This is my 3rd blog post and I have to apologize! I haven’t really introduced myself! So here we go!
“Hi! My name is Billy Soden and here is just a little bit about who I am:
First, I am a Christian. Now before half of you run away and the other half start breaking out in a gospel hymn with “hallelujahs” and “amen’s” (although you’re welcome to if that’s how you roll), let me explain a bit further with a brief analogy. When I say, “I am a Christian” the response I expect is something like, “Oh, really? What flavor?” Ha! I can tell you, that is not usually the first question I get! I haven’t always been a Christian, so the reaction I get from people who know me, either spoken out loud or not, is something more like, “You?!”
Ha! I have to laugh even while writing this. God knows (no pun intended) I never set out to be a Christian. He also knows that I’m not exactly the poster child for Christianity! Think of the longest line you’ve ever waited in (it’s probably at the DMV or the post office or Disney World). Now picture the very last person in line. That was me, except I had no idea what line I was in and I wasn’t really “waiting to be served.” Now picture a huge over-sized hand as big as your local shopping mall – and it’s coming toward YOU!
I can think of more than a handful of times that I felt that – for real. I never recognized that as “God.” Of course, I didn’t identify with any belief system whatsoever. So, to me, a Godzilla-sized anything coming toward me was threatening! I dodged that monstrous dragon-like hand like a champ for many, many years. I didn’t identify as an anything, and certainly not a Christian! When it came up in conversation or I was asked directly, I would give an answer even when I didn’t have one. the label I gave myself at any given time would range anywhere between extreme hell-raising atheist to cookie-cutter-straight-out-of-the-Family-magazine-believer.
The truth – I had no idea what the hell I was talking about. Yes, I had attended a few churches – even got married in one! In college, more as a curious academic, I found a Methodist church that really liked. I didn’t understand half of what was said (probably less than half), but they were nice people – and I like nice people. I also liked their activism. This church did things! And, I also liked gas in my car, ramen, soup, peanut butter sandwiches, and beer – which is how I spent the money I was paid for attending many churches as a hired musician.
Then, one day, my life was turned upside down in a personal tragedy that felt like the very core of my being was under attack, and everything I valued and everything I had tried to be was being slowly assassinated. No details for you folks on that yet, folks, but for now suffice it to say I hit a wall I could neither move nor penetrate. I was stuck.
And then, during that time, God the Godzilla Dragon hand was coming toward me, and other than the rawest of emotional pain, that was the only thing I could feel. I no longer had the energy to dodge it. I was empty and weak, and alone and afraid. I thought, “This is it. I’m going to die at the hands of a gargantuan middle finger. Hand – 1, Billy – 0. The end.”
But that was NOT what happened. That freaky hand plucked me by the seat of my pants and brought me from the end of the line to first in line. For a guy who is often complimented for always having “just the right words,” I knew there were none to describe what I felt. There still aren’t. So after a few rounds wrestling with “Gargantou-God,” I gave Him my life, because I now had no doubt that He gave me His, and always will.
These days, God and I argue often and wrestle as well over many things. He sure as hell has earned his patience medal when it comes to me! But, in all honesty, I’ve never “won” an argument or wrestling match with Him. What really pisses me off is that He doesn’t gloat about that. He just keeps pointing His oversized-Jesuzee hand, tells me to follow Him, and even offers directions sometimes. Truth be told, it’s a great friendship. Kind of like the father I never had… with huge hands.
So God is my hero now – weird! And I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have many heroes, some who I know personally and others who I have never met. Maya Angelou is one of those heroes (watch this brief interaction with Oprah). Martin Luther King is another (click for a great reminder of exactly who MLK was, or share it with a younger person who may not know). If you took those two amazing people and morphed them into one person, that is how I identify as a Christian. I am a civil rights advocate and passionate about bringing hope to the hopeless and sincerely dedicated to helping make our world a better place.
I am also a dad; a very proud single father of two sons, ages 17 and 20. I’ve made just enough mistakes in life to gain at least some wisdom that I’ve been able to share with them. Well, let me put that another way – I’ve made way more than enough mistakes in my life than was required to obtain the amount of wisdom necessary to raise my sons. Apparently, I like to error on the side of caution that way.
In writing this, my hope was that I could produce something that was compelling enough to make you want to come back again, so I reached out to my oldest son, Nick, via a text request. He’s currently in Denver preparing for a national tour with the Blue Knight’s Drum and Bugle Corps. In our family, not being a musician was never an option. It was never “Would you like to learn an instrument?” but rather “So, which instrument would you like to learn first?!” My background as a teacher gave me a lot of practice in learning how to ask questions in which any answer was a good one. Anyway, I digress. I knew Nick was busy rehearsing morning through the wee hours of darkness and wanted to give him time to give a thoughtful answer, so I texted to him:
“Hi Nick! I’m starting a blog. I thought it might be a good idea to gather some testimonials from people who know me or have known me. I’m wondering if in the next few days you could take a few moments and just write down or text a brief paragraph about how you see me as your dad. Take your time, and try to concentrate on the positive – I want these people to like me!”
The reply came seconds later:
“I see you as a passionate, hardworking dad who is extremely persistent in everything he does. You always give your all and you follow your heart, making dreams a reality with grace and humility.”
I choked up. I teared up unexpectedly! I even waited a few minutes before texting him back to see if there was a “please send cash” request. There wasn’t. That is MY son, Nick, and I am consistently blown away by both of my son’s ability to give me a directly solicited positive comment that involves no exchange of cash or material possessions.
As parents of now older kids, or “kidults” as one of my friends refers to them as, we talk a lot about how the heck they went from drooling on my shoulder to independent thinking walking and talking creatures with a nearly exterminated drooling habit. And, well… adults! I have TWO of these buggers, each amazing in their own way and I love them to death. My dad was, well… not so much. So I never take for granted the relationship I have with my boys.
I started by telling you that I am a Christian. Depending on which stained glass window you’re looking out of, there’s a rule that we Christians are supposed to always put God first. So although I did mention my faith first, I believe there is some wiggle room that allows for “different kinds of firsts.” I mean, what Father (especially the Father of all father’s wouldn’t understand that! (wink, wink – nudge, nudge.)
If I have any say whatsoever in the matter, we will always be together come hell or high water.