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Fatherhood– Ben Chamness

Do no harm. Do good. Stay in love with God.

If you’ve been around the Methodist church a while, chances are you’ve heard those phrases. They are part of the teachings of John Wesley and reflect his approaches to faith and practicing Christianity.

When I first heard that mantra, I was impressed by its directness and the practical challenges it posed. To actually live your life that way requires sacrifices to self-worth and self-importance that are not easy to give up. And while I typically fail miserably at following these ideals, they have led me to adopt my own version of them.

Don’t worry. Be Happy. Have Faith.

I think we do a lot of harm to ourselves when we worry. It can create physical stress in our bodies and lead to a diminished capacity for doing good. To me seeking happiness is grounded in the idea that while any given moment of my life may contain strife, if I view my day from a cosmic distance I can find solace, happiness and a way forward to doing good. And the bit about having faith is a reminder that if I do have faith, if I do rely less on myself to control my world then the first two goals are a lot easier to achieve.

When I became a father a year and a half ago, it brought into sharp focus all of these ideas and challenged me in new ways. Though my son is young, it’s amazing to see how much he absorbs from people and his environment. He picks up so quickly on emotional and physical cues he observes that it’s sometimes jarring. The realization that all of mine and my wife’s strengths and flaws become so quickly adapted is humbling. With this in mind, I go back to John Wesley.

Attend upon the ordinances of God.

Or, put another way, seek out a closeness with God and put yourself in relationship with other people who are seeking that too. No matter how hard I try to be a good example to my son through mine or John Wesley’s mantras, it won’t be enough. Our models for him as a means of personal and spiritual discipline can only go so far, so I must also show him that growing up in a faith community like CUMC is pivotal. That it’s essential in building a life of faith and grace. I’m very grateful to my son for helping me stay focused on this pursuit and I hope I can return the favor to him as he grows.