Life 201 is a weekly advice column headed by pastor, counselor and RELEVANT Podcast member Eddie Kaufholz. Eddie answers questions and gives advice on issues you want to hear about. Email your questions to Life201@RELEVANTmagazine.com.
Welcome back! Let’s get to helping…
I love Jesus, or at least I thought I did, but these past few years have been plagued by a crippling depression. I feel like I’m not allowed to feel the way I do. So much of what I hear talks about having peace and comfort in The Lord, but I just can’t seem to find it. Is that okay? How do I get it back?
Isaac, you are brave—so very brave. And I need you to hear me say something. God loves you deeply, more than you know. Did you hear that? I want to tell you again, God loves you, Isaac. Even though it may be hard to feel, it’s true.
I know that depression, crippling depression, makes it feel like there’s no path out of the dark woods. And I’m sure you’ve spent so many hours wandering, looking and waiting for some hint of light to illuminate the way—only to remain lost. But here’s an assurance that I need you to have: While it may feel like getting over your depression will lead you back into the favor of Jesus, that is just not true. It is in the darkest places where Christ draws most near and is with you. You do not have to “get it back.” It was never lost.
You do not have to try harder, be healthier, be happier,or be anything to impress God or gain his favor. What you need to do is continue to be brave, put one foot in front of the other, make it to all of your counseling and doctor appointments and live with the assurance that God is propping you up. His love can’t be earned, Isaac, and it certainly can’t be lost by someone as great as you doing the best you can to make it through the day.
I, and thousands of other people who just read this, are praying for you. Go get ‘em, friend.
My wife and I are expecting our first baby in 3 weeks, which I’m very happy about. But I’m also terrified. Is that normal, and can you help?
Sam the man, congratulations! You’re wigging out a bit, and we’ll get to that. But first I wanted to add my name to the list of people who are excited for you and Mrs. Sam. You’ll be great parents.
Allow me to tell you a story…
About a month before my two daughters came home (that’s a long, beautiful story for another time), I pulled my friend Garry into my office and closed the door. “Garry,” I said, “I’m going to be a dad in a month and what if I can’t do it? [tears start to pool] And what if they’re messed up like me? [sniffle, sniffle] I’m really afraid I’m going to be terrible dad [and I dissolve into tears].”
“Dude, you’re going to be fine, I promise. It’s scary now. But you’ve got an awesome wife, great community, and the fact that you care is really the whole ball game. Trust me on this.”
Sam. Trust me on this, you’re going to be fine. Kids are a big deal, and I’m glad you care enough to be scared. But if you’re like me, the scariest part is just not knowing what to expect. And while no two kids are the same, I’ve got a theory brewing about what a new parent should expect. It’s called the 6 weeks—6 months—1 year rule (terrible name, good idea):
6 weeks — For the first six weeks after a new child enters the home, things are going to be bananas. You will get no sleep, and when you do sleep you’ll be dreaming that the little green bar on the baby monitor is turning red. Also, you will get frustrated. Even the easiest children test the most patient parents. Sam, you will be tested, and you will be apologizing to your spouse and kid more than usual, but this too shall pass.
Because it’s not forever. After the first six weeks, you’ll notice is that the circumstances aren’t changing drastically, but your capacity is. What was once an absurd life of poop, bottles and exhaustion is now just your life—and it’s not so bad anymore. So prepare yourself for the first six weeks. It’s a challenging time, but also a beautiful one.
6 months — After you’re done with the 6 weeks, you kind of settle into a rhythm that starts to feel a lot like a manageable life, but it’s also a rhythm that pretty much beats to the tempo of the child. Know this though, the tempo will change around the 6 month mark. You’ll know it happens when you and your wife start feeling the freedom to get away for kid-free weekends. You’ll find yourself not remembering or fathoming a time without a child. The six month mark is, essentially, you internalizing the change and getting comfy in the parent role.
1 year — Somewhere around your kid’s overly decorated and gigantically stressful first birthday party, you and your wife will begin asking the question, “What now?” At my family’s one year mark, my wife opened a business and I started goofing around on the RELEVANT Podcast. A year in, your capacity has been completely reformed and you’ve got enough stamina to being dreaming again.
Much of the fear that new parents face is that life will never be about anything other than kid. What you need to know is that, for a time, the kid will absorb all the air in your home. But that won’t last forever, and your dreams will return—with your child as a part of them.
So there you go, Sam. I know there’s a lot of other ground to cover when it comes to being a new parent, and countless books and blogs have been written on the subject. But my hope is that knowing what the first 6 weeks, 6 months and 1 year may look like will at least give you some peace about what’s to come. You’ll do great!
Oh wait, one more piece of advice: Let that kid sleep on your chest as much as he or she will allow. Someday soon they’ll stop doing that, and you’ll always miss it.
And with that, I think we’re done. Thank you for reading and continuing to do the hard work of improving yourself!
Have a question? Good! All identifying information will be kept anonymous. Send an email to Life201@RELEVANTmagazine.com
Eddie Kaufholz is a writer, speaker and podcaster and serves as a director of church mobilization for International Justice Mission. He also hosts and produces "The New Activist" podcast. You can find on Twitter @EdwardorEddie.