by Darrell R Hamilton II
I love to preach. Every time I stand before God’s people to proclaim a word that (hopefully) edifies is a blessing and a privilege. Yet, the feeling I get from preaching alone was eclipsed this past Sunday when I received a picture of my five-month-old daughter who was watching me preach for the first time.
The image came to my phone in the middle of worship. My daughter is lying on her stomach, head raised, and her hands stretched out as if reaching to touch my face on the screen. This image touched me so deeply I had to pull back my tears so I could stay in the worship moment and offer our dedication prayer.
The image touched me because it provided a perspective that, after five months, hit me like a ton of bricks. First, that I am now a father, and my motivations in life have shifted from being about myself to being about someone else. Second, that my legacy is not solely about what I do in the world, but how I show up in the life of my child. Third, that I am wrestling with the tension that I am still a man with a vision and purpose, but now I must balance my callings as both a minister and a parent.
My challenge is captured by this quote from T. D Jakes:
The problem with being a father is you can never get it 100 [percent] . . . I can’t be there and earn a living at the same time. I’m limited, and I have an obligation to make sure your life is better than mine.
The difficult thing about being a father is that everybody wants it now. The kid wants it now. The [spouse] wants it now. The job wants it now. The opportunity is now because in your early years are your earning years.
Jakes’ is right; the opportunity is now because my early years as a professional and a parent each present much earning potential. Looking at the picture of my daughter, what I see is the intersection of my present opportunities to show up as the best father I can be, while simultaneously giving my best to my church and my calling to serve. Likewise, to live such that my daughter can take pride in who her father aspires to be and what he does while not letting my work leave me with too little to give her in return.
Paradoxically, I have also received a glimpse of what I could lose and the moments I can never get back. Yes, sacrifices are a requirement of life, but which sacrifices will be a requirement that I make?
As I reach my arms out to God, I pray to find peace in the paradox. I pray to find grace in my limitations to get it 100 percent but recognizing that my limitations mean that I will neither get it 100 percent right or 100 percent wrong. I pray for God’s provision to do more for my loved ones than I can ever hope to do for them myself. I pray to discern God’s love for me when I struggle to love myself.
Moreover, my prayer is that in all my doing and getting that I get the understanding to never lose sight of who is most important in my life and work. Even though what I am doing is for God, there is a part of this that is also for myself. Yet, I pray that I recognize God and myself intersected within the body of a now-five-month-old baby girl. Prayerfully, whose arms will always be outstretched and reaching for her daddy, and I will be there to embrace her in return.
Darrell R. Hamilton, II is the Executive Minister for Operations and Resource Development for Middle Collegiate Church in New York City. Prior to Middle, he served as the Pastor for Formation and Outreach at First Baptist Church in Jamaica Plain, MA. Darrell is an ordained Baptist minister and is impassioned by the way politics and faith merge together in the Christian theological traditions of justice and liberation. Darrell is a graduate of Wake Forest School of Divinity where he attained his Masters of Divinity degree May 2017.