Since we are on our third month of the Caroline Project, I thought it would be good to share what the Caroline Project means to me as a father. First: let me say that the Caroline Project was Anna’s idea. Anna is definitely the idea person in our family. She runs our household well. It was not a surprise that she came up with an action step in order to express our pain in a positive way. She came to me one day and pointed out that since we would have made room in our budget for another child, why shouldn’t we still do this; only give that money away to organizations that are working for social justice. I thought it was a great idea but wondered what it would look like to give so much money away rather than using it to meet our immediate financial goals.
When one person in the family has an idea, the others have two options when carrying out this idea. They can come along with the person supporting them from behind, participating but not necessarily fully engaged. Or they can join the person in the idea; actually taking full ownership with them as a team. There have been times when Anna has an idea and I have done the former. I thought I would be doing the same thing this time- with all three of her current ideas (The Caroline Project, the blog in general, and her new furniture refinishing business.) As you can tell, God had different plans. I have joined her in the blog, in re-purposing old, beat up furniture, and yes, in the Caroline Project.
So in joining her with the Caroline Project, I have had to process what is it about this journey that is inspiring me to fully engage in this sacrifice. I believe I have discovered a couple of things which makes the Caroline Project special for me. I have discovered why it connects so deeply with my pain and why it can be part of the expression of healing the Holy Spirit is doing for my broken heart. This is what I would like to share with you.
Being a dad has been one of the most wonderful and challenging things I have ever experienced in my life. I work really hard to be the best dad that I can be. Most of my studying of how to be a dad comes from how we are fathered by God. Through experiencing God’s fathering, I have come to realize that there are four major actions that are a part of fathering. First of all, let me state that there are many more than four actions that are a part of fathering but I have found that these are the four that speak to me the most right now. Secondly, let me state that there are times when women also can carry out these actions. Thirdly, you don’t have to be a father or a mother to do these actions for others. These are some of the things that God does for us and so we are called to bear his image anyone and need to emulate these things for others. In fact, there are many children, as well as adults, who could use people acting in these ways in their lives. I wish we all did it for each other so much more than we do.
I know what you are saying: “Joel, just tell us what the four actions are already.” Ok. Ok. The four major actions that are apart of fathering are: Provide, Protect, Promote, and Praise.
Fathers, these are the things we should be doing for our kids. I will explain what these look like a little later, but first let me say this: each of these fall under the bigger action of Presence. The main action we can give to others is the gift of our presence. I am not just talking about being with someone; I am talking about being fully engaged in their lives. I am talking about joining them. Not for our benefit or for selfish reasons but because of deep love and respect for them. I am sorry to say that this gift of presence is pretty rare. It is not easy, it takes a lot of intentionality, it is messy, and it requires more from us than we want to give. However, it is the gift that God gives us every moment of every day whether we choose to receive it from Him or not.
One of the deep pains I have for my lost children is that I didn’t get to be present to them. Anna got to at least carry them in her womb for a time, but I didn’t get any time with them. Because of this pain, I suck the life out of every moment with Jonah, but also this is what I miss when I think of not having any more kids. I want to give this gift to my children. I want to be present to them by fulfilling the loving actions of Provide, Protect, Promote, and Praise. I can’t do that for our unborn and it hurts. The Caroline Project means a great deal to me because I can do this for other kids even if they are not my own. Let me explain how I see these actions manifested in the giving of financial support to the Caroline Project organizations.
First: to provide. By giving of our financial resources we provide for the needs of those that need it. Just as I meet Jonah’s needs through my salary, I can meet the needs of others who are marginalized and forgotten. They need someone to provide for them just as much as Jonah needs me to provide for him. But just like with Jonah, this is not just a pay check that I provide. Anna and I take what we are given and we manage it wisely. In this way Jonah gets the best provision he can get. I am not talking about giving him whatever he wants, but more so saying that we are intentional about how his needs are met. In the same way, I could give the money directly to the child in need, but I don’t. I give it to organizations I feel are managing their resources wisely and are intentional about how to meet the needs of the “least of these”. By being present to support these various organizations through provision I ensure that those that are voiceless gain a voice.
Second: to protect. Just today Jonah and I went kayaking. Some people might think I am nuts for doing this because he is 6 and he goes in his own kayak. On the other hand, I have been a canoe and kayak instructor for over ten years. You better believe that when we are on the water he has his PFD (lifejacket) on and secure. His boat is tethered to mine until he learns to control it himself. His boat is a “sit on top” which is one of the safest kayaks on the market. He told me today that “he knows all the rules of kayaking.” This is because I remind him of them every time we go out. Why do I do all of this? Because I am his daddy. I am here to protect him. How does the Caroline Project do this? Again it is because we support organizations that are providing protection for those who are vulnerable. When we give to these organizations I know that those that need of protection are being protected. I can’t physically protect these vulnerable people just like I couldn’t physically protect my lost babies. However I can petition those that can physically protect the marginalized through prayer and through financial provision.
Third: to promote. One of the main actions we can do when fathering is to promote our children. This may seem an odd way to say it. Here’s what I mean: We can find out what our children are good at and what they are interested in and we can promote those things in their lives. We can be present when they need our support so that they can become who God intended them to become. I wonder sometimes what our other children would have been like. But I trust that they are exactly who they are supposed to be. The people we are supporting in The Caroline Project may not have someone in their lives promoting them. Those in their lives either can’t or are absent all together. By giving of the wealth that I have, I am ensuring that someone is there to promote those who may have become invisible. We can promote by sharing that organization with others. We lift up these organizations so that others will know of their work. You can promote the organization by telling other people about it, sharing it on Facebook, retweeting our blog entry… By promoting the organizations who are the hands and feet on the ground, these children, these PEOPLE can know what it is like to be promoted.
Fourth: to praise. One of the things that Jonah is desperate for is my approval. He desires for his Daddy to love him for him. He desires his Daddy to enjoy him and to give him words of affirmation. I have been trying to do this more in his life. I don’t ever want him to doubt that he matters to me. I don’t ever want him to doubt that he is cherished. He needs to know that I believe he has what it takes. It may be that many of the people we are supporting in the Caroline Project are missing praise. Sadly, some may have never received praise. That breaks my heart to the core. I want those who are fringes of society to know that they matter. That someone cares for them, even cherishes them. Again by joining with Anna on this journey I hope I have been able to give praise to others. I hope I have shown them love and care through our sacrifice.
One thing that has happened through this project and through our pain is that my heart has grown bigger. Each time we had the promise of new life (a baby) my heart grew. But then there was a loss of the object of my affection (miscarriage). So God has put other people in that place. I have a deep love for others that wasn’t there before. I honestly care about the people we are helping. I am seeing people and their needs for the very first time. My eyes have been opened. My heart breaks more easily now and when it breaks loves pours out. That love is helping me to provide, protect, promote, and praise others. It is helping me to be a father to more than just those in my household. Isn’t that what God has done for us? He has adopted us into his household. By allowing the Spirit to work in my life I have been able to expand the territory of my household to include those that are without one. I never knew my household could grow so big.
Matthew 25:40 “…whatever you did to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it too Me.”