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Sunday, June 03, 2018

To father a child: do I have that right?

I am not a wise person.

There are many who possess far greater wisdom than I can ever contain in the few cubic inches of mind absent depression or mania.  And those who admit to knowing me will testify, Dear Reader: I have shared many matters I wrestle with on Facebook, hoping that among beloved friends some can lend a measure of that wisdom.

At first, that's where this was meant to be: posted on Facebook.  But maybe this time I should cast a wider net.  Perhaps some of you who read this blog can provide the answers I seek.

Here it is: Should I want to have children?  Why should I want to have children?

Do I have the right to bring a child into this world?

It is no secret that for the vast majority of my life I have wanted to be a father.  To be entrusted with a child or children who can be born and live and grow and find their purpose and see that their father and mother love each other very much and most of all find their own relationship with God.  To be the parent who goes looking for presents to be found under the tree on Christmas morning.  To explore the world and see it anew through the eyes of my children.  To watch them learn and laugh, just as I will discover again for the first time what it is to learn and laugh.  To do my very best so that they have a better life than I ever did, and to never doubt that they are loved and cherished.  To have that home filled with love and joy and thoughtfulness.

And increasingly I wonder if I should want that at all.  If I was wrong to have wanted that and if I have wasted time in chasing after it.

It comes down to four reasons why I am haunted to ask those questions.  And maybe some of you can give comfort and encouragement.  And the truth.  Especially the truth.  No matter how painful it might be to hear it.

First of all, let us be frank: The world is a cruel place.

And with each passing day it becomes even more cruel.  I see in my own country how it is that anger and hatred, and craving power over others, and hypocrisy and corruption are becoming like virtues.  How much of what made our culture great is becoming eroded for sake of carnal pursuits and perversities.  How it seems that only those who give in and compromise on their convictions and principles have a chance of "making it" and being successful.

Why should I want to subject a new human life to that?  How will I answer him or her, if they ask why did I bring them into existence in such a place?  To have a life where they will be hurt by others over, and over, and over again.  Where they will be used and abused and exploited and betrayed and bitterly disappointed by the boundless visions of man's inhumanity to man.

Second, and this is a big one: How do I or can I tell a child that he or she is going to one day die?

Once upon a time, the fear of death immobilized me.  Almost literally.  That was when the depression first began and after losing a number of loved ones in the span of a few months.  I became obsessed with staving off death.  Even forever, if it was possible.  And that was the mania part of bipolar disorder working its malevolent magic: casting a spell of delusion over my rational understanding of how things must be in this realm held captive to entropy.

The thought of dying doesn't disturb me anymore.  Indeed, there are some days when I think I would rather welcome death.  To be free of the memories of griefs and hurts and abuses: those inflicted on me but mostly those I have inflicted upon others.  Which has oddly made wanting to be a father even more tantalizing.  It would be a chance to fill up my life with good memories instead.  And be driven to give my sons or daughters a happy and fulfilling childhood that they will never someday look back upon with regret and anguish.

And that must be selfishness on my part.  To use having children as a rationale for escaping the ravages upon my own mind and spirit.

What do I tell a child when he or she asks if they will die someday?  How do I respond when they ask why did they have to be born, just to one day perish?  And if they are endowed with any of the inquisitive nature I had in my own childhood, they will eventually ask that.

How do I tell a son or daughter that they are going to die and there is nothing I can do to stop it but I was going to make them live and die anyway?

Third: Dare I possibly condemn a child to have a mental illness?

Bipolar disorder is a funny thing.  We know there is a genetic component but when it comes to getting expressed there is quite a lot of dancing about.  I am now persuaded after research that my great-grandfather on my paternal side had severe mental illness.  So did his daughter, my grandmother.  Grandma Knight definitely demonstrated significant periods of depression.  Dad never showed any signs whatsoever of mental illness: indeed, he might have been the most "normal" of our family.  Grandma Knight had four grandchildren and when her genes and those of my grandfather are diagrammed out, there was a 25% chance that one of those grandchildren would have mental illness.

Looks like it skipped over Dad, from my grandmother and her father, and landed on me.  None of the other three grandchildren have had indicators of mental illness.

With a one hundred percent confidence that I carry the gene for bipolar disorder and having long known that it is an active part of my life, well...

Dare I risk passing that condition on to my children?

Their odds of developing it might be less for them than they were for me.  But even so, to have any mental illness is to jeopardize the chance of a normal and productive life as most people enjoy.  It's certainly something I've never gotten to know.  More than a decade and a half of my life has been spent on medication and deep counseling and some involuntary hospitalizations.  All while trying to grasp and claw at some semblance of enduring happiness.

Don't my potential children have a right to that happiness?  How dare I risk taking that away from them?

And then, fourth, the harshest consideration of all:

How can I give life to a child who will have doubts about God?

When I mentioned "hypocrisy" earlier, I must count myself the worst of the lot.  Because for all of my belief in God, and doing my best to serve Christ with what talents He has given me...

For the most part, I believe God is there.  But I also confess that I doubt God has ever heard my prayers, that He ever will hear my prayers.  I confess that to me, God is not the all-loving, all-caring Father.  And I am very jealous of those who find joy in His love and grace, when it is that I cannot have that.  

Because to my utter shame God to me is a cruel, manipulative and indifferent bastard (yes, I am trying to hold back the anger toward Him).  And I am exhausted of seeing Him bless others with love and families and purpose and joy.  When the only consistent elements throughout my life since childhood have been a mind turned against me, a mother who was more abusive than I realized until recently and only now have I begun to address those wounds, hopes of a future with purpose and satisfaction falling to ashes in my hands...

(And if I as a parent carry on the cruelty and manipulation of a previous generation?  But that is something I'm not yet ready to delve into.  Maybe it's better that remain buried.  As a character in a recent movie said: "Let the past die.  Kill it if you have to.  That's the only way to become what you were meant to be.")

Ever more so, I am losing my faith in God.  Because God has never had enough faith in me.  Certainly not enough to extend the shot at a fraction of the life that seemingly everyone around me has to one degree or another.

And if this is "life" to be thankful and joyful to Him for, then I would rather that He never have created me in the first place.  He can banish me to Hell for all eternity, if this is the only existence that He will ever grant me.  I can't even trust that He would give me a new and whole mind if I go to Heaven.  An eternity with a mental illness?  Where is the joy in that?

To doubt that God is there or worse, to be unable to escape believing that God is deaf and indifferent to our prayers, is a kind of Hell all its own.  And there are some who are going to tell me "Oh Chris, you should be thankful and joyful all the same!  God gave you life and forgiveness of your sins.  You were made for God's pleasure and to Him you are perfect.  You are the clay, not the Potter and not even the Potter's wheel!  Who do you think you are to tell God that He messed up?  You have Christ and isn't that enough?"

No.  It's not enough.  Because despite all that scripture teaches, the God I have seen and come to know is a God who does play favorites.  He blesses some and curses others and if you're on His sh-t-list, there is nothing you can do about it.  And I'm not only referring to the jealousies of my own life.  Too many in this world suffer while others have seemingly have... okay, not everything but certainly the things that matter most.  Innocent people get thrashed and stomped upon and denied even an iota of something to be thankful for.  So what reason do they have to be thankful to God?

Once, I could be and was thankful to God.  I could pray to Him.  Not with requests or for something "good", but merely to thank Him and to praise Him for what I did have.  Now I recognize that, maybe it was being hopeful when I had no reason to be hopeful.  Maybe it was just wishful thinking.

Is that all God is?  Merely "wishful thinking" on our part?  Is there even a God at all?  Or are we deluding ourselves?  Have I been deluding myself for twenty years and more?

What do I tell a child?  That God is there and that He is listening to him or her?  When my own heart harbors even a sliver of doubt?

How do I tell a child that God is good, when he or she keeps praying and in return hears only silence from a Father who is aloof and removed from our cares and concerns save for a select few?  What if that child believes that God loves some but He has to have a reason to hate others... and they are it?  Because that's what it has been like for me all too often.

How do I tell with a sincere and faithful and thankful heart that God is there for my children?  What do I say when they tell me that God isn't there for them?

How do I dare consign a child to that kind of anguish and torment?  Because if that is all that there ever was for me, I would rather have died in the delivery room.  And there would come a day when my children will tell me the same thing.

My doubts about God are not dispelled.  And I'm not going to pretend anymore, for the sake of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, that "everything is fine" between He and I.

Perhaps God might grant an infinitely deeper grace to my children than He has to me.  Perhaps they might know a love and joy from Him than I ever have.  I would hope that He would.

And then again, He may not.  There is no guarantee that He would do that either.

If I were to have children, I would have to be brutally honest with them in all things.  Including about God.  And though I do believe He is there, the faith in Him being all-loving and all-caring is practically absent.  There will be no lies or delusions or distractions from either my faith or my lack of faith... and I do want to have faith.  A real, abiding and enduring faith in God.  But if there is not...

To lie to my children like that would be the cruelest thing I could do to anyone.

So, with all of that being said:

Should I trust God?  Should I dare to plot something so irrevocable as giving existence to a human soul in this wicked and evil world?

Do I have any right at all to be a father?

Whoever is reading this and thinks they have something to share, please do so.  The comments are wide open on this post.  Feel free to use your own name or an alias or to be anonymous.  Maybe some among you have answers that have eluded me in spite of all searching out my heart and mind and soul.

If you do, I would very much appreciate it.

(And very special thanks to "N.G." for having a listening ear and proofreading this post at least three or four times before I hit the "Publish" button on it.)


Anonymous said...

Its impossible for me to give you any answers but I applaud you for asking questions that most men thinking about fatherhood would hesitate about asking out loud. You are advocating for men and women who are debating being parents and as you find your answers you will be providing -them- with their answers.

Come back to Albuquerque some day and stay this time! You would be a blessing here.


Anonymous said...

Chris, go kill yourself.

Stop hurting about God hearing you or not. You know by now that God doesn't exist and if he did he doesn't like you.

Do everyone a favor and overdose and do it right this time.

Anonymous said...

If you choose not to be a father, you would be depriving the world a chance to share in the talents and joy and wisdom, yes you DO have more wisdom than most, that God blessed you with.

Nothing is certain in life. Don't risk missing out on happiness that can't be understood until you've experienced it. You deserve that.

And also very glad to see you blogging again.

Claire said...

Deep questions, o brother. And pain in these words. Not for yourself but for your children.

Don't you see that you love them already and that you wouldn't be agonizing if it were not so?

There is not nearly enough true love in this world. And it will only be shared with it if you make the choice to share it.

Share it.