Saturday, November 13, 2010

Someone Else's Son, Someone Else's Script

On the short bucket list of darn near every guy is the deep desire to have a son and raise him to be a man. What can particularly rewarding - and touching - is seeing in the little guy a little of yourself. I'm not referring to an unhealthy "living out your unfulfilled dreams through someone else," but rather a special bond and burden, borne of seeing this duplicate of yourself progressing through the stages of development under your watch.

As Aaron is not my biological son, I get the same vantage point and the same opportunity and responsibility to shape and mold, but I don't share his genes and so I don't quite have the same connection to him as other dads have to their sons. I don't think my relationship to and love for my son is any less than any other father's, but because of this it is a little different. As with many aspects of our lives, God's plans for us are not often what we would have scripted, and they come with some losses and pains, but they ultimately lead us to richer, fuller lives.

This morning, as I make my way through "The Message," Eugene Peterson's translation of the New Testament, I am reminded of another father of a son who was not his own biologically. Joseph, eager to marry Mary and start a family with her, discovers his bride-to-be has become pregnant. Rather than spiral in despondency or lash out in rage, he does right by his fiancee even though it appears she has not done right by him; he seeks to quietly cut ties so as not to cause her public shame, even though she has caused him public shame. But an angel visits Joseph and tells him this is all part of God's plan: Mary is to be part of an immaculate conception, Joseph is to stay with his woman, and they are to raise a child who is the Son of God.

We know the story so well that it has lost its shock value, but put yourself in Joseph's shoes. It's a lot for a young guy to take in, no? Embarrasment, racking your brain to figure out who Mary slept with, what'll my community think, who will marry me now, and now an angelic being has told you you'll be playing father to God's Son. In light of all of that, I would be a mess; Joseph, in contrast, comes off looking like Tom Brady in the pocket amidst a sea of pass rushers.

The plot thickens from there, as you know. For the baby is born while Joseph and Mary are in transit, a horse trough serves as its first crib, wise men visit them with gifts from afar, an enraged king tries to seize the baby, and Joseph and Mary abscond in the night. And you thought your first days as a dad were stressful.

Through it all, Joseph, who has proven his cool to me already by this point in the story, must have contemplated deeply what was unfolding before his very eyes. Someone else's son, someone else's script, certainly not his own in either sense. There must have been questions - "How?" "Why?" "What's next?" - but the overall sense you get is that this is a man who is faithful, humble, and thoughtful, and above all devoted to that which God has given him to do and be, no matter how incredibly more it is than this lowly carpenter seems capable of.

My situation has far less drama, to be sure. And yet there is a lesson for me in Joseph's cool and committed approach to fatherhood. Aaron is not the son, and this is not the script, I would've envisioned for myself way back when, when I, like all guys, looked ahead and thought about being a father and raising a son. And yet he is the son, and this is the script, that God has for me. Like with Joseph, He has a different, better, richer plan. This morning, I seek to be more like Joseph in his faithful, trusting response.

Joseph's Song, by Michael Card

How could it be this baby in my arms
Sleeping now, so peacefully
The Son of God, the angel said
How could it be

Lord I know He's not my own
Not of my flesh, not of my bone
Still Father let this baby be
The son of my love

Father show me where I fit into this plan of yours
How can a man be father to the Son of God
Lord for all my life I've been a simple carpenter
How can I raise a king, How can I raise a king

He looks so small, His face and hands so fair
And when He cries the sun just seems to disappear
But when He laughs it shines again
How could it be
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