by: Rev. Ed Schneider
In the life of any long-term pastor there are things that provide you with great joy and unfortunately there are circumstances that require of you to share immense pain with others. The other day I experienced yet again another painful experience dealing with the suicide attempt of a troubled teen. It is not that this hasn’t happened before. It certainly has. It wasn’t that the drama associated with the attempt didn’t negatively effect the family of the teen. It certainly did! What really bothered me about this tragic sequence of personal confusion, doubt, fear, loneliness, and a complete lack of self-worth was the seemingly callous disregard of some over this young person’s state-of-mind. I heard a few individuals saying; “Why didn’t the mother do something?” Where was the father in all this? Did you see the way the teenager was dressed? No wonder the attempt was made!”
Even more than the cowardly and completely insensitive commentary that was murmured was the teenager themselves. They had given up on life. They had bought into the notion that what their current experience of life was….that was all life was going to be for them. They literally felt “no way out.”
The bible says…life is precious to God (Genesis 1:27)
The bible also says in Jeremiah 1:5
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Life, all life, has great value. It is not to be taken lightly. It is to be cherished. It is to be honored. It is to be held in the highest regard. The vast majority of people who have no connection to God also have the highest level of rationalization regarding what human “life” actually is and what intrinsic value a person’s life equals.
To further offer a depiction of how some of us humans disregard the intrinsic sanctity of life, I was watching a news report recently where one of the lead stories had to do with a management level employee working at one of the Veteran’s Hospitals in the United States. She was placed on an indefinite suspension because of a “callous” attitude toward the suffering of the men in her care. I thought to myself what a complete “idiot” this person must be to be in the midst of all that suffering and still be so desensitized to other suffering that it meant absolutely nothing to her. How sad a commentary that is about the state of the human condition.
I found myself reflecting how could I respond to the anger that was building inside of me. How could I speak to the immense blessings that God gives BECAUSE of the life He has bestowed on each one of us? Then it came to me. My son’s birth! I could tell the story of my son’s birth and what that meant to me and how it has forever altered how I understand life itself.
A little more than six years ago Immanuel Jaxson Edward Schneider was born into this world at a healthy 8 pounds. As I remember he had an active appetite, a very loud voice, and of course the perfect face for loving.
What can I possible say to adequately describe how this tiny little creation of God has transformed our already blessed lives? Our hopes and dreams have been yet again expanded by another soul coming into the daily life of our family. That’s what an infant does when it intimately and permanently enters a person’s life. It transforms an individual’s world view as they have known it into something else; something enhanced, powerful, joyful and inspiring.
For all fathers out there who have accepted the privilege to love and care for a family, I know each one of you will understand this column with absolute clarity. For those of you who have ignored either the responsibility and privilege to primarily share in the care and guidance of a committed family environment, I pray that these next few words will enlighten your sense of imagination of what you have already lost as well as prompt you to make amends by beginning again to share in the lives of your children.
First, to be part of the actual birth process brought with it a sense of amazement and humility concerning what Immanuel’s mother had to endure to help bring this created being into the world. Another friend of mine who is an experienced father once said to me, as he was summing up his feelings regarding the painful reality of the birthing sequence: “If I had to go through what women go through during childbirth to save all humanity, a whole lot of people ought to be hoping for a real quick second coming of Jesus.”
When my first child, Tiffany, was placed into my hands, I felt a great sense of awe and serious responsibility. When my last child, Immanuel Jaxon Edward Schneider “the first” (now the self-proclaimed Jr. Pastor of Trinity) was placed into the same pair of hands many years later, I felt differently. I felt an overwhelming joy that wasn’t loud and booming but rather powerfully quiet and intensely focused. Looking into my son’s face took on a strangely unique experience for me. As I picked him up for the first time, my entire being – literally every part of who I am – was completely focused on someone other than me. The rest of the world mattered nothing to me. It was just my son and I in unadulterated fellowship. It was as real as “real” gets.
The very night of his birth, just hours after his entry into the world that I walk around in every day, I sent emails and texts with pictures attached of Lil’ Man to relatives and friends all over the country. I am fairly comfortable that it wasn’t out-of-control pride prompting this type of sharing. I was just convinced that this particular kind of joy demanded to be shared with others who are important to our family. I sent these impromptu birth announcements to others who have also shared parts of their lives with us. It was completely natural to reach out and share this “supernatural” gift with others.
Just a couple of days after his delivery my wife and son came home and I was very quickly reminded of three essential things I had forgotten about newborns:
- 1) They wake up every 2-3 hours to be fed,
- 2) it is important to place a cloth over the front of the little boy as you are changing his diaper for your protection, and
- 3) there are few things more satisfying than holding a trusting, content, dry, sleeping child they are gently rocked in your arms. No other sounds can be heard. No other problems seem to be central to your thinking. No other emotion, other than pure undefiled love, is experienced.
As a pastor, Christian educator and theologian, it didn’t pass me by what God’s love must feel like and how it might be experienced by those who have been thoroughly transformed by its affect.
Even though my wife is remarkably gorgeous when she gets all dolled up, in retrospect, she wasn’t a picture perfect model after giving birth. Although she begrudgingly allowed me to coax a picture or two of her as she was holding Immanuel, I remember thinking when I saw this desperately exhausted woman holding him for the first time, how beautiful she looked. Truthfully, I have never seen her more genuinely beautiful than at that very moment.
Now comes the moment when the other siblings are introduced to their new baby brother. His sister, Reed, who was at the time of his birth, the 11-year-old middle school student, got the first opportunity. She sat in a soft rocking chair in the corner of the hospital room and was given the very tired and brand new Schneider family member. After a few seconds of stiffness and apprehension, she adapted to the sensation of his tiny body being in contact with her own. Her confidence grew with each passing moment. She began to feel the same as Mom and Dad; a quiet WOW.
Shortly after that moment, I took a picture of Immanuel softly resting in her lap and sent it and a few other pictures to her older sister, Tiffany, who was temporarily in Central America on a school related study program. The caption on the email and cell phone message read, “I would like to introduce to you little Immanuel, your new brother.” It didn’t take long for the phone to ring. Tiffany’s commentary ranged between how handsome he looked to how jealous she was that Reed got to hold him first.
Finally, during the first week of my son’s “into the world” experience there were dozens and dozens of congratulatory phone calls from family and friends all of the world. All of them were heartfelt and sincerely appreciated. However, there was the moment I called my father to talk about becoming a brand new father once again; the common bond between us was undeniable. He knew exactly how I was feeling and what I was thinking. There was an unspoken understanding and yet it could be heard distinctly in every phrase that passed between us. What a marvelous thing it is to know that other fathers, those who have experienced the same things that I have, can stand up and securely proclaim the tremendous surge of purpose, commitment, responsibility, joy and enduring love that arrives the very moment you look into the face of God.
For me, there could have been no other name given to my son than Immanuel, which means “God with us.”