes me very sad. For what it's worth, and from what I know of your writing I think you are unlikely to agree with this, it is perfectly OK for a man to hate his son's step-dad. It is a normal part of being a dad to protect your child from everything, including paternal usurpers.

    This anonymous commenter disagrees with many of your points of view, but loves your general attitude of love and forgiveness towards the world and hates to see you in this painful situation.

  5. Thank you, Anonymous, for your honesty and your compassion towards me.

    I had a conversation with one of my students a while back, and she was telling me all about one of her classmates, whom she hated. She told me why, and I thought, "yep... I can definitely see it."

    Then she asked me if there was anybody I hated, and after thinking about it, I realized... nope, no one. I do not hate anyone, and I don't think I ever have. I don't really know why this is, either, but I'll tell you what: I do see it as a gift.

    The longer I live and the more empathy I try to cultivate, the more I realize that, in the words of the Beatles, "I am you and you are me and we are we."

    Do you know what's worse than being in a painful situation like this? Being in a painful situation like this, and not realizing it. My life has always been a painful situation. It has. But now, faced with a painful situation I cannot pretend my way around, I am forced to chose: love, or hate.

    Love, I believe, is better. It's the only chance I have to "come together," and I am tired - so tired - of being alone.

    If I hated everyone who hurt me, eventually there would be no one left to love, because everybody hurts everybody (sometimes).

    I need love, so I'll take it where I can get it.

  6. Thank you for writing this. I felt your pain. I also felt the love in that kiss from your child rising to conquer and overcome your pain. I have no doubt that this post will find it’s way into the life of someone who is also struggling and maybe it will be the “kiss” that helps them overcome. Thanks for being brave enough to be truly honest and put all of yourself--good and bad—out there. Well done.


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