I spent most of my life under the identity of son and brother. One of six kids, I felt deeply connected to something that was larger than my child self and enjoyed finding my place within the Plaat family – usually within the role of troublemaker, middle-child and rebel.
As a child, it was hard for me to understand ‘grown up’ concepts like studying, practicing musical instruments, or making eye contact when spoken to. My parents did their best to correct these moments where I struggled. They’d tell me how much I’d appreciate these things as an adult. Yet, telling a child they’ll appreciate something in the future is still a difficult way of thinking for a being that only knows instant gratification.
I now find a new identity in my life, as well as role to fulfill. As a Dad, I now see life through a very different lens than I had in my earlier years. Every moment seems connected to some larger purpose that now exists outside of me and the bubble I had created for myself to live inside of.
When I look into the eyes of my son, I see the greatest blessing God (or the universe, or spirit, or however you define the supernatural) has ever bestowed upon me.
Admittedly, the process of becoming a parent and finding peace within my identity/role as a Father didn’t come easily to me. It felt similar to running 50-yard sprint in one direction, only to have God pull an invisible leash around my neck and turn me around, 180 degrees, to now race a marathon instead of a sprint.
It’s been nearly 15 years since I lost my Dad. That, too, felt like a hard jerk in my reality. I lost the one man who I truly loved spending time with, no matter how small the moment. I loved spending time with my Dad because he made it a point to teach me things, including the value of time.
He taught me that it’s hard to go back to work after an argument – something I now understand. He taught me, by example, that you can find an alternative way of earning a living that doesn’t follow the traditional 9-5.
He also taught me to take care of my health. The hard way.
Becoming a Father felt like the inverse energy of losing my own. Rather than loss, there was gain. New memories to be had. Instead of missing my own Dad, I now enjoy the richness of spending time with my Son and being his Dad.
I had a hard time feeling like I would be a good Dad. I carry the regret and shame of spending some of the best years of my life on things that didn’t expand my energy, potential, or stability in life. I carry regret from moments where I look back and know I could have been a better Dad since he was born, or in the months preceding his birth.
Transparently, I’ve felt as if I’ve wasted many moments and opportunities in my life by making choices I now regret. Over the last year, I have painfully recalled all of these moments and done my best to salvage whatever lesson they carry. That process has felt like picking up broken pieces of glass and trying to reassemble them back into the vase they once were.
They said that God can find you no matter where you are. I think that’s true, because God is the one energy in life that seems to seek you out, while hiding from you at the same time.
I look at my life and see a lot of moments where God seems to have intervened. From introducing me to a homeless woman at a pivotal moment in my life where I was taking a wrong turn addictions/partying, to showing me the love and grace the universe has when I found a baby bird who had fallen from his nest into a busy street.
To this day, I still don’t know how to define God any more than I know how to define the word “Dad” – because there are many shapes, sizes and interpretations in how people see and participate in these ideas.
As a Dad, I love my Son with every ounce of my energy. However, there’s also a part of me that wants Atlas to love me, too. When I ask him to give me a hug, I secretly hope he will give me one.
When he does…I melt.
I think this is how our relationship and connection with God operates. There’s a higher energy in the universe that goes far beyond my own understanding. However, I feel as if that energy wants a connection with me, similar to the way I want to have a loving connection with Atlas.
Just like I hope to someday have conversations with Atlas, I think that God wants to hear prayer, thoughts and even questions from each of us. Similar to a Dad that still loves their child only when they call for help (and is happy to give it) I think that a connection with God sometimes looks like a vending machine; we put a coin into the God box and expect our wishes to come true when we push the buttons.
God comes in all shapes and sizes, I think. For people like my Opa, God reflected its energy in nature. For people like mechanics, it can be found in horsepower. For others, it’s reflected through beauty, joy, love – and sometimes hardship.
For me, one of the most profound ways I’ve ever experienced a higher power is through the life experience of being a Dad. I’ve felt as if I have touched into a pure love that goes beyond any good I’ve ever done as a human being. In Atlas, I see a chance to pour into his life, explore the world, and teach him what it means to be a good human being, son, friend and husband.