This Present Tense

Dearest Rachel –

I’m sure you know that I want to have a good relationship with Daniel. I want to be able to encourage and praise him for the good that he does (even if it’s not in my presence). But how do I praise him, when I don’t find out about the good that he does except through second- and third-hand sources?

Yesterday morning, when I was at the ‘office,’ Mom and Dad informed me that they had been talking on the phone with Miss Joan about various things, and the subject of Awana and Sparks came up. It appears that, between all of his running back-and-forth, keeping the game equipment set up and delivering study materials to their appropriate place, Daniel was recognized for his hard work there. I don’t know if it was prompted by the other leaders or not, but the kids all thanked Daniel for all that he does. Maybe it was in keeping with the whole Thanksgiving theme (I mentioned that they brought canned goods and other non-perishables to club that night, hadn’t I?), but it was an expression of gratitude I wasn’t aware of.

Daniel rarely talks with me about how things went at club. In a way, he’s still reminiscent of the stereotypical sullen, laconic teenager: “How was your day?” “Fine.” “What did you do?” “Nothing.” You know, that sort of thing. I’m not going to find out about such activities from him.

Now granted, he has his passions, and he will talk endlessly about those, when prompted. The problem is, we disagree strongly with each other about whether they’re appropriate or not. I admit to feeling the need to tread lightly; it isn’t as if God is incapable of anything, and similarly, it’s not my place to say what He will or will not do. I’m not in charge of Him, after all – indeed, it’s supposed to be the other way around. But the things that Daniel believes He will do – and in the timeframe He will do them – have me at a loss. I may yet send you a letter about some of those beliefs, and backdate it so it gets buried in amongst my usual daily letters, because the things he’s expecting to have happen before the end of this month and next beggar belief.

But when it comes to his actually doing things that other people find commendable, he’s either not aware of them, or he doesn’t want to talk about them. When I finally relayed what I heard from the folks, he actually seemed embarrassed. He was more concerned about the fact that now the kids knew his name, and might talk to him.

I’ll admit that I kind of understand where he’s coming from on this level. I used to enjoy performing music on the platform, but dealing with people’s praise afterwards was a decidedly uncomfortable experience. Sure, it’s nice to know that people think you’re doing good, but it’s embarrassing for anyone to make a big deal out of it. The way I see it – and I imagine the way Daniel sees it – we’re just doing our jobs. This is the service we’ve been assigned to do; either simply because it needs doing by someone, or that it’s a task we’re particularly adept at.

Even that attitude is commendable in him, although it can be taken too far. There’s a certain point at which hiding in the shadows gets ridiculous; if people want to honor you for your humility, that can end up with a very awkward feedback loop. Best to get out there, take your bows, acknowledge their thanks gratefully, and go back to your business rather than trying to prolong the hunt for you as you hide amongst the baggage.

And this is the sort of thing I want to talk with Daniel about; to let him know that he is doing good, and that I am proud of him. I might add, if you’d be willing somehow to confirm it for me, that you would be proud of him too.

But this isn’t really what he wants to talk about. And so, when we drive back and forth on Thursday evenings to the folks’ place, it’s a quiet ride. Now, I’ve spoken about the road trips we used to have together as a family, and how we would settle into companionable silence for much of the trip – so much so, that each of you would feel comfortable enough to nap along the way as I drove. And from his perspective, that may yet be what we have between each other. But to me, it seems more… tense. I don’t speak, because I don’t know what to say, and I don’t want to get started on either politics or prophecy. He may be comfortable in the silence, but I’m not.

When dad was battling sepsis some two and a half years ago – it hasn’t been that long, now, has it? So much has changed in that small amount of time – and very nearly on the point of death, I would listen to some of the music I grew up with that he loved (and, to be honest, that he wanted sung at his funeral). I had you listen to George Beverly Shea’s rendition of ‘The Love of God,’ and Don Wyrtzen’s ‘Finally Home.’ I had planned to have that latter one sung at your memorial service, before we found your testimony in your Bible, and made a quick change to put in the hymn ‘He Lives’ instead.

But I also found myself listening to a few pop songs about the differences between fathers and sons. You’ll recognize this one from Mike and the Mechanics.

What never crossed my mind until now is that, while it’s written from the son’s perspective, I’m now listening to it as the father, and sensing the exact same emotions toward him. There is so much that Daniel and I disagree on, even in matters of faith. Oh, were we to be called Home today, we would both find ourselves with you, I’m sure of that. But we aren’t seeing eye to eye about how He works right now. It’s an uncomfortable existence, this present tense – or rather, this tense present – as I wait for those deadlines to pass, almost hoping he will be proven right, even as I expect nothing significant to actually happen, and making plans to be there for him should that inactivity shake his faith.

But even as he dwells on sending out his ‘faction’ of angels, to deal with the many crises in the world that he feels responsible to address, I want to let him know that the little things he does personally are the ones that are truly important, and I’m proud of him for doing those.

If you could reach him where I can’t, I’d really appreciate it, honey.

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I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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