Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Birth: A Man's Guide



Men,

I'm going to be honest, being a man during childbirth is...awkward.  Luckily for you, I've been a man during someone else's pain in childbearing TWICE - which by all accounts makes me an expert in the matter.  So, I figured I would do all the husbands out there a favor and give them the top seven things they'll need to remember in order to survive the birth of their children. 

1. When Helping Hurts
During labor, lots of things, almost all of which you've never experienced before, will be happening at once, and you will have many emotions as you struggle to process it all.  You will have no control over the situation, and you'll often be not quite sure what is going on - or what's supposed to happen next.  

At some point, you will almost certainly feel completely and utterly helpless

Your wife will try to assure you otherwise, but deep down you'll know the truth.  My wife has always been a master of subtlety.  Her labor was no exception.   Thankfully, she let me know that I was needed by saying things like, "Do not touch me." and "Stop talking."  Or, my personal favorite - "Leave me alone."  Somehow in the heat of the moment, her words of comfort went straight over my head.

2. Do NOT Complain...Ever
Repeat after me, "I have no reason to complain."  If you're wondering under what circumstance you could be so bold as to clear your throat and ask for something - there are none.  Food, water, bathroom breaks, sleep, privacy - these are all just words during and after your wife's labor.  More like jokes really.

Now that I think about it, there is one scenario in which you might want to ask for help.  If you realize that there is a live human being inside of you who suddenly wants to come out, then you're safe to say something.  Otherwise, keep it to yourself.

3. Compartmentalize Your Memories
Unless you are completely aloof and uncaring - you are going to see things that will make your stomach turn.  A birth is a very messy thing.  It will be hard to see the woman you love experiencing so much pain and nastiness - it will be hard to unsee it as well.  You will need to tuck all these memories away in a compartment in your brain labeled "Hospital".  You'll also want to toss any peanut gallery comments to your wife about how "gross" anything is into the incinerator - just write a public blog instead.

Up until this point, you have memories of her as a wife.  

Now, you will also have memories of her as a mother.  

Memories of wedding gowns and night gowns will be joined by memories of hospital gowns.

Memories of undressing her will be joined by memories of dressing her.

Memories of showering with her will be joined by memories of showering her.

Private, intimate memories of one kind will be joined by private, intimate memories of an entirely different kind.

This is where the "or worse" part comes into play from your wedding vows.  Remember that this is a small, isolated period of time.  Remember too that this is something you already agreed to support her through - and cheerfully.

Soon you'll be back to a "normal" routine, and all of these memories will need to be put away in that "Hospital" file.  Don't leave this file open on your desktop for constant referral, but don't delete it either - it's a strong glue that holds the two of you together.  

4. Love them Both
I'll never forget the moments I first saw Silas and Judah.  With Silas, love spontaneously erupted inside of me - and it was such an incredibly new, wonderful feeling.  With Judah, the moment I saw him it was like I had loved him forever.  Like I'd already been his Dad for a long time, and he was just a little late joining the family.

With both children, I felt a tug-of-war during the first fifteen minutes after their birth.  Should I stay beside Emily, or should I walk across the room and be with my son?  In both cases I kind of ended up pacing back and forth between the two.  With Silas, I had been excusively focused on Emily's welfare for six years - and so it was weird to suddenly have another vying for my attention.  With Judah, I was worried about leaving Emily because she was completely isolated behind the giant blue curtain of doom during the c-section.

It was a very uncomfortable feeling.

Two had become one.  Then all of the sudden, one became three - and now four!  

5. Scared? Keep it to Yourself
Worrying isn't a part of my DNA, so for this one I'll have to rely on the hypothetical.  Hypothetically, I might have might looked up a Wikipedia article on c-sections and seen some disturbing pictures.  And hypothetically, those images are still burned in my memory.  And hypothetically, I might have been terrified at the thought of being in an operating room while total strangers cut my wife open.  And hypothetically, I might have been royally FREAKING OUT!!!!

And hypothetically, my wife might have kept asking me in the weeks leading up to the end of her term if I was scared at the possibility of a c-section.  And hypothetically, I wanted to break down crying and pour out my heart like an episode of Dr. Phil.

Fellas, the answer to the "Are you scared?" question, is "No."  She is about to go through major surgery, on her own body, and she is going to be afraid.  She is going to look to you for stability and strength - and you've got to come through.  Pray for the ability to keep it together, and do so.

Besides, you can always freak out in the privacy of a bathroom or closet when no one is around.  Hypothetically.

6. Find Humor in the Chaos
During the first 24 hours of your child's birth - your hospital room will feel like a speed dating nightmare.  A round-robin of doctors, nurses, orderlies, housekeepers, anesthesiologists, lactation consultants, record keepers, photographers, pediatricians, and busboys will come in to perform their various duties.  Our first night, Judah woke us up about four times.  The hospital staff woke us up about fourteen.  Something about "checking his vitals" and "inspecting her incision" - likely story.

My personal favorite was the lactation consultant who, when I walked in the room after making a fountain drink run, introduced herself by saying "Hi, I'm the breast lady."

You'll also need to get your priorities in order.  Priority 1: Mom and Baby. Priority 2: Find a Public Restroom.  For reasons not fit for a blog, you really won't want to use the toilet in your hospital room.  Furthermore, the chances are 100% that the chili dogs you ate the day before will catch up to you around the same time the photographer is trying to capture a magical moment with mommy and baby.  Use this opportunity to grab a book and excuse yourself to your private apartment down the hall.

7. Do Not Adjust Your Television Set
At least once during your hospital stay, you'll wonder if you are in an episode of the Twilight Zone.  Concepts like privacy, dignity, time, and sleep will take on a whole new dimension.  Random people will come into your room in the middle of the night, some of them men, all of them strangers.

Two hours of sleep will no longer be thought of as a nap, but a decent night's rest.  Sleep will no longer revolve around something rational like, say, when you are tired and want to sleep.  Instead, it will revolve around every other conceivable person or event known to man.

And everything - everything - will take more time.  Helping your wife to the bathroom, changing a diaper, and adjusting a few pillows should only take fifteen minutes in a normal world.   But in crazy sideways LOST world, it takes an hour and a half.  And when you're done, it's time to feed the baby - who by the way, needs another diaper change.   And then here comes the vitals-checking, incision-inspecting turbo nurse wondering if it's a bad time.

What, this?  A bad time?  Surely you jest.

So, to all you husbands out there, the next time you just happen to find yourself in the same room as a laboring woman - just pull up a chair, and my blog.

You'll thank me later.

-Jason

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Prodigal

Prodigal 
by Jason Hart
a 50 word story submitted to fiftywordstories.com

~~~~~

Broke and broken, he returned.  His father's lavish reception did nothing to shake the demons chasing him.

The grace shamed him, the flattery embarrassed him, and the wine reminded him.

Let's go back. They whispered.

That night, he left.

His brother scoffed, his suspicions confirmed.

His father is still waiting.

 ~~~~

You can read all my short stories here.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Fate

"Fate"
by Jason Hart
Once there lived a great and mighty prince who ruled over a vast kingdom.  At the height of his power, God visited the prince one night in a dream.  In the dream, God explained that a horrible tragedy was fast approaching which would utterly destroy the prince's kingdom, family, and wealth.  However, God explained, there was another option.  If the prince could choose which of the three he wanted God to destroy - either his kingdom, his family, or his wealth - God would only destroy that one, and would leave the other two unharmed.
Terrified, the prince awoke from his dream, trembling in fear.  The prince could not imagine a world in which God could be so cruel.  As he considered what God had said, he wondered if God would really fulfill his promise.  After a few minutes of staring at the ceiling, the prince got on his knees beside his bed and begged God to not allow this great tragedy to strike him and his kingdom.  He pleaded with God to allow the devastation to pass by, asking that his kingdom, family, and wealth remain untouched.
The next day however, a huge army invaded the prince's kingdom.  The prince's army was vastly outnumbered, and one by one the cities within the prince's kingdom fell to the enemy. Knowing that the capital would soon be surrounded, the prince fled from his kingdom during the middle of the night.  He loaded up his family, servants, and possessions and they went as a caravan deep into the wilderness just east of his kingdom.
Again one day, God came to the prince in a dream.  This time, God explained that the devastation He had promised was underway, and that next it would move to his family and wealth.  Once again however, God offered the prince the chance to choose just one of the two to absorb God's destruction.  The prince was furious at God's latest proposal.  He thought of his beautiful wife and son, and he thought of his many servants, livestock and piles of gold.  The prince knew that losing either would be too great a burden to bear.  The prince cried out to God, begging Him to turn from the disaster He had promised.
The next day, a band of men from within the prince's own camp betrayed him.  They stole his gold, took his livestock, slaughtered his servants and plundered his possessions.  They left the prince and his family alone and destitute in the wilderness with nothing but the clothes on their backs.
As a steady rain began to fall, the prince huddled together with his family, trying to stay warm as they fell to sleep.  That night, more terrifying and terrible than ever, God came to the prince in a dream. God announced that the full weight of the devastating hammer had yet to fall upon the prince.  His family, after falling deathly ill, God explained, would soon be stripped from him.
The prince startled awake and cried out to God.   "Why can't you just leave me alone?!"  he shouted, shaking his fist at the heavens.  "What kind of a God are you?  How could you have asked one man to bear the burden of such impossible choices?"
Desperate, the prince pleaded with God to give him another choice.  "Please don't take away my family!  I will give you anything you want - even my own life - but please, leave my wife and son alone."
God spoke to the prince in his despair, "Oh prince, mighty among men.  What right do you have to be angry?  It was your choice that sealed their fate - not mine.  I gave you the chance to choose your family over your kingdom and your possessions - but you wouldn't take it.  And now, no such choice exists."

Monday, March 3, 2014

Finished God

Finished God
by Jason Hart
You will have, no doubt, a certain learned or even instinctive aversion to what I'm about to tell you.  I'd not have believed it myself except that to it, I was a witness.  Exactly twenty-five years ago, late one evening in the summer of 2167, God died.  Completely devastated at the project that was mankind, He used His power to lay down His own life.  It was a suicide of sorts - although, as I said earlier, you will be very uncomfortable with this thought.  
Do not imagine this as a trip to the other side of the moon, or even perhaps another realm.  As if God was still "here", just over "there".  Neither imagine it as some type of a long journey, as if God were somehow on a personal quest to become perhaps wiser and stronger and better.  This was a ceasing to be - an abandoning.   An I am, becoming an I was, becoming an I'm not.
I had been to God a personal assistant, and for thirty-six incredible years we walked this world side by side.  God had hand-picked me when I was fifteen, and to this day I don't know why.  All I can tell you is that it had nothing to do with me. The tremendously privileged good fortune I experienced in those early days of my life, lost to me on not one single occasion, only served to accelerate my loneliness and despair after He was gone.  God was finished.  With me.  With us.  At the thought, the soul troubles.
After it happened and the universe careened forward charting it's brave new course in this brave new world, there was, as I observed, a variety of responses among mankind.  Perceptible to the observant was, among atheists and nonbelievers, a collective sigh of relief.  You could almost call it a celebration.  The weight of an oppressive Creator lifted, they pursued their sinful avenues with a renewed sense of diligence.  I watched helplessly as they joyously dragged the once sacred elements of our culture - beauty, commitment, truth, justice - and laid them upon the altars of their own sensual pleasure and slaughtered them mercilessly.  Their leash slacked and autonomy teasingly beckoned them come.
This sudden flurry of debauchery was contrasted with the sudden fury of the entitled.  Enraged that God would abandon them.  And that the comforts, pleasantries, and structure of their lives were included in the forsaking.  Among the affluent, the plentiful blessings of God, it quickly became obvious, had been their primary motivation for serving Him.  As such, God's death represented, to them, the execution of a way of life.  Their means to an end, having ended, became to them a curse - and they cursed Him for it.
Another group, variously titled throughout history, experienced, and this is perhaps the most intriguing response, a complete and total devastation at the realization of God's death.  They were of all people, most miserable.  The "remnant", the "true believers", the "God-fearers" suffered the same fate as their Master - death.  Their activities were immediately halted, their prayers were cut-off mid sentence, and their peace was swallowed up in fear and doubt.  The weight of their sin, once cast into the deepest sea, came tidal crashing back into their lives and crushed their spirits.  Their life ended in His - and apart from Him they could do nothing.
But there was yet one more curious response among those who would, it stands to reason, be necessarily classified as nominal God followers.  Shockingly, their world experienced no impact whatsoever when God died.  Neither their risings, nor their lying down.  Their comings, nor their goings.  Their meetings and services continued on as before - complete with singing, teaching, preaching, worship, and fellowship.  No difference existed, felt or otherwise, in their business or pleasure.  Among these spirit-led, spirit-filled believers, the vacating of God's Spirit went undetected.
A blasphemy emerges at the idea that anyone could be so untouched at the death of God Almighty.  I always thought I knew what blasphemy was.  And then God died.  Now, tell me, what is blasphemy then?  As God's assistant, I thought I'd seen it all.  But nothing could have prepared me for this.
But you must understand something.  To them, the death of God was something they had gotten used to long ago.  You see, to them, God's death wasn't something new - it was something old.  To them, God had been dead for some time.  It's just that it finally came true.  And maybe to them, well, maybe He wasn't even alive to begin with.  As I said, the soul troubles.
As for me?  My mustard-seed faith remains in the One who chose me.  I don't know why He abandoned us.  But I can tell you this, I won't abandon Him.  And so.  For now.  I hope against hope.  Clinging to the strained belief that if God can lay down His life, He can take it up again.  I cling to the promise of One who once showed Himself faithful.  That He'll make all things right.
For today, the only thing I know with certainty is that my death is fast approaching.  And my only hope is in the fact that His has already come.  And that somehow, he went ahead.  And cleared the way.  And that if I die, He'll be there.  Waiting.
And that when He sees me, He'll welcome me home.
And as for those I leave behind?  I pray that maybe, just maybe, God's not done with us yet.
~~~~

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Parable of the Defendant

The Parable of the Defendant
by Jason Hart

The prosecutor paused and re-positioned his notes and poured himself a glass of water from the pitcher on his podium.  He took a drink and continued.

"Your Honor, it is the contention of the prosecution that the evidence presented has left no room for reasonable doubt regarding the guilt of the heretic."

God stroked his chin and glanced through his notes.  He made a wave of the hand prompting the prosecutor to continue.

"We humbly ask his Honor to carefully consider the litany of evidence as it has been presented." The prosecutor glanced towards a woman seated in the gallery, "We ask that special consideration be given to the testimony of this witness who testified under oath to the frequent and consistent unbiblical advice received during her eight years under his shepherding care."

God looked up from his notes and looked at the heretic to see what, if any, visible reaction was present during the prosecution's summation.  Nothing.

The prosecutor moved from behind his podium and stuck one hand in his pocket while pointing at the heretic with his other.  "Your Honor, this man's own writings have condemned him."  He pointed in the air, shaking his finger at nothing in particular, "A teacher is held to a higher standard, your Honor.  And even by the lowest standards, he falls short.  Defying Your word at every opportunity, your Honor."

He leaned against his podium and took another drink.  He glanced at his legal pad, then slowly closed his notebook on top of it.  "It was for men like the heretic that his Honor commissioned me to rid the land of error and falsehood.  I am convinced, that if left unchecked, this man will continue to make a theological mockery of Your Word.  It is the opinion of the prosecution that this man is deserving of the highest punishment allowable by Your law.  That is all, your Honor."

The prosecutor returned to his seat and sat down.  God leaned back in his chair and removed his glasses and rested his elbows on the oak desk in front of Him.  He sat quietly, folding his hands together and resting his chin on his fingers.  A minute passed.  Then two. Finally, He looked at the heretic.

"Do you understand the charges that have been leveled against you today?  That you have been accused of heresy?"
The heretic spoke evenly and without hesitation. "Yes, your Honor.  I understand."
"Do you have anything to say in your defense?"
"No, your Honor.  I believe exactly as the prosecutor has described."
"Hmmm....I see."

God turned in his seat and looked at the plaintiff.  "Am I to understand that the prosecution views this man's heresy as disagreements between Him and me."
The prosecutor was wary and chose his words carefully, "Yes, your Honor.  The heresy this man espouses is a disagreement with the Holy Scriptures - Your Holy Word."
God continued, "I see.  And so it is your position that I have certain thoughts regarding certain important elements of life."
"Important elements, sir?"
"Yes.  Important elements.  Life.  Death.  Sin.  Salvation.   Important elements"
The prosecutor's face contorted in befuddlement, "Yes, your Honor.  You have thoughts about these things.  True thoughts, your honor."
"I see.  And this man, he does not have the same thoughts as Me.  Is that your contention?"
"Yes." The prosecutor answered, confident.
"I see."  God said, choosing His words carefully.  He leaned forward in his chair and continued his questioning.  "And am I to understand that you have no such disagreements with My thoughts?"
"Of course not.  I agree with everything found in Scripture."
"And you understand the Scriptures?"
"Not all of it your Honor."
"Of course - but what you understand, you agree with.  Yes?"
"Yes, your Honor."
God grabbed the Bible sitting next to his gavel.  "So, when it says I sent my Son into the world so that whoever believes in My Son will have life eternal - you believe that?"
"Yes your Honor, John 3:16, your Honor."
"I see.  And when it says in Genesis 1:1 that I created the world, you agree with this?"
"Yes your Honor, I am a creationist."

The heretic just stood staring.  Listening.  Eyes wide, heart pounding.  God slowly turned to another passage of Scripture.

"Here's another one.  In the fifty-fifth chapter of the great prophet Isaiah.  Verse eight.

'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD.'

Do you agree with this verse as well?"
"Of course your Honor, as I've said - I agree with everything in the Bible."
"Wonderful.  So then, can you give me a thought of Mine which is not your own?"
"I'm sorry, your Honor, I don't understand."
"You told me that the heretic did not agree with My thoughts."
"Yes, your Honor, that is correct."
"And so, which of my thoughts do you not agree with?" God leaned forward and raised his eyebrows waiting for a reply.

"None of them sir."
"I see.  So everything I believe, you believe."
The prosecutor could feel anger welling up inside of him from the intense questioning.  "Yes!  I believe everything You believe."
"That isn't possible.  My thoughts are NOT your thoughts.  Which of my thoughts do you disagree with?"
The prosecutor took a deep breath and glared at the heretic.  "I am not on trial here, your Honor.  This man is a heretic!"
"But what about you?  Are you a heretic?"
"Do you really want me to disagree with You?"
God raised his voice in exasperation,  "Of course I expect you to disagree with Me!  The moment you agree with me completely, is the moment I become a figment of your imagination.  I become a pawn in your game.  Completely trumped by your thoughts.  The moment all My thoughts become your thoughts - is the moment that you become Me."

The prosecutor shook his head, disgusted.  God looked towards the heretic with compassion, "I am comforted by this man you have brought me.  For, despite our disagreements, he has served me faithfully his entire life."

"You however," God said, looking at the prosecutor , "you bring me no such comfort.  Your dedication to me is a dedication to yourself.  Following me because you think you agree with Me.  But really, you only follow Me because you think that I agree with you."

-The End