It’s Simple, If You Borrow Money You Pay It Back

“Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.” (Romans 13:7)

I was scrolling through my newsfeed today and came across this little gem:

Why I Defaulted On My Student Loans

The author of this particularly inspiring tale regales us with a heartbreaking narrative of how at the age of 17 he signed his life away by taking on student loans to pay for his apparently mandatory excursion to a small private liberal arts college. Then through a series of unfortunate events that were of no fault of his own (such as him choosing to take out a second loan, his parents getting divorced and him deciding that he was too good stay in his retail job selling shoes) he finds himself unable (unwilling) to pay the loans back. We are then uplifted as he tells of his triumph as he stood up to the evil bank (which ironically has long since gone out of business, probably because they were foolish enough to loan money to people who feel they don’t need to pay them back) and how he heroically refused to fulfill his obligations in spite of the hardships brought upon by the Department of Education who, I quote, “makes it hard for you, and ugly.” He ends with a message of “hope”, saying that if everyone else who is being stifled underneath the inhumane burdens of student debt were to just say “Enough” like he did, then the “corrupt system”, that has the audacity to expect people to live up to their commitments of a contract, could finally be defeated.

It’s a classic tale of victory over oppression; I look forward to the movie.

I’m being sarcastic of course. This article highlights everything that is wrong with this country. People make bad decisions that have bad consequences. Then they feel that they are too good for those consequences and completely abandon their responsibilities while claiming the moral high ground on the basis that those to whom they are indebted to are inherently evil.

This tragic tale started with a kid making a terrible decision. It should have been a massive red flag right at the beginning as he was planning to go to a “small private liberal arts college”. There are two big warning signs right there. Firstly, that it was a small private school, meaning you are most likely going to be paying 4 times as much for an equivalent education that could be received elsewhere. I’m not saying that small private schools are inherently evil, and that you should never go to them. But if you have to resort to garnering insane amounts of debt to go there, you probably should be considering other alternatives. Secondly, it was a liberal arts college, meaning that more than likely whatever you are studying there is of no real value when it comes to preparing you for a career. I’m not saying it is of no value at all; it might help you be a very well rounded person to know a thing or two about Renaissance Art, but are you really going to be able to make a career with that?

So right from the beginning this genius was going to a school that cost way more than he could afford for an education that would have absolutely zero value in the end. Brilliant!

As anyone with even the slightest bit of common sense would have guessed, the story goes downhill rather quickly:

“I found myself confronted with a choice that too many people have had to and will have to face. I could give up what had become my vocation (in my case, being a writer) and take a job that I didn’t want in order to repay the huge debt I had accumulated in college and graduate school. Or I could take what I had been led to believe was both the morally and legally reprehensible step of defaulting on my student loans, which was the only way I could survive without wasting my life in a job that had nothing to do with my particular usefulness to society. I chose life. That is to say, I defaulted on my student loans.”

So this particular bastion of integrity apparently was fully capable of paying off his debt. He could have gotten another job that actually paid something, and worked to pay off the debt that he legitimately owes, and he willingly admits that he could have done that. But that would apparently “waste his life”, and he was too good for that. Apparently getting a job that actually has a paycheck has “nothing to do with his usefulness to society”. Because of this realization he decided to do the “right thing” (aka, what makes him the happiest) by defaulting on his debt.

It’s sickening really. Apparently doing whatever makes you the happiest is the right thing to do, even if it means running from your responsibilities. Apparently doing what you want to do is more righteous than honoring your word. Apparently theft is more righteous than honor.

Because that is what defaulting on a loan is, it is theft. It is taking money that belongs to someone else and refusing to pay it back: Theft. If you believe that you should not be obligated to pay your debts, then you are a thief, for all intents and purposes. You can argue about how you were young when you signed up for it, you didn’t realize what you were doing. You can argue that the interest rates are criminally high. You can argue about how the banks that issue the loans are greedy corporations (embodied by a balding man in his late 50’s) that only cares about profit at the expense of the poor college dropout who is down on his luck. But at the end of the day, you took money from someone else, and you are refusing to give it back. You stole that money from them. That is despicable.

To make matters worse, he is not only unashamedly admitting to his thievery, but he is encouraging everyone else to do the same with these words of wisdom:

“As difficult as it has been, I’ve never looked back. The millions of young people today, who collectively owe over $1 trillion in loans, may want to consider my example … it is possible to survive the life of default. You might want to follow these steps: Get as many credit cards as you can before your credit is ruined. Find a stable housing situation. Pay your rent on time so that you have a good record in that area when you do have to move. Live with or marry someone with good credit (preferably someone who shares your desperate nihilism).”

So according to the oracles of selfishness, he says that everyone who owes student loan debts should refuse to pay it back, and then manage the aftermath by (1) opening up as many credit cards as they can so they can wrack even more debt (2) Pay their rent, as if that wasn’t already something that people pretty much have to do to live somewhere (3) Chose your spouse based on their credit score so that you can take them down into the pits of your debt along with you (Mazel tov).

The idiocy of this thought process is almost more than I can bear. What makes me weep though is that I know that there are scores of people out there that will applaud this should be criminal for his heroic acts of selfishness. This goes beyond simply not wanting to pay back some loans. Embedded in this belief is the larger message of self-entitlement. Everyone has a “right” to a higher education regardless of what they are studying is of any use and regardless of whether they can afford it. If they can’t afford it then they have a “right” to a “loan” with which they have no obligation to actually pay it back, because that would infringe upon their “right” to an easier life. They have a “right” to a living wage, regardless of whether or not they have done anything to earn it. Everyone has a “right” to everything being handed to them on a silver platter (except of course those that have worked hard to earn what they have, in which case they deserve to have what they have earned taken away from them and given to those that haven’t earned it).

I almost feel sorry for this guy. He was lead to believe, apparently by his parents who cosigned his loan, and by society at large, that he apparently had no choice but to go to college and spend an exorbitant amount of money, which he didn’t have, for an “education” in order for him to be able to make anything of himself. However, these sources apparently never told him that this plan only works if you get an education that is actually, you know, useful. Instead he believes that going to college is an end, in and of itself, and that in the end he will be showered with easy jobs and lots of money simply because he is now “college educated”.  Exactly what he planned to do with this “education” is of little to no relevance.

The most I can figure he intended to use this education so that he could become a writer. Apparently one must go to at least 4 years of higher education to learn how to do something that is taught in grade school. And can you even teach good writing? Somebody is either a good writer, or they aren’t. It’s a talent, sure it can be honed into a real skill, but it starts from talent. Good writing is more of an art than a science. If someone has the talent for writing, they don’t need college. One doesn’t need college in order to read the classics by the great authors of generations past and learn what good writing is. One doesn’t need college in order to practice writing. One doesn’t need to spend their life’s fortune learning to do something that is innately in their bones to do. I find it ironic that he says that, “It struck me as absurd that one could amass crippling debt as a result, not of drug addiction or reckless borrowing and spending, but of going to college.” I have a hard time seeing how spending private college money, for a degree to do something that really doesn’t require a college education to do, isn’t the very epitome of reckless borrowing and spending.

Don’t get me wrong, going to college can be a good thing. I myself went to college and got a Bachelor’s degree in Aeronautical and Astronautical Engineering, and followed that up with a Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineer. The difference is that I am putting both of those degrees to good use, with a solid career designing control systems for Jet Engines, making a good salary, with plenty of room for career advancement. College can be a useful tool for someone who wants a career that requires higher education. Doctors, Lawyers, nurses, teachers, pharmacists, these are all excellent careers to pursue, and having a college degree in these fields is essential for being successful. But the person studying Medieval French Literature, with no idea of what they would actually like to do with such a degree, has no business going to college to begin with. I suppose the exception could be if they have extra money to spend and are just looking to better themselves. But if they are going into debt, they should be going into debt for something that is worth the money.

Please understand what I’m saying. I’m not saying that anyone that takes out student loans are stupid. I realize that college, no matter what college you go to, costs a lot of money, and some people need the loans to get them through it. If you took out a student loan to help pay for a state college to get a degree to help you get a good career, and then paid your loan back, then good for you. You used a student loan exactly like you were supposed to. I’m also not saying that how much money your career makes is all that matters. I know some professions don’t pay very well, but are still noble and honorable professions. If you had to take out student loans to get you to one of those careers and you are now working to pay off your loan as quickly as you are able, then good for you.

But if you took out hundreds of thousands of dollars to pay for a private college to get a degree that is useless at helping you get a career to pay for those loans, I’m sorry to say it, but you aren’t one of the brightest bulbs in the shed. And if you then simply refuse to pay the loan back, you’re not just stupid, you’re a criminal.

The author of this article poses the rhetorical question, “Am I a deadbeat?” Of course his own answer to that question is, no. He is a victim of his circumstance and corrupt system. I would tend to agree with him that there are some aspects of this system that are not right. The amount that college costs these days is obscene. The fact that student tuition is basically being used to subsidize research that has nothing to do with their actual education is downright criminal. I would agree that something drastic needs to change in our system of higher education. But the fact that college costs so much is no excuse for thievery. You can’t “borrow” money to pay for college, and then refuse to pay the money back on the grounds that the college should not have been so expensive to begin with. The fact that college costs too much money has no bearing on the fact that you borrowed money from someone, knowingly and willingly giving your word (in the form of signature on a contract) saying that you would pay it back with interest. Say what you will about colleges or banks, but they are legitimately owed that money from you.

I don’t care what your circumstances are; I don’t care how expensive the college was. No one forced you to go to college. No one forced you to sign on the dotted line. You chose to do all those things. You chose to put yourself into debt. And in a civilized society, you should fulfil your obligations to pay that debt back. If you don’t then you have proven that your word cannot be trusted, and no one should ever take you seriously again. You are a deadbeat, and so is everyone who follows your example.

 

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What Ever Happened To Family Dinners?

These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. (Deuteronomy 6:6-7)

Recently my wife told me about a conversation she had with a male friend of ours whose wife was expecting a baby. The due date was imminent and my wife, being the caring and thoughtful woman that she is, asked this friend if she could make them some meals to help with the transition of bringing a new baby into the house. It’s a fairly common practice these days, friends and loved ones chipping in to help provide meals to a family with a new baby. It’s just one less thing for sleep deprived parents to have to worry about. Some people did that for us when both of our boys were born and it helped tremendously. I think there are even web sites designed especially for people to sign up to provide meals in this way in an organized fashion.

So my wife was a bit taken aback when this friend seemed perplexed by this offer. At first my wife simply thought that maybe he had never heard of this particular practice, but she became even more surprised when she realized that his confusion was not over the gesture she was making, but was confused about the concept of a home cooked meal to begin with.

“Oh, that’s not necessary,” He said, politely declining the offer, “We don’t even usually cook dinner anyway; we usually just make ourselves sandwiches or stop for fast food.”

What? Don’t cook dinner? Sure, my wife and I will occasionally forego the home cooked dinner in favor for the convenience of a frozen pizza or a few McDonald’s value meals, but to actually do that to such an extent that a home cooked meal seems foreign and confusing? Who actually lives like that?

And if there is never any real “dinner” to speak of, then what happens to “dinner time”. Does everyone in the family just grab whatever food they can scrounge whenever their appetite strikes them? Health concerns aside, what does that say about family life? Sure, you might grab this convenience food “together” but really how good is the quality of your time together?

I would perhaps shake off this story, and tell myself that this is surely an isolated phenomenon, but the more I look around, the more I realize, that this is actually becoming a cultural phenomenon. I hear parents talking about how it’s just too difficult to get their toddlers to sit still for dinner, so they are usually fed while running about the house. I hear stories of families where kids eat dinner while mom tries to catch up with cleaning the kitchen and Dad is staying late at the office again. I hear about couples with conflicting work schedules that rarely overlap to the point of being able to share a meal together. I hear working moms lamenting how they just don’t have the time to prepare a real home cooked meal for their family, and so everyone simply fends for themselves with whatever is in the fridge.

And with all that I hear the sound of a family ripping apart at the seams.

Dinner is so much more than just food, and the dinner table is so much more than just a place to sit and eat. The dinner table is where family happens.

Where else are you supposed to hear about what your daughter learned at school today? Where else are you supposed to hear about how your son is being bullied on the playground during recess? Where else are you supposed to figure out that Johnny is really into sci-fi movies, but Tommy is more interested in playing baseball? Where else are you supposed to find out that Julie has a new boyfriend?

Sure, you could talk to your children any time and probably learn this information (if they’ll talk to you), but is that really going to happen? Think about your typical day. How much of that day are you around your children? Most of your time is probably spent at work, and when you get home you have a few short hours in which you are trimming the bushes, mowing the lawn, fixing that running toilet, yelling at the kids to do their homework, brush their teeth, say their prayers and go to bed. And at the end of all if it you collapse and pass out from exhaustion. You get your 4 to 6 hours of sleep and then start it all over again. Where in there did you really have quality time with your family?

I know that my words here might be misconstrued as judgment upon the working mom who just can’t find the time to prepare the dinner while juggling the hectic demands of work and other household responsibilities. Please know that I am not trying to talk you down or make you feel bad. I sympathize with you, and with my own wife also being a working mother, I totally understand. I know it can be difficult.

But I would also implore you to figure out how to make dinner time happen. It doesn’t matter so much exactly what you eat. Being completely honest there has been many a meal in our household that consisted of microwaved chicken nuggets, a handful of grapes and a bowl of cottage cheese. While a family obviously couldn’t sustain itself on that all the time, and for health reasons you probably wouldn’t want to make a habit of it, but if that’s what it takes to get the family to sit down together, it’s worth it. There’s a lot of other things you can do as well. Try preparing meals ahead of time, make crock-pot dinners, have your husband help (your welcome guys), and have your children help if they are old enough to wield a spatula. Do whatever it takes, because dinner time is so crucial.

Dinner time is the one time you can make sure that everyone stops and sits down in one room. It’s the one place where the hustle and bustle of life can be put on pause and you can actually be together as a family. Without dinner time a family is likely little more than a group of people who share genetics and sleep under the same roof. Each one has their own activities, thoughts, hopes, fears and dreams, but sitting them all together in one place lets them share these facets of their lives with each other. When this happens a family becomes so much more than just shared blood and close proximity. A family can become connected in a deep and powerful way that makes life as a whole that much more meaningful.

The family can become a fortress of refuge and comfort from a world that is often cruel and terrifying. The family can become a stronghold of support and encouragement to give one the strength to persevere in the face of adversity. The family can become a place of celebration when victories are won. The family can become a place of solidarity when grief and tragedy strikes.

Dinner time is where you can talk about the seemingly mundane things, so that you have the relationship to talk about the really important things. If you don’t ever talk about your child’s favorite food, what makes you think they’ll listen when you try to talk to them about sex? If you don’t ever talk about your daughter’s class pet, what makes you think she’ll listen when you talk to her about the importance of marrying a Godly man? If you don’t ever talk to your son about how his basketball team is doing, what makes you think he’ll listen to you when you warn him about the dangers of drugs and alcohol? You have to make time to talk about the little things so that they will be ready to talk about the big things.

In addition to the little things, dinner time can also be a place you can teach your children the most important things in life.

The Bible tells us that we are to have the Words of God on our hearts and to, “teach them diligently to our children, and talk of them when we sit in our houses, and when we walk by the way, and when we lie down, and when we rise.” Of course that instruction says nothing about the dinner table, but the key point is that we are to be telling our children about the word of God at all times, and not only dinner time certainly falls into that category, but it might be the most effect time. What better time is there to breathe the Word of God into their hearts then during the 20 or 30 minutes of the day when the chaos of daily life stops and the noise of the world is not screaming in their ears?

Of course if you were to witness dinner time in my household you would probably call me a hypocrite. There is no preaching of deep theological truths going on at our dinner table. But then again, I have a not-quite-three year old and a one-and-a-half year old. Most of our dinner times are spent trying to cram a spoon into the tightly shut lips of one child, while threatening disciplinary action on the other if he continues roaring like a lion instead of eating his food. Usually we simply declare victory over dinner time if we can get to the end of it without the need to immediately bathe both of the children afterwards.

Not exactly the perfect portrait of the family togetherness.

But I take solace in the fact that we are at least trying. As stressful as it can sometimes be, our children are at least learning one important message, “Dinner time is family time.” And as much as my one son might prefer to watch Mickey Mouse, or that my other son might prefer to run circles around the kitchen pushing his big green toy truck, they know that when Mommy or Daddy says, “Dinner time!” there is no negotiation. They know they will be forcibly strapped into their high chair or booster seat and forced to partake in a “pleasant” family dinner. And while it may not always be easy right now, it will get easier. And by the time they are 4 and 5 years old there will be no confusion about what is happening, no temper tantrums (well, there might be, but probably for other reasons) and their little hearts will be open to hear what we have to tell them.

Our country is rapidly becoming one that has little-to-no respect for the family. Children are growing up with little to no respect for their parents. The concept of personal responsibility is quickly becoming extinct. We need family units that are solid and strong. We need children who learn to listen to and respect their parents. We need parents who hold their children accountable.

It won’t happen overnight, but it will happen over 6,000 nights. And it all starts with a family sitting around the dinner table.

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What It Really Means To Be a Father

With Father’s Day this year I am reminded of a story I heard a long time ago.

It was nearly Mother’s Day, and there was a warden of a prison that heard about a program that would provide inmates with free Mother’s Day cards to send to their mothers. Thinking about how his own mother would feel if he or his brothers were in prison, the warden thought this would be a good thing to try. So he brought the program into the prison. The results were astonishing. Within an hour of the cards arriving at the prison they had run out, and there was still a line of prison inmates two miles long waiting to get their card to send to their mothers. They quickly ordered in more cards, but they simply couldn’t keep up with the demand. The warden was impressed by this outpour of love that these seemingly hardened criminals had toward their mothers.

The Mother’s Day card program was such a success that the warden thought to himself that he would do the same thing the following month for Father’s Day. He made sure to order a lot more cards in, remembering the surprising turn out for Mother’s Day. He got everything in place and put the cards out for the inmates to fill out. The results were even more shocking than the first.

Not a single Father’s Day card was sent. Not one.

I don’t know if this was a true story or not. It may be, but it also may have just been a fictional story meant to illustrate the nature of Fatherhood, a parable if you will. Regardless, I think it illustrates some striking truths about what it means to be a Father.

For most people, Father’s Day is a day to give a shout out for their Dad’s, calling them the “World’s Greatest Dad” (According to my news feed today there are approximately 32 million fathers out there which hold that title). It’s a day to generally express appreciation for one’s Father. And that’s a good thing.

But for me, as a young Father, with two little boys, and a little girl on the way, Father’s day is a day for me to reflect on what it means for me to hold this awesome title.

The story above, whether it is true to not, illustrates a general truth about the difference between Mothers and Fathers. Mothers are almost universally loved and adored. And so they should be. What mothers have to go through, both physically and emotionally, to bring us into this world and raise us should most certainly be revered, respected, and adored. But it is interesting that even mothers that may not have done a terribly tremendous job are for the most part still unconditionally loved by their children all the way to their graves. There is something about the bond that comes from 9 months in the womb that stays with someone forever. Father’s on the other hand, can lose that love a lot more easily. The point of the story above was that all of the criminals, nearly without exception, blamed their Father’s for their hard life, leading them into crime and punishment, but not their mothers. There is certainly something different about how people relate to their mothers than their fathers.

I know there are exceptions to this rule. I’m sure there are people out there that feel more affection for their Fathers than they do their Mothers. And I’m sure there are people who had particularly abusive Mother’s that has left nothing but pain and bitterness. There will always be exceptions of that sort. But I think if you were to take a poll, you would find that by and large, people have a higher “approval” rating of their Mothers than they do of their Fathers. I think there are two reasons for that.

Firstly, Fathers have probably failed more than Mother’s when it comes to raising children. It’s a cold hard fact of biology that Fathers are not as “connected” to their children as mothers are. And as such many Fathers throughout history have abandoned their families.

Secondly, human beings have a deeply ingrained desired for love and acceptance from their Father. A desire that simply cannot be met by their mother, no matter how loving or caring she may be. I think this desire stems from our innate need for relationship with our Heavenly Father that God put in us when He created us to be in relationship with Him. This longing that our Heavenly Father is meant to fill, imprints itself on us a similar longing for relationship with our earthly Fathers. Indeed, God created earthly Fatherhood to be a mirror to reflect God’s Heavenly Fatherhood. Mothers are crucial and vital to the physical, emotional, and spiritual growth of a child. I’m not diminishing that importance one bit. But there is something unique about a Father’s ability to demonstrate what Fatherhood means, so that a child can learn about their Heavenly Father.

And when a Father fails at that, the consequences can be disastrous.

Fatherhood is so crucial because a Father is, in a very real way, tasked with the job of showing Godliness to their children. We are supposed to reflect God’s character in all that we do. We are supposed to love our wives and our children the way that God loves His people. We are supposed to provide for our families the way that God provides for His children. We are supposed to teach our children the ways of Godliness just as God teaches us through his Word and His Holy Spirit. We are supposed to discipline our children the way that God disciplines His children. We are supposed to be faithful to our families the way God is faithful to us.

When a Father fails at any of these he doesn’t just fail to give a child the love, provision, guidance, or discipline that the child desperately needs, but he lies about the character of God. He teaches his children that Fathers are not to be trusted. Few things will drive a wedge between a child and his Heavenly Father, than the broken trust of an Earthly Father.

This is why the correct response for man when he hears for the first time that he is going to be a father, is terror.

That’s what I felt when my wife first told me she was pregnant. Don’t get me wrong, I was also elated, excited, overjoyed, awestruck, and a million other emotions. But buried in there amidst all those other emotions, was terror. Not terror because I was afraid of my “life being over” or the sacrifices that I was going to have to make for the sake of my children. The terror that I felt, and still feel sometimes, is the terror that I will mess it up. God has temporarily entrusted my wife and I with the souls of our children. We are both tasked with loving, and caring, and teaching our children to grow up into faith with God. But as their Father, I am uniquely tasked with not just telling them who God is, but showing them who God is.

I’m terrified that I will mess that up, because their souls could very well hinge on how well I show them God. I’m terrified every time that I am not fully attentive to their needs. I’m terrified every time I lose my temper with them and do not show true grace and mercy. I’m terrified every time that I let misbehavior go unchecked and do not give them enough discipline. I’m terrified, not because of their temporary happiness or unhappiness, but because their eternal souls are on the line, and I am uniquely positioned to screw that up, more so than any other person.

Dad’s these days have a bad rap. They are constant portrayed as idiotic buffoons, reckless and stupid, that are not to be taken seriously. It is no surprise that our society as a whole is rejecting God. We’ve rejected the importance of Fatherhood, it’s only logical that we would then reject our Heavenly Father as well.

But I won’t let what society, or the media, tells me about Fathers dissuade me from what I know to be the truth. I know that I am called for a sacred purpose. It is arguably the most awesome responsibility every bestowed upon man. It is a responsibility of infinite proportions.

So this Father’s Day, while everyone else is thinking about and appreciating their Father’s (as they should), I will think about what it means for me to be a Father. I will, with great humility, go before the throne of God and throw myself down before Him and beg Him to give me the fortitude to be the Father that I need to be. By the grace of God I will resolve to best Father than I can possibly be, not so that someday my children will post a tear-jerking picture of me and them on social media and dub me “The World’s Greatest Dad!” as nice as that would be. No, I will resolve to be the best Father I can be because I know that someday my children will stand before the judgement throne of God, and how I am as an Earthly Father will have a huge impact on how they stand before their Heavenly Father.

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Why Is Everyone Celebrating?

On Friday, the Supreme Court of the United States made a “Historic” ruling. They ruled that the Constitution of the United States requires that same sex marriage be recognized in all states. An incredible ruling, considering that same sex marriage was never even considered in this country (or any country) until just a little over a decade ago. And now, all of the sudden, we are coming to the realization that our very own constitution has required it for the last one and half centuries; amazing that we missed it for so long.

As you would likely have guessed, I strongly oppose this ruling. From two of my previous posts (It’s Not Just Cake, and Today We Stand On the Precipice of Sodom and Gomorrah) my objections to homosexuality (and by association same sex marriage) for moral, spiritual, and Biblical reasons should be pretty well understood. I’m not going to rehash all of those points.

My opposition to the Supreme Court’s ruling is not solely based on my strongly held religious convictions, but just as much based on the fact that it is a complete defilement of the Constitution. Not just because of the gross misinterpretation, but the entirely unconstitutional and downright tyrannical manner in which the Supreme Court has circumvented democracy.

Everyone, conservative and liberal alike, should be appalled at what the Supreme Court has done. Even if you support Gay Rights, you should feel disgraced in the way that the “equal rights” victory has been achieved. The ends do not justify the means, and in this case the means has completely perverted democracy.

To see my point, let us turn to Section 1 of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Somewhere, buried deep inside this text is where the Supreme Court said that they found the right for same sex marriage.

To be fair, I understand the argument. The argument goes that the due process clause requires that everyone share equal protection (or privilege) under the law, and if heterosexuals are granted the privilege of marriage then homosexuals must also be granted that same privilege. The argument almost makes sense. At a first glance it seems fairly straight forward. Straight people can get married, so Gay people should be able to: “equal protection of the laws”.

But if you look any deeper than just the surface of the argument it is clear that it doesn’t really hold water.

The 14th Amendment was written and ratified shortly after the Civil War, during the period that is called “Reconstruction”. The nation was still reeling from the devastation of 4 years of ravaging war. On top of that, half of the nation up until that period had depended on slavery, which was finally abolished via the 13th Amendment. The 14th Amendment, which followed shortly after, granted citizenship to these freed slaves. As right as it was to abolish slavery, and grant citizenship to the freed, it was never going to be an easy transition. Former slave owners in the South had to come to terms with the fact that those who had once been considered their property were now citizens of the United States, and were free men and women. As one would expect, this was not easy for many of them to do. Any read of history shows that the hard life of the black man was not over when slavery ended, in many ways it was still only just beginning. The end of slavery was but the beginning of Jim Crow laws in the South. Even though slavery had been abolished, blacks in most part of the country were still under the iron fist of laws that brutally denied them life, liberty, and property and so much more. The authors of 14th Amendment knew it was going to be like this, and they did their best to stop it (though it clearly didn’t do a terribly good job of it, as evidenced by the next 100 years leading up to the civil rights movement of the 1960’s).

The 14th Amendment was specifically meant to protect all human beings in the jurisdiction of the United States from being oppressed under such laws. It is meant to prevent mob lynching because a black man dared to look at a white woman. It is meant to ensure a black man received a fair and impartial trial when accused of any crime. It is meant to ensure that no one is thrown into prison and denied their liberty without being proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt according to due process. It is meant to protect all people, of all races and creeds from the potential abuse or oppression of the government’s power to fine (property), incarcerate (liberty), and execute (life).

With that historical context in mind, the actual meaning of the 14th Amendment becomes a bit clearer. It starts out with a statement about citizenship, that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” To us today this might seem like a bit of odd redundancy (saying that citizens are citizens), but during the reconstruction period there were millions of former slaves, recently freed. This statement granted them citizenship. They may have been freed from slavery but they were living under state governments (particularly in the south) that were hell-bent on denying the most basic rights of citizenship to them. So this first statement is the Congress telling the State governments that they are citizens, and that they can’t pretend they are otherwise.

Recognizing that, the following statement also becomes clearer, when it says “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States …” It might be tempting to think that this is saying that no state shall deny any privilege to anyone, but that doesn’t make sense. We have countless laws which deny certain privileges to certain individuals. The law prohibits people from driving under they are 16. The law prohibits people from drinking until they are 21. If the 14th Amendment is to mean that no privileges that are afforded to anyone are to be denied to someone else, then all of these laws are unconstitutional. But it is clear that the “privileges and immunities” clause of 14th Amendment is clearly focused on citizenship. Therefore it is referring to “privileges and immunities” that are fundamental to citizenship. These are privileges such the right to vote, the right hold public office, citizenship for children born abroad, etc. The many of these were rights that many recently freed blacks were being denied during the Reconstruction period.

So what about marriage? Is marriage a fundamental right to citizenship? Not really, considering that there are plenty of citizens who are not married, and there are plenty of non-citizens who are married. It also certainly doesn’t have anything to do with the basic freedoms that citizenship is supposed to protect. In reality marriage (in the legal sense of the term, not the religious or spiritual sense of the term) is not necessary for any real freedoms. One doesn’t need a marriage license to love. One doesn’t need a marriage license to live with someone. One doesn’t need a marriage license to make a life with someone. The Supreme Court is dead wrong when it says that denying a marriage license will doom someone to a “life of loneliness”. A marriage license does not grant happiness, nor does withholding a marriage license deny happiness. The only real privilege that a marriage license grants is the right to file a joint tax return, that is hardly an essential, fundamental “privilege or immunity” of citizenship.

But, the 14th Amendment does go beyond the rights of citizenship, and extends to the most basic rights of man, saying “… nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Does a marriage license provide a person with life? Does a marriage license provide a person with liberty (ie. freedom from Government restriction)? Does a marriage license provide a person with property? The answer to all of those questions is a very obvious, no. A marriage license from the state does not provide any of those. Therefore, if a marriage license does not provide life, liberty or property; then there is no way that withholding a marriage license could possibly deny anyone life, liberty, or property.

Yes, marriage (in the legal sense) provides certain benefits provided by the Government (which are not privileges associated with citizenship), and while some may be tempted to say that marriage is necessary for liberty, to quote Justice Thomas in his dissent, liberty is, “… freedom from government action, not entitlement to government benefits.” The Government can’t prevent you from holding a marriage ceremony, living a married life, raising children. But a restriction on Government intervention is not the same as an obligation of the Government to provide benefit. In truth the Government does not have to recognize marriage at all. They could say that it will not recognize marriage of any kind, and nobody’s life, liberty, or property will be deprived. Indeed, if the satisfaction of your marriage is dependent upon recognition from the Government then your marriage has some serious issues that you need to address.

But what about “equal protection”? Does defining marriage as being between a man and a woman does create “unequal protection under the law”? No, because nobody ever said that homosexuals could not get married. Such a definition of marriage does not ban anyone, gay, straight, or anywhere in the middle, from entering into such a union. It simply puts defining characteristics on what does or does not constitute a marriage. A gay man has every legal right to marry a woman as a straight man. A straight man is no more allowed to marry another man as the gay man. You may say that is ridiculous because a gay man would never want to marry a woman, but that’s not the point. Equal protection under the law does not mean equal satisfaction under the law. It only demands that the law be equally applied to everyone. The homosexual may not like marriage being defined as between a man or a woman. But just because he is not satisfied by that definition does not mean that the law is not being equally applied to him.

If a law, any law, must be all encompassing of everything, then what purpose would it serve. The legal definition of marriage must have some limitations in it. Redefining it to mean between any two people still excludes polygamy. Redefining it between any four or less people still excludes those with five or more. If the definition  were to be enlarged to be a relationship between any number of people, then the definition becomes meaningless, it becomes nothing. In order for marriage to be something, it must be clearly defined what it is not, and no matter how you define that there will always be someone who feels left out. So just because someone feels the definition does not satisfy their interests, does not mean that they do not have equal protection. Otherwise any law ever written would “unequally protect” someone.

So it is clear, that marriage (in the legal sense of the term) is not a fundamental “privilege or immunity” of citizenship. It is not a necessary factor in life, liberty, or property. Defining marriage as between a man and woman is not unequal protection. There is nowhere else to look. There is nothing in the 14th Amendment that has any relevance to marriage at all.

But the Supreme Court of the United States perverted the 14th amendment and interpreted a definition of marriage from it. They looked for something in those words that was never there. It was never intended to be there by the authors of the words. It was never believed to be there by those that voted to pass and ratify it. It was never interpreted to be there for the last 147 years of US judicial history. But for the sake of a political agenda, the Supreme Court said that it was there.

The Supreme Court made a law say something that the law does not say. There is a term for that: Legislating from the bench.

Creating a new definition of marriage from the words of the constitution, that have no bearing on marriage whatsoever, is in effect creating an entirely new law. In doing so the United States Supreme Court has appointed itself as law maker. That is what really terrifies me, and it should terrify you too.

One thing the Constitution is very clear about is that the Supreme Court does not have the authority create laws. That is the job of legislative branch of government. That is the job of the Congress, comprised of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Supreme Court’s only job is to provide rulings on specific cases, based on what the law says. The minute that the Supreme Court usurps the role of law maker, they are overstepping their boundaries as laid out in the Constitution. And those boundaries are not arbitrary; they are put in place to protect the rule of democracy.

The job of law maker is given to the Congress, because the members of Congress are elected by the people, to represent the people, and to serve the people. They serve for limited periods of time before they must be re-elected, specifically to ensure that democracy, the rule of the people, remains intact. Between the Senate and the House of Representatives there are hundreds of members of Congress, so that the power of legislation is not held by too small of a group of individuals.

The members of the Supreme Court however, are not elected. They are appointed to their position, and there is no limitation the time that they serve. Their appointments are for life, or until such time they choose to step down. And there are only nine of them, and only five of them must agree to make a ruling. There are good reasons that Supreme Court is structured the way it is, but this structure is specifically why they are not meant to be law makers, because there is nothing democratic about the Supreme Court. The moment that the Supreme Court decides to create law, is the moment that democracy (the rule of the people) dies, and tyranny (the rule of the few) is born.

So why is everyone celebrating the ruling from the Supreme Court? Why is my news feed buzzing with people declaring that this is a “Great Day for America”?

I don’t care if you support Gay rights or not, you should be terrified of a Supreme Court that can create law by perverting the Constitution to say something that it has never come even remotely close to saying. You should be terrified because democracy is giving way to tyranny. Just because in this particular instance you like what the tyrant has to say does not make what he says any less tyrannical. You have no guarantee that the next time he speaks that you will like what he has to say.

The ruling on Friday was supposedly a great victory for Gay rights. But if the victory comes at the expense democracy, then the victory is a hollow one.

Nearly every debate on the issue of same sex marriage will inevitably boil down to the same sex advocate stating that “The majority of people support it.” If that’s the case, then why not do it the right way?

If you want the Constitution to protect the right for same sex marriage, then there is a right way to do it, it’s called a Constitutional Amendment. The Congress could propose, vote upon, and pass an Amendment to the Constitution that would give such a right, and it could be sent to the States for ratification. This is how the democracy in our Constitutional Republic is supposed to work. If the majority of the people truly want it, their Congressmen will support, and their State legislatures will ratify it.

If same sex marriage were to be made the law of the land in that way, I would still be opposed to it, for the same moral, spiritual, and Biblical reasons that I always have. But I would at least take solace in knowing that it was passed in the right way. As much as I would grieve for the spiritual state of our country, I would be comforted to know that democracy still meant something, and that we were still a nation of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Had it been done properly, perhaps the “majority opinion” of the people would have legalized same sex marriage. Perhaps the advocates of Gay rights would feel that their victory was legitimate. But now we will never know. Instead the “victory” that so many are blindly celebrating is but another example of a few dictating their word to the masses. And what once was the world’s greatest experiment of democracy is crumbling away, leaving us with a nation of the few, by the few, and for the few. And that is a tragedy, no matter what your view on same sex marriage.

May God help us.

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Actually, Religion Does Belong in Politics

In my previous post (Why Is Everyone Celebrating?), which I wrote shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling on same sex marriage, I presented my case for why I believed it to be a bad ruling. While I admitted to my religious oppositions to same sex marriage, I took great care to keep my arguments strictly legal in nature, based on a reasonable interpretation of the Constitution (Specifically the 14thAmendment).

But to some, my arguments didn’t matter. To them it was clear that I opposed same sex marriage because of my religious beliefs, and therefore anything I had to say on the law or the Constitution didn’t matter. I was simply another religious nut-job trying to push my religion in to politics, where it clearly doesn’t belong. Several people commented on my piece that in essence told me to “… shut up, and keep my religion out of politics.” “Religion has no place in politics,” they say, “Separation of church and state,” and all the normal things that liberals scream to get Christians to go sit in the corner and be quiet.

But they are wrong. Religion does belong in politics.

Religion belongs in politics, because we live in a democracy (or at least we used to, now I’m not so sure). A democracy is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Every person has a vote, and the majority wins. While technically we live in a Republic, where we the people elect representatives to run the government and make the laws, it is still a form of democracy and the intent is the same: the power is to reside with the people.

In a free democracy, each person has the right to cast their vote however they see fit. They have every right to let their religious beliefs instruct them on how to vote; if they don’t then they are not in fact free. In truth, it is impossible for someone’s religious beliefs to not instruct them on how to vote.

I believe in God. I believe in His Son, Jesus Christ. I believe the words in the Holy Scriptures, the Bible, and I try my best to live my life by its instruction. However, I am also a citizen of these United States. I am therefore expected to participate in the politics and the functioning of Government. I pay my taxes, I go to the ballot box on Election Day, and I voice my opinions in public forum to engage in the political discourse of our times.

I am a child of God, and a citizen of our democracy, at the same time. Am I supposed to divorce these two parts of my identity? When I walk into church, am I supposed to forget that I am an American? When I go to the ballot box am I supposed to forget my faith in Christ?

Absolutely not!

I believe with every fiber of my being that there is an Almighty God, Creator of the universe, and that I will one day stand before Him in judgment and give an account of myself that will decide the fate of my eternal soul. If I believe that, how foolish would I have to be to forget about Him in any aspect of my life, whether at home, at work, or even the world of politics? You may think that my belief in such a God is foolish in and of itself, but if you can respect the fact that I genuinely believe it, how could you possibly expect me to set that belief aside when I enter the realm of politics? That is essentially saying, “You may believe that voting this way will incur the anger and wrath of the most supremely powerful being in all existence, but you need to forget that because this is politics!” It doesn’t work that way. It cannot work that way. Whenever I approach any political issue, whether it is the economy, abortion, immigration, and even gay marriage, I have to approach it with the knowledge and understanding that God has given me in His word. If I didn’t, I would be ignoring the most fundamental aspects of who I am and what I believe in.

To all this you may say, “Well if you can’t divorce your religious beliefs from your political beliefs then you should just stay out of politics all together.”

That is the most outlandishly un-democratic and intolerant attitude imaginable.

To tell someone to keep their religion out of politics is to say that religious people should stay out of politics. To argue that religious people should stay out of politics is to argue that certain people ought to be barred from politics based on what they believe. And to argue that certain people, based on their beliefs, should stay out of politics is to destroy the very fabric of democracy. To say that someone’s ideas in politics are only acceptable so long as they agree with your own is the very definition of intolerance. It is to establish a tyranny, where the rule of the people is only acceptable so long as they believe in a certain value system. That is not democracy. That is not America, at least not what America is supposed to be. If you want to maintain democracy and freedom, you must accept that religion will hold a certain amount of sway in the government.

However, Not only is accepting religion in politics necessary to preserve democracy, but it was also the religious convictions of the founding fathers that formed the foundation for American Democracy in the first place.

Last week we celebrated Independence Day. I’m sure your newsfeed was abuzz with people quoting the famous words from the Declaration of Independence:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

While the Declaration of Independence technically does not have any legal bearing on how our country operates (that is what the Constitution is for), it is a philosophical document which explains why our country exists. The Declaration says quite plainly that our country was created for the very purpose of protecting the rights of the people. It is also very clear that a belief in God was central to the authors of the Declaration, with 5 references to God appearing in the document. On top of that these men put everything on the line to protect the people’s rights, believing those rights to be “endowed by their creator.”

The existence of a creator, God, was foundational to their understanding of human rights. It was founded in the Judeo-Christian belief that human beings are created in the image of God, which sets us apart from all other animals and creatures on the earth. Furthermore it is based in the Judeo-Christian belief that all mankind descends from the first two created humans, Adam and Eve, meaning that all men (and women) are equal, with no one being created with more or less value than anyone else. These two fundamental beliefs were central to the founding father’s understanding of what constituted a person’s rights.

In fact, the very concept of human rights requires God to have any real meaning.

If there is no God (or divine being or beings, or higher power which is essential in most world religions), then the only creative force in the universe is the random chance of evolution. If we are but the result of billions of years of evolution, then there is nothing particularly special about us. We are, at most, a highly evolved creature in a long succession of evolving creatures. We would be nothing more than animals a little bit farther along in the evolutionary process. There would be nothing fundamental to our nature that makes us different from any other animal or creature on the planet. We would possess nothing over the dog, or cat, or iguana, except for a more fortunate evolutionary history. The very concept of “human” rights would be meaningless. We would possess no more right to anything than the beaver, or the deer, or the elephant. So if there is no God, either you must accept that we as human beings have no more rights than animals, or animals ought to have every same right as us (I guess you better become vegan).

But if there is a God that created the universe, then the story is different. If there is a God that created mankind with something intrinsically more valuable that the rest of the creatures, then our humanity actually means something. By creating us in His image He bestowed upon us a certain divine worth. And with that divine worth comes a dignity that demands respect, which forms our understanding of what constitutes human rights. This is what the founding fathers were referring to when they said that all men are “endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights”.

If religion has no place in politics, then the very foundation of our country, our government, and our freedom is groundless. Were it not for the religious convictions of the founding fathers there would be no United States of America. Were it not for the religious convictions of the founding fathers there would be no Constitution, no Bill of Rights. Were it not for the religious convictions of the abolitionists, there would have been no end to slavery, and there would be no 14th Amendment for you to stomp on and twist out a “right” to same sex marriage. Were it not for the religious convictions of countless men and women throughout America’s History you would not have the freedom to scream at me to keep my religion out of politics. So don’t be so quick to denounce anyone who tries to bring their religion into politics. You owe more to them than you realize.

Religious convictions formed the basis for our American democracy, and democracy demands the participation of the people, both religious and non-religious. Religion and democracy cannot be divorced, they have always been, and must always be united. To rip them apart will be the destruction of America, and I can hear the seams starting to rip.

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What Kind of Idiot Doesn’t Know His Own Shoe Size?

I remember once when I was 13 years old, I went with a youth group to an indoor ice skating rink in southern California. It was the first time I had ever been ice skating in my life. I clearly did not have my own gear, so I had to rent a pair of skates. I went up to the counter to get a pair when the man working there asked my shoe size.

I didn’t have the faintest idea.

I remembered hearing once that my father was a size 9, and at this point in my growing I was getting close to matching his height, so I figured that was as good a place as any to start. The man went and fetched me a pair of size 9 skates. I then went and sat down to put them on.

After struggling to barely squeeze my toes into the opening I came to the unmistakable conclusion that the skates were too small. I was a little embarrassed to have to go back to the counter and ask for a bigger pair, but what else was I to do?

I got a size 10. Still could only barely get my toes to squish in.

I went back and got a size 11. This time I was able to get my foot mostly in, but still couldn’t quite get my heel to get in.

I went back and got a size 12. I was finally able to get my foot all the way in, but I hadn’t even started to lace it and I could feel the circulation in my foot being cut off.

I went back one more time to get a size 13. At this point I could tell the poor man who had been going back and forth to the skate racks was getting fed up with me. I can still to this day see the look on his face as I asked him for a size 13 (when I had originally asked for a size 9). He was too nice to say the words (or maybe he just didn’t want to get fired), but his face said it all. He was clearly thinking, “What kind of idiot doesn’t know his own shoe size?”

I vaguely remember the experience of ice skating for the first time (if you could call my fumbling around trying to not fall squarely on butt skating), but the incident at the skate rental counter is burned firmly in my memory as a moment of complete and utter shame.

Of course the man behind the counter didn’t know anything about my background. Had he known more about me perhaps he would have been a bit more understanding.

You see, not 4 days prior to that event I had been on the other side of the world, in Kampala, Uganda, where my family lived and my parents did their work as Christian missionaries. It had been 4 years since I had set foot on American soil. Before that we had lived for 6 years in Zaire (now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo), and before that we spent almost a year in Belgium for my parents to go to language school. Even though I was an American citizen (born in America, to two American parents) in my 13 years on this earth I had spent a total of about 3 years in the United States, most of which I was less than two years old and have no memory of. Needless to say, my experience with standard American shoe sizes was a bit lacking.

In Kampala when I needed new shoes my mother would take me to a place called Owino Market, which was an open-air market that sold everything from beans and rice, to hand-made furniture, to curtain fabrics. There were some actual “shoe stores” in the city, but none of them carried shoes big enough for my “big-foot” stompers. The Owino Market was one of the few places where we could find shoes large enough.

It was always an “experience” going to Owino. If you have ever been to a place that seemed to be total and utter chaos, and yet everyone around you seems to completely understand what’s going on, then you have an idea of how I always felt there. Zig-zagging through crowds of people, jumping over mud puddles, ducking underneath hazardly crafted rain shelters, having every third person thrusting some different form of merchandise in my face, all the while trying not to focus on whatever the odd smell coming from those sacks of what I presumed is some sort of food laying on the ground.

That was my shoe shopping experience.

If the shoes did have sizes printed on them, they were in the European system for which my size was typically in the upper 30’s or lower 40’s. But many times there were no sizes printed on them. You wouldn’t expect there to be on high class brands like Reboh’s or Nyke’s. More often than not, finding the right size meant my mother pointing to my foot and then a man rifling through a pile of shoes for 20 seconds before whipping a pair out for me to try on. If it wasn’t too terribly uncomfortable we declared success.

I didn’t explain all this to the man behind the ice skating counter.

I didn’t explain to him that I felt more at home in Congo, Uganda, or Kenya than I did in my supposed “home” country of the United States. I didn’t tell him that I was accustomed to a place where cars drove on the left side of the road, there was no such thing as an automatic transmission, and that a blaring horn was a perfectly adequate substitute for a turn signal. I didn’t explain to him that I had only just a day ago arrived in the US after a 40 hour journey on three airplanes, through four airports, across three continents and 10 time zones and that I was still just slightly jet-lagged. I didn’t explain to him that I really didn’t know any of the other teenagers in the youth group that I was with, having only met them the day before, and I was already insecure about feeling out of place.

I didn’t explain any of this to him. I just hung my head in embarrassment, took my size 13 skates (that I still wasn’t convinced fit me right, but was decent enough to manage for an hour of shuffling around on the ice). I then went to skate with the other teenagers, who I would have to make friends with, but after about a week I knew I would probably never see again (and I never have).

I guess the moral of this story, is try to not be too quick to judge. Whenever you come across someone that seems completely baffled by something as basic as their shoe size, maybe you should give them the benefit of the doubt. They may not be complete and utter idiots. They may very well be, but on the other hand they may have some good reasons for their apparent cluelessness. And the reasons might have a pretty interesting story.

Oh, and in case you were curious, my shoe size is actually more of an 11-12 wide. It seems I have freakishly proportioned feet with the length of an 11, but the width of a 13 because of my unusually stubby toes, so I was going to have a hard time finding a good fitting skate no matter what.

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I Would Rather My Teenage Daughter Get Pregnant Than Get Birth Control from Planned Parenthood

“If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30)

Planned Parenthood has been a very hot topic of late. With the recently released videos of Planned Parenthood executives admitting to selling off the organs and various body parts of late term abortions many have been calling for Government to stop funding such an organization. Why the Government should be funding a “for profit” enterprise of any kind is suspect enough, but one which makes a good portion of its profits from the slaughter of innocent babies, even those that would be viable outside the womb, is utterly despicable.

I could spend forever ranting about the evil of abortion. It is evil. It needs to stop. But for now, I’d like to focus on another aspect of Planned Parenthood: birth control to teenagers, without parental knowledge or consent.

A little while ago I was talking to a friend about Planned Parenthood. I expressed my disdain that such an organization, which profits off of abortion, would be funded by tax payer’s money. My friend disagreed saying, “But Planned Parenthood does more than just abortions, such as provide birth control. Especially for teenage girls that most likely don’t feel comfortable talking about sex to their parents. If your daughter were going to start having sex, wouldn’t you prefer that she use birth control rather than risk getting pregnant?”

I didn’t really respond to that question right away. I didn’t really have a good answer for it off the top of my head. On the surface my friend’s point seemed quite valid. I certainly wouldn’t want my teenage daughter to get pregnant out of wedlock. That could be disastrous for her. What would that mean for her education or future employment opportunities? What about her future family life? She would forever be tied to the father of the illegitimate child. Would she end up marrying him? Would he be a good man, or would he be a complete loser. If she didn’t marry him would she ever find any other guy that would want to marry her? And none of that speaks to the enormous responsibility that comes with raising a child, responsibility that most teenagers are not equipped to deal with. I wouldn’t want any of that for my daughter.

And yet there is still something about that argument that didn’t sit right with me.

It didn’t seem right that I should have to accept an organization which slaughters innocent babies, not to mention subsidizing teenage promiscuity without parental knowledge or consent, simply out of fear that my daughter might otherwise make a horrible mistake that would “ruin her life”.

First of all, it assumes that it is inevitable that my daughter will start having premarital sex as a teenager, and would feel uncomfortable talking to us, her parents, about it. I might be a hopelessly naïve and optimistic parent, but I’d like to think that I’d be so awesome at this parenting thing that my daughter (who is due to be born any day now) would feel comfortable talking to us about anything. I’d like to think that my daughter would respect us enough to heed our advice about saving sex for marriage.

But, I suppose it’s true that even if I were the greatest father there ever was, I could not guarantee that my child would not rebel against my wisdom. Look at God, he is in actuality the greatest father there ever was, and the Old Testament is full of story after story about how His children, the nation of Israel, rebelled against Him over and over again.

So for the sake of argument, let’s assume that my daughter is not the perfect angel that I assume she is in my mind. What if she did decide to start having pre-marital sex as a teenager? Wouldn’t I want there to be a resource like Planned Parenthood to at least keep her safe?

No, actually, I don’t.

Planned Parenthood providing birth control is not “keeping her safe”, it would in fact be blinding her, and me, from the most grave danger of all: unrepentant sin leading her to eternal damnation.

Yes, it would be bad if she got pregnant at 16. But it would be even worse if she fell deeper into sin and lost her soul.

If she could secretly get birth control, without me ever knowing about it, she could go through her entire teenage years hiding that sin from me, and in so doing hide that sin from herself. She could continue in her sin without immediate fear of terrible consequence. Sure, she wouldn’t get pregnant. She could go off to college (where her promiscuity would probably get even worse). She might someday find a “decent” guy, get married, have children at a respectable age, and go on to lead a seemingly normal life.

But she would very likely never have to come to terms with that sin that she let enter into her life. She would likely never feel the remorse for her sin, and never be called to repentance. There would be a rift between her and God that might never get bridged. She may live a life that, from the outside, looked decent and normal. She might even be able pass for a good Christian woman. But on the inside, how strong would her faith really be? Would she even have any real faith, or would it all just be a show for my benefit and the benefit of others?

Like I already mentioned, getting pregnant as a teenage would be terrible. It would bring her enormous challenges in life. But that’s kind of the point. Sin should have terrible consequences. The consequences should be life altering. The consequences should be so drastic so as to be a proverbial “wake-up call”. The consequences should be such that the true nature of the sin is brought front and center, impossible to hide from, where the sinner is forced to come to terms with who he or she is and what he or she has done.

As difficult as an unwanted pregnancy would be, it could very likely be the one thing that could save my daughter’s life. She could not hide it from me or my wife. Her sin, specifically the consequences of her sin, would be on public display for all to see. She would be forced to feel the shame. She would be forced to see her sin for what it truly is. And it would be much more likely for her to be brought to her knees in repentance.

But then something truly remarkable would happen. She would not only learn the true enormity of her sin, but she would learn the true value of grace. She would learn the meaning of unconditional love as her mother and I, while being disappointed, would still open our arms with love and wrap them around her. She would learn the meaning of forgiveness; not only my forgiveness, but more importantly God’s forgiveness.

It’s true that she would still have all the difficulties and challenges of being a young unwed mother, but she would be facing those challenges with the strength of Almighty God inside her. She would have hard times for sure, but those hard times would only strengthen her in her faith and drive her closer to God until she is finally called to spend eternity basking in His radiant glory.

It is true that nothing is a guarantee. There is no guarantee that someone promiscuous early in life might not still come to repentance later in life and find eternal life. There is no guarantee that a teenager forced to deal with an unwanted pregnancy will be called to repentance. But it is true that sin allowed to live in the shadows will breed more sin, and it is better to cast the light onto the darkness than to leave it dark. As Jesus said, “If your right hand makes you stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; for it is better for you to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to go into hell.” He isn’t speaking about literally amputating yourself; He is talking about ridding your life of anything that causes you to sin. If secret birth control is enabling a teenage girl to live in sin it should be cast aside, it is better for a pregnancy to bring an end to sin, than for “safe sex” to lead her into hell.

So my answer is no, I would not want my teenage daughter to be “safe” about her sex life using birth control from Planned Parenthood. If the alternative is teenage pregnancy, I would prefer that. I would rather my daughter have a difficult life that leads her to salvation, than an easy life that leads to eternal damnation.

 

P.S. Before anyone accuses me of being sexist for picking on teenage girls, it is true that what I have written above tends to focus on girls. It is a simple fact of biology that girls have to worry more about the consequence of pregnancy more so than boys, but much of what I said could easily apply to the boy that has gotten the girl pregnant. In as much as it can possibly apply, what I have written should also be assumed to be speaking toward teenage boys as well.

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Parenting: Training Wheels for a Christ Follower

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Luke 9:23

This is my first post in quite some time. I have been MIA for well over a month. That is because about 4 weeks ago my wife and I were blessed with one of the most amazing gifts that we have ever received. We welcomed our little baby girl into our family. It is one of those moments of sheer joy, contentment and satisfaction that come so very seldom in one’s life, if ever at all. Even my wife, who was screaming in unimaginable pain as she pushed a baby out of her, her tears of pain were almost immediately washed away in a flood of tears of joy as she embraced our tiny baby girl. It was truly a life defining moment.

Afterwards, It was so calm and peaceful in the hospital room. My wife and I were exhausted (my wife understandably significantly more exhausted than I, but I feel quite safe in saying I had legitimate reason to be rather pooped). We had spent pretty much the entire previous day dealing with labor, timing contractions, trying to stay active, eagerly anticipating that we would be meeting our precious daughter. We then spent the entire night as the contractions grew stronger and stronger, going to the hospital, only to be sent home, and then only to turn around and immediately rush back to the hospital before the epic moment finally arrived.

And as the dust from the previous day and night finally settled, and the events that seemed so surreal began to penetrate into our minds, we closed our eyes to get some much needed rest.

And then there it was, what sounded like the squeal of a little, tiny baby pterodactyl.

She was hungry. Again!

We had just fed the little thing not two hours ago. What’s up with that?

And so has been our life for the last four weeks. A continuously repeating 2-3 hour cycle of cry, feed, burp, change, burp again, stare at lovingly in awe, change again (seriously, how many times in 10 minutes can a little baby poop?), cradle, rock, swaddle, burp again (just in case), lay down, crash, repeat.

Of course we are not rookies here. We knew it was going to be like this. This is our third baby in three years (yes, we’ve been busy and yes, we have our hands full). So this didn’t really catch us by surprise. We knew all too well the challenges of having a baby.

Of course for our other babies we didn’t have a just turned 3 year old and a not-quite 2 year old. We also hadn’t thought everything through because right as we are adjusting to having a new baby in the house, we thought it was a brilliant idea to try and potty train the just turned 3 year old. So amidst the never-ending cycle of cry, feed, burp, change, etc, we are also dealing with a 3 year old screaming at the most inopportune times, “I HAVE TO GO POTTY”. There have been several times that I have had a hungry crying 2 week old baby in one hand, while trying to use the other to help a 3 year old shimmy down his pull-up and somehow, one handed, pick him up and place him on the potty without dropping him into the bowl. And of course while this is all happening our almost two year old is coming to terms with the fact that he is now the “middle child” instead of the “baby” and has reawaken his months past habit of having his “throw himself onto the ground” temper tantrums for absolutely no reason.

And all the while I just keep whimpering to myself, “I just want 5 hours of uninterrupted sleep!”

But in moments like these I can’t help but think about the words of Christ when he said, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

I must deny myself. It’s not about me.

Sure, in this moment I may feel totally justified in feeling sorry for myself and complain about how difficult my life is, and whine about how I’m not getting any sleep, and how the kids are too whiny, and, why-oh-why can’t the bloody boy figure out how to poop on the potty and NOT in his underwear.

But those sorts of thoughts are entirely selfish. It’s about how I want to sleep, how I want some peace and quiet, and how I just want to be lazy and don’t want to have to wipe up another poopy bottom.

But it’s not about me.

Christ says that if I want to follow him, I have to deny myself. I must give up this idea that I am at the center of my own universe and realize that there is something bigger and more important than me going on right now. There is something much more magnificent, and glorious, and satisfying out there, if I could just take my eyes off of myself. As long as I continue to dwell on myself, I will never see Christ for who He really is. I will never be able to devote myself to His Kingdom; I will never be able to share in the Glory of His awesome presence.

I can’t help but wonder if parenting is showing me what that means. As a parent, time and time again, I put the needs of my children above my own because of my indescribable love for them. I recognize that what I am doing for them far surpasses any selfish desire I could have.

I denied myself when I drag myself out of bed to cuddle my crying baby girl at 2:30 in the morning, when I’m already sleep deprived and every fiber of my being is telling me how desperately I need to rest in order to continue to function. But I know my baby girl is hungry, and probably scared of this new and unknown world that she has just come into. She needs to be fed, held, rocked and reassured that she is loved and protected. So I put my needs aside and I focus on the needs of my helpless baby girl.

I denied myself when my first-born was in the hospital at three months old, vomiting up blood, and needing surgery for a problem in his digestive tract. I held him as he screamed while nurses poked him and prodded him. I kept the pacifier in his mouth which was his only truly effective means of comfort. I spent night after night curled up in a hospital chair next to his little crib, ready to sooth him when he woke up terrified about where he was. I was tired, uncomfortable, and terrified about what was happening to my son. But my pain and fear was nothing compared to what my poor child was feeling. He didn’t understand what was happening to him, and he needed me there to reassure him that mommy and daddy would never leave him. So I put my needs aside and was there to take care of my baby boy.

I denied myself when my second born would wake up in the middle of the night crying because he suffered horrible constipation. We had to resort to mixing his bottles with prune juice just to give him some sort of relief, but even that probably wasn’t too terribly kind to his poor sensitive digestive system. For 8 months he would continue to wake up in the middle of the night crying. That is 8 long months of me never getting a decent night’s sleep, constantly feeling exhausted, overwhelmed or stressed. But my son was in pain. In the middle of the night he would awake with his bowls tangled up in knots, and he didn’t understand why, how terrifying would that be? He needed me to hold him, hush him, and comfort him threw his pain. So I put my needs aside to help my boy in pain.

I deny myself when I am forced to discipline my children. In many ways it would be easier to just let them run wild and give them no boundaries. It’s not fun to have to be the “bad guy” and make your child unhappy, sad, or even angry as you enforce the rules. I would much rather be the “cool parent” who lets their kids eat as much ice cream as they want, watch as much TV as they want, and let them get their little fingers into whatever their hearts desire. But I know that in the long run that is not what is best for them. They need boundaries, they need discipline. I must deny my desire to always make my child “happy” in the here and now, and do things that may bring them short term unhappiness in exchange for long term joy.

I deny myself when I finally have a few minutes of quiet and solitude, but I realize that the table needs to be wiped down, and the dishwasher needs to be unloaded. I may be tempted to listen to my own advice and, be OK with the mess, But with another bottle due in less than 45 minutes with no clean ones left, and a wife that I know is in desperate need for a break, I can’t simply sit back and relish in my laziness. I love my family, and so I deny my own desire to relax, I roll up my sleeves, and do what needs to be done.

Is this what is means to deny yourself? There are certainly more significant ways to deny one’s self. A martyr burning at the stake, or a soldier charging into battle both come to mind as the ultimate denials of self. But I do feel there is something to be learned from being a parent when it comes to selflessness: self-denial training wheels, if you will.

Christ calls us to put away selfish ambitions, to stop seeking after our own desires and our own happiness, and instead to take up our cross and follow Him. He doesn’t do this because he wants us to be unhappy or miserable; far from it. He wants us to deny ourselves because he wants us to have a joy that far surpasses anything in our wildest imaginations, and that won’t happen as long as we are consumed with ourselves. If we focus on ourselves we will always find ourselves wanting for more; we must look beyond ourselves to find true satisfaction.

I think God created parenthood to teach us what true selflessness looks like, not just by being our example, but by forcing us to be our own example.

A parent is forced to deny themselves for the sake of their children; even if they don’t always particularly want to. Yes, we love our children, and we truly want to do what’s absolutely best for them. But even the most loving parents can be driven to their wits-end from lack of sleep and stress, where they may have moments that they don’t particularly want to give up sleep. But in those moments of weakness they still do it because they have no choice; that blood curdling scream will ward off sleep whether they like it or not. God gives us love so that most of the time we want to care for our children, and he gives babies loud cries for those moments that we don’t particularly feel like it.

Having children forces parents to constantly put aside selfishness, but when that happens something remarkable happens.

The more we as parents are forced to deny ourselves to care for our children, the greater the joy and contentment we find in them. The sleepless nights, the scary hospital visits, the messy house, the constant trails of poop, vomit and boogers, somehow they all slip away at the sounds of your child’s laughter. The screeches through the baby monitor late in the night seem to fade out of memory when they coo at you in love and admiration. You no longer think about the cruises, the beaches, high class restaurants, or the fun times with the guys that you are missing out on. There is nothing wrong with those things, but somehow they don’t seem near as meaningful the first time you hear your child say, “I wuv oo daddy!”

And before you know it, the very children that you used to secretly curse under your breath in those endless, sleepless, stressful nights, become your greatest source of contentment and satisfaction. Where before you grit your teeth over how your life has been consumed by these little people, you suddenly find yourself overjoyed at how they continue to consume your life even more. When you stop focusing on yourself, and focus on your children, you realize that they can bring you greater joy than any of those things that you denied yourself.

That’s what happens when you deny yourself. That is what Christ wants from us when we follow Him.

At first it will be hard, we may not like the way it feels. We will be scared and unsure about where this road of sanctification will lead us. We may think we are giving up too much, but before too long, our fears and worries will give way to faith and trust. And just as a parent learns that the joy that children bring are more than worth the sacrifices, Christ is more than worth everything that we must give up to follow Him. Once we completely give up on our own selfishness and desires, and focus on Christ, we will find that what He has to offer is so great, so wonderful, and so glorious, that nothing that we could have ever found in ourselves could even come close to comparing.

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If it Wasn’t for Our Enlightened Culture We Wouldn’t Need Gun Control

The shooting in Oregon is now old news. What isn’t old news however, is the continuing social media firestorm on Gun Control. This always seems to happen after one of these shooting events, but this time it seems to be persisting for an unusually long time. People on both sides of the debate are still talking about the issue of Gun Control. It’s a hot button issue. One side is insistent that we are insane to still let guns onto the street, while the other side is insistent that we would be insane not to let good people defend themselves.

While I would tend to lean toward the more conservative, pro-second amendment, anti-Gun-Control side of the argument, I can’t help but think that both sides are missing the larger issue. One side thinks that there are too many guns in the hands of sociopaths. The other side thinks that we need to have guns to protect ourselves from sociopaths. Neither side seems to be interested in why we have so many sociopaths to begin with.

Why is it that our culture seems to be particularly efficient at producing people who feel the need to walk into schools, shopping malls, movie theaters, or even military bases, and start blasting away anyone that breathes?

In truth, this problem is not a problem that has manifested itself only in our time, or our country. Indeed, this is a problem that has been inherent in mankind ever since our fall from grace, ever since Adam and Eve first sinned in the garden. When sin first entered the world mankind was cursed with a sinful nature that has been passed from generation to generation. This sinful nature is in all men, women and children, and thus we are, in and of ourselves, completely depraved, as the scriptures say:

“What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one. Their throat is an open grave, with their tongues they keep deceiving, the poison of asps is under their lips; whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness; their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery in their paths, and the path of peace they have not known. Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God.” (Romans 3:9-19)

Apart from the grace of God, we are all, myself included, bound for a life consumed by evil. For evidence of this fact, just read the history books. The history of mankind is full of atrocity after atrocity. The story of mankind is one of manifest evil. Sure there may be the occasional story of inspiration of good triumphing over evil, but most of the prominent figures in history have been truly horrible.

Ultimately, this is a sin problem. But even if we ignored what the Bible has to say about the nature of man, modern day America seems to be producing an awful lot of sociopaths for a society that prides itself on how “enlightened” it is. Then again, maybe it is the “enlightenment” itself that is causing the problem.

In our enlightenment we claim to be a society that values tolerance, but anyone who preaches the existence of absolute truth and absolute morality, cannot be tolerated.

In our enlightenment we claim to hold marriage in high esteem. We say that “No union is more profound” and that “it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family” (quotations from the majority opinion of the US Supreme Court in Obergefell vs. Hodges written by Justice Kennedy). We apparently value it so much that we legitimize same sex marriage, feeling it unjust to deny its joys to anyone. Meanwhile we’ve made such a sacred and profound union something that can be entered into at the drop of hat. We have drive-through wedding chapels, for when standing at an alter just seems like too much work. We issue online certificates, because getting a real spiritual leader to officiate is just too much of a hassle. And if getting married were too easy we’ve made divorce a multi-billion dollar industry.

In our enlightenment we claim that we value life as sacred and precious. We flood the world-wide-web with life affirming hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter, #BlueLivesMatter, and we are constantly reminded that #AllLivesMatter. We value life so much that we even get enraged over the death of Cecil the lion. We pat ourselves on the back because we have finally evolved to where we recognize that life, in all forms, is to be valued and preserved at all costs. Meanwhile we slaughter millions of our own children in the womb every year.

In our enlightenment we preach that stereotypical gender roles are meaningless and outdated. We say there is no reason why boys can’t be “girlish” and that girls can’t be “boyish”. We say that gender is nothing but a social construct, independent from biology, and yet the instant that someone says they don’t identify with their gender we agree that their biology is wrong, and they should resort to major hormone treatments and surgical procedures to fix it. We’ll applaud while parents give their 14 year old sons hormones typically given to menopausal, middle aged women. We support people that feel they have to mutilate their God given bodies and go to extraordinary lengths so that they can “be themselves”.

In our enlightenment we claim to revere the natural world. We talk as if the ways of nature are how the world is meant to be. We want our food to be “organic” and free of genetic modifications. We run away from “artificial chemicals” and promote clean eating because “natural is best”. Meanwhile we reject nature’s clear intentions for sex and biology. The natural union of the male and female bodies is no more a valid union than two men or two women. A person’s natural biological sex is by no means meant to dictate what they are meant to be.

In our enlightenment we are deeply concerned about a rape epidemic. We launch “Yes Means Yes” campaigns and teach the importance of consent. Meanwhile we promote a hook-up culture that encourages girls (and boys) to go to wild parties, get drunk and “explore themselves” with total strangers. We’ve created websites like “Tinder”, and “Hot or Not” which encourage us to view potential dates based purely on their sex appeal. There is even an entire page on Craig’s List dedicated to “Casual Encounters” because dedicated relationships are just too much work. We thrust sexual images and innuendo’s in front of our children’s faces from the earliest ages, from all directions, and then we are surprised when we realize we are surrounded by sexual predators.

Bruce Jenner holds interviews where he readily admits that what he is doing is likely going to bring great pain and confusion to many that he supposedly loves, and yet he must do what he must do for himself. For that, we praise him, and shower him with adoration. We hail him as “Courageous” and give him awards. Words like “Courage” used to mean putting yourself in enormous risk for the sake of another, but now that we are enlightened we believe that “Courage” means following your own personal desires regardless of the pain or sadness it may cause those who love you.

We used to teach our children that sex was something beautiful and sacred, and to be saved for the sanctity of marriage. But now that we are enlightened we teach them that it is purely for pleasure, and that the most important thing is that they are “safe”. It’s a bonus if they “think” they“love” the person, or at least “like” them, but really all the matters is “safety”. We certainly wouldn’t want them to feel repressed by expecting them to have self-discipline. After all, we all know that “they’re going to do it anyway”, so we might as well give them condoms and birth control, and even if they fail to be fully “safe”, abortion is always a valid “choice”.

We used to teach our children the importance of hard work and personal responsibility. We taught them how to strive to win, while graciously accept defeat. We taught them that they weren’t perfect, but we equipped them with the tools to better themselves. But now that we are enlightened we can’t bear the thought of them having low self-esteem. We can’t bear them to feel the pain of defeat, so we hand out trophies for “participating”. We assure them that everyone is a “winner” and that nobody keeps score. We teach them that they are little angels and that they deserve to be happy while we serve them hot cocoa and juice boxes while they creep into their 30’s, still living in our basement.

In our “enlightenment” we have taught several generations of children a code of morality that has no real solid foundation, full of inconsistencies, and contradictions. We have taught them that the most important thing is that they feel good about themselves. The most important thing is their own personal happiness, and that no-one has the right to get in the way of that happiness. Along the way we have taught them to reject any notions of true virtue. We’ve taught them to reject God, reject self-discipline, and avoid responsibility.

Why should we be surprised then, that some of these children grow up to be self-centered sociopaths with no regard for other people? That’s exactly what we’ve taught them to be. Why should we be surprised, that after being fed the lie that they should always be happy, when confronted with the harsh reality that the world does not always deliver sunshine and roses, that these people would be disillusioned and lash out in violence?

Modern Liberalism has brought us this “enlightenment” and now looks at the carnage that has naturally ensued. It concludes that the answer is stricter Gun Control. There are too many sociopaths out there that can get guns, and they must be stopped. And to some extent they might be right. If stricter Gun Control were put in place there might very well be a reduction in gun violence.

But it wouldn’t address the heart of the issue.

It would be like if you realized that children on the baseball field are beating each other with the bats, so you conclude that you must take away their bats. Sure, nobody will get clobbered in the head with a bat. But at the same time, nobody will be able to play baseball, and the kids will probably just start hitting each other with their bare hands. Stop focusing on the bats and worry about why they feel they need to hit each other in the first place.

Gun Control might keep the guns out of the hands of some sociopaths (though certainly not all of them), but it won’t change their hearts. They will still be sociopaths. They will still have no regard for the lives of others. Ignoring the real problem will only allow them to search for other avenues of violence. Gun control might give some minor, temporary reprieve from symptoms of the problem, but it will be no cure.

Because the problem, is not a gun problem. It is a people problem. It is a spiritual problem. It is a culture problem. And until we address it at a spiritual and cultural level, it’s not really going to be fixed.

We need to teach our children about God. We need to teach our children about sin. We need to teach our children about love. Not just to love themselves, or to only loves those who love them. But self-sacrificial love that’s willing to deny one’s self for others. We need to teach them that they are not perfect as they are, but that they can strive to be better. We need to teach them to take personal responsibility, even when the world isn’t fair to them. We need to teach them that some things are right, and some things are wrong, even if it’s not what’s popular.

If we can teach these things to our children, maybe we can turn our culture around into one where we wouldn’t even need to be debating issues like Gun Control. We won’t be able to eradicate evil. The sinful nature of man will be present until the end of time. But if we can become a nation that values truth, and virtue, and righteousness; if we can become a people who recognize God; if we can become a society that teaches love, honesty, and self-sacrifice; then maybe we can make violence and carnage and brutality so rare that it will become but a faint memory. We won’t solve the problem overnight, but then again we didn’t get to where we are overnight, we shouldn’t expect the solution to either.

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When God Gives You Pain

“Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told. I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own …” (Habakkuk 1:5-6)

My two month old baby girl has a problem. She has what is called a “posterior tongue-tie”. The little bit of skin that attaches the bottom of her tongue to the floor of her mouth is attached a little bit too far forward. This creates a lot of tension in her mouth, and severely limits her ability to move her tongue. That may not sound like that big of a deal, but the consequences can be more serious than you might imagine, especially for an infant.

It became apparent that something was not right almost immediately when she was seriously struggling with breast feeding. She always seemed to have a good latch, but she simply wasn’t sucking the milk out (even though we knew my wife was producing milk). Eventually, out of necessity we gave her a bottle. She took the bottle okay at first, but even then, as she started to get bigger she slowly started to struggle to feed, even from the bottle. That was when we had her checked by a pediatric dentist. The concerns went farther than just her struggling to take a bottle. The tongue tie was putting a great deal of stress on her tongue, creating a lot of extra tension in her neck, shoulder and arms muscles (all those muscles are connected). There was concern about her not being able to eat solid food when she was old enough to eat it since her tongue would not be able to make the motion needed to push the food to the back of her throat. There was concern about her speech being slow to develop, and be severely impaired when she grew older. She could even have serious tooth decay since she would not be able to fully clear food away from her teeth with her tongue. This seemingly benign problem could have a lot of serious consequences as she got older.  All-in-all, we knew that something had to be done.

We decided the best thing for her was to get a “revision”, which basically means the dentist used a laser to cut that skin back, freeing up her tongue. Not only was this a quick (less than one minute) outpatient procedure, but no strong pain medications were needed.  Since she was so young there were very few nerve endings in that section of her tongue and she would not feel much pain. Great! Problem solved, we can now ride off into the sunset with uplifting music playing, feeling confident in a happy ever after that was sure to follow. Certainly everything would now be smooth sailing.

Not so much.

After a “revision”, the biggest concern is that the skin that was cut will re-attach itself, and bring the problem right back. For that reason we were told that several times a day for several weeks after the procedure we would need to put our fingers in her mouth and stretch out the wound to prevent, or at least limit, reattachment.

The stretches are arguably the most difficult thing I have ever had to do as a parent.

My baby girl lays on her changing table, calm and peaceful. She might even smile and coo up at me as I gaze into her eyes. She has complete and utter trust in me to keep her safe and cared for. And then I jab my fingers into her mouth, and stretch out an open wound under her tongue while she cries out in pain.

We are told that she is not really in pain. We are told that the laser killed most of the nerves. We are told she is just crying because she doesn’t like our fingers in her mouth, it makes her uncomfortable, and stressed. But from where we are, she looks like she is pain. The cry in her voice doesn’t just sound like discomfort, but pain, and even betrayal. It breaks our hearts as parents every time we have to do it.

So should we give up with it? We have certainly thought about it. No parent likes to cause their child pain. Every fiber in our being tells us that we are to protect her from pain, especially when she is this young and fragile.

But if we stop now, then what was the point? Like I already said, there were serious concerns that needed to be addressed. We truly believe this needed to be done. We believe this was truly in her best interest, even if it causes her pain right now. If we give up now, would we be stopping for her, or for us?

No, we continue! We know she doesn’t like it. We know it might even be painful for her (even if the experts tell us otherwise). The cries break our hearts when we have to do it, but we know that in the end, she will be better for it. We know it will help her in the short term to take her bottles easier to take. We know it will help her as she learns to eat solid food. We know it will help her leaps and bounds as she start learning to talk. We know that it could very well save her from a lifelong speech impediment that could seriously affect her life.

It may cause her pain now, but we know that the pain of the moment will pass away, and she will be the better for it in the end. We cannot be selfish and withhold that which is best for her, even if it breaks our hearts in the meanwhile.

However, as I think about how I am inflicting pain upon my child, knowing that it will ultimately be the best thing for her, I can’t help but wonder if God, our heavenly father, ever does that to his beloved children. Does God ever cause us pain or suffering, knowing that it will ultimately be for our own benefit?

I think about the age old question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I have long held to the belief that bad things happen in the world as a result of sin, and the works of the devil and his army of fallen angels. And while that is most certainly true, I have taken that belief to the ultimate conclusion that we ourselves (mankind collectively) are responsible for all the bad that happens to us. I concluded that God allows bad things to happen to us because in our free will we make bad decisions that have bad consequences. I concluded that he may even allow the devil or his minions to inflict pain and suffering on us. I think of Job as a primary example where God said to the devil, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” (Job 1:12) and even later allowed even more suffering by saying, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.” (Job 2:6). I always told myself to take comfort that even while God may allow bad things to happen to us that, “… in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). But while God allows these bad things to happen, he would never directly cause us to experience pain or suffering, would He? He can use bad things that happen to us for good purposes, but he would never directly cause them, would He? God could never be the source of pain or strife, could He?

Or could He?

If God knew that experiencing certain pain or suffering would ultimately be to our benefit, why wouldn’t he do it? If he knew that it would steer us away from sin, and into closer and deeper trust in Him, why wouldn’t he do it? If I, as an earthly father can see the benefit causing my child momentary pain now will ultimately help her with things like eating and talking, how much more would our Heavenly Father be willing to cause us pain if he knew it will ultimately lead us to eternal life?

The more I began to ponder this I realized that God does in fact inflict pain, turmoil, conflict and hardship on his children. When the nation of Israel had turned away from God and were leading lives of wickedness and debauchery, he actively sent them into exile. He didn’t simply allow the Babylonians to come and plunder Israel and carry them away as captives. No, He actively “rose up the Babylonians” (Habakkuk 1:5-6) and unleashed them upon His people Israel. He actively inflicted punishment and pain upon His people.

One could argue that this was done out of wrath, not love. One could argue that God was heaping judgment upon the people of Israel and that He was writing them off as failures. But that is not simply the case, as God spoke to the people of Israel through the prophet Jeremiah while they were exiled in Babylon saying:

This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters … For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.” (Jeremiah 29:4-6,11-14)

God was not writing off Israel. He had not stopped loving them. He was not simply unleashing wrath upon them. He was giving them an epic wake-up call. He knew that if they persisted in their wickedness that, as a just God, He would have no choice but to cast them away. So he actively handed them over to Babylon to get them to see their sin and repent. He did it, fully intending to save them from the hands of their captors and bring them back into relationship with Him, which He did. He inflicted pain upon them, knowing it would ultimately be for their own good.

Just as God worked His discipline upon His children, Israel, God often times does the same for us. He may very well cause us pain for the purposes of discipline. After all, God says that, “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11)

God’s ways are higher than our ways, and sometimes we don’t understand why we must be forced to endure some things that cause us so much pain. My baby girl doesn’t understand why her father would inflict pain upon her; she doesn’t understand that it will ultimately be better for her; right now she just knows that it hurts. Likewise, I don’t understand why my Heavenly Father would have us to go through such heartbreak deciding what to do for my daughter. I don’t understand and I question why she couldn’t have simply had a perfect tongue to begin with. I just know right now it breaks our hearts.

But just as my daughter will ultimately have to trust in me, I will have to trust my Heavenly Father. This will probably not be the hardest trial in my life, as a father or otherwise. I’m sure I will have plenty of pain before my time on this earth is done. But whether God is simply allowing the pain, or even actively causing the pain, I can rest confidently knowing that whatever God is doing, or not doing, is ultimately for my own good. Even if I don’t see the benefit until I am with Him in heaven. And then I know that everything will make sense, and I’m sure I will thank God for giving me pain.

 

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