Field Work

Posted: October 7, 2010 in Faith, Work
Tags: ,

Social work is a tough field, but it sure does produce some great stories. A few years ago, I was charged with the task of locating a gentleman to inform him that a paternity test had confirmed he was the father of two children. Unfortunately, I also had to inform him that neglect petitions had been filed against both him and the mother of the children in Court for not adequately caring for the kids. After celebrating the confirmation of his fatherhood, the man took issue with the neglect petitions.

“Glenect?!?” he protested. “How can I glenect my kids if I don’t even see ‘em? That’s not my ponsibility.”

Aside from some creative pronunciation, I had a difficult time maintaining my composure after hearing his defense against the neglect case consisted of his own report that he didn’t spend any time with his kids or attempt to care for them. Obviously, the guy didn’t get it. Taking care of his kids was his “ponsibility” whether he recognized it or not, and for the next eight months it became my “ponsibility” to assist him with understanding his role as a father.

I definitely had sympathy for him though; because while neglecting one’s parental duties is no small matter, one has to wonder how much of this father’s failures were a direct result of his own lack of experience with anything remotely resembling a good dad. But, perhaps the largest contributing factor to my sympathy was the simple fact that all too often I am the guy who just doesn’t get it.

Just last week, I was scheduled to be present at the New Haven District Court for a hearing and so I arrived at the normally scheduled time and place, only to find a Court Officer blocking the entrance to the Courtroom. The Officer reported the room was filled to capacity and indicated I would have to wait in line before entering, which I found strange but didn’t question. Only after waiting for approximately a half hour, did I remember someone had mentioned that the Courtroom I was waiting to enter was also the largest capacity Courtroom in the building. I then pieced that information together with the fact that network news trucks were parked outside the Courthouse from ABC, NBC and CBS.

If you have been paying attention to the national news, you may well be aware of the media coverage that a high-profile home invasion trial involving a triple homicide in is receiving here in Connecticut. Turns out I had accidentally been waiting for (and very nearly gained) entrance into the Courtroom that was being closely monitored by thousands throughout the country. Not only did I feel like an idiot, but I “glenected” my “ponsibility” by missing the Court hearing I was supposed to be attending.

For the longest time (and still on occasion now), I tried to pretend I was perfect, though I was the only one who fell for the act. The clueless version of myself would likely have been angry at the father for “glenecting” his kids without wanting to assist him in becoming a better dad. The arrogant version of myself would likely have blamed the Court for not putting a sign up or informing me that the hearing I was supposed to attend had been moved. But getting angry, judgmental or accusatory doesn’t help anyone.

Though I grew up going to church, I was quite often a self-righteous kid, especially in non-public spheres. If you had given me a Myers-Briggs personality test, rather than being an ENTP or INFP, I would likely have been labeled a JERK. I used to think I had all the answers. Now, the fact that I thought it was even possible for anyone to have all the answers is laughable. Part of my attitude and behavioral change was simply growing up which (usually) helps maturity, and a large part is due to the patience of my incredible wife, but the majority of the credit has to be given to really getting to know Jesus.

Despite a great spiritual foundation being laid for me by my parents and church family, simply having an academic knowledge of the Bible didn’t translate into my life looking like the life of Jesus. In fact, both the story of my “glenectful” client and my experience at Court illustrate it is possible to be in close proximity to something of great significance and somehow still not realize or experience it.

I think many of us who grew up going to church may have been in close proximity to Jesus, but maybe we didn’t truly experience Him through the religious system that was handed down to us. Jesus fundamentally changed the people he touched. Those who have really met Him cannot help but be moved. Jesus changes your relationships. He didn’t fraternize with people who could have granted Him a greater social status, but instead preferred and was the poor. Jesus changes your budget. He never had any money on Him, didn’t purchase a life insurance policy and had no equity in real estate, yet He still fed the poor and gave all He had. Jesus changes your politics. He didn’t claim allegiance with the zealots nor with the empire. He wouldn’t register as a Republican nor as a Democrat. Jesus doesn’t make things easier, He makes things beautiful.

Romans 5:8 says, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus doesn’t love me anymore now than He did when I was an arrogant kid. He doesn’t love me any less on days that I act like a jerk. His love is not based on my performance. But because of his love we can stop judging others by their performances and shortcomings. Because of His love we can forgo pursuits of power, success, recognition and comfort and truly love each other with forgiving and empathetic spirits.

Often referred to as a “worker” in the “field” of social work, I recently took great encouragement after reading Luke 10:2 where Jesus tells His disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” I am feeling a strong call to continue to revision my vocation as a “worker” in his “field” regardless of my job description. No matter your employment, I believe God has the same call and hope for us all. Let’s not “glenect” our “ponsibility” to show each other the same measure of forgiveness and grace as Jesus showed us, so that we can be attend the Harvest party and invite some others along as well.

  1. N Miller says:

    Let’s go brother. You are a solid writer, and I enjoy reading your thoughts and stories. Keep them coming. I will see you in less than a week.

  2. April says:

    Just curious – did this father already know the children were his, and need the paternity test only as confirmation or to force his acknowledgment? Or did he not think they were his? I’d think that would alter the entire course of events. A man wouldn’t be expected to parent kids that weren’t his, even if someone had implied they were. Especially such a fine and upstanding member of society.

    • Great question April. The gentleman already believed himself to be the father of these children, but he and the mother were not getting along, so she had indicated that perhaps the children were fathered by someone else. He did not doubt his paternity, but was agreeable to the testing. There is so much more to this story, but due to confidentiality, I can’t really disclose the full extent of the interaction.

  3. April says:

    How sad for those children, on both sides. There isn’t really an answer available that will have a completely happy outcome. Does it ever get to you, encountering cases where the best you can offer them is progress and prayer?

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