The importance of fatherhood cannot be underestimated. I grew up with my father in the home. I was one of the lucky ones. My father was present BUT he was silent. I yearned for his communication and direction. I yearned for his presence and involvement. Like a sprouting flower, I desired to be watered and fed from the root that was partially responsible for my birth. Naturally, my dad is my vine, but I felt cut off as a branch. Spiritually, Christ is the vine, and God the Father is the vinedresser. Thankfully, He has not cut me away and left me to wither.
Nonetheless, I began to see how much my father loved sports, so I began playing sports in order to grab his attention. First, I played baseball. It was fun until I got hit in the head with a ball in the outfield. Actually, I was trying to catch the ball, the sun got in my eyes, and the ball hit me right on the forehead. It's funny now, but it wasn't funny then especially knowing my father wasn't there to tell me I could do it. Like most boys, I quit and never went and played another game. Next, I tried basketball. That was hilarious. I quickly learned that I had the dribble of a two-year-old, and I realized that I couldn't make a basket even if the net was 3 feet high and right in my face. Each time I dribbled the ball I'd end up losing it....ok.....ok....someone ended up taking it. THERE! I SAID IT! Then, I played football. I was only partially good at football because I was bigger than normal. I like to think I was husky, but everyone else called me fat. I wore a size 38 in jeans at the age of 11. I had some size, but that was all I had. I was slower than a snail trying to get away from salt. I was relatively horrible at all of them; nonetheless, I chose to continue playing football. I would watch from the field to see if my father would come to cheer me on or give me any support. Unfortunately, all I would see in the stands was my mother shouting and encouraging me. Then, there was that one time where I saw my father sitting in the stands. It was the end of the 3rd quarter. I was elated. About 5 minutes into the 1st quarter it began to rain, and it rained HARD! It was a tough enough rain that it caused everyone to leave, including my father. So I finished the game in the rain only to go home to him asleep because he was tired. He didn't tell me how proud he was of me or tell me if he was happy to see me playing something. I just wanted him to get as excited about me as he was about the men he watched on television every time a game was on.
I really don’t have the fondest memories of my father. In fact, I don’t have any good memories at all. My father didn’t have the best childhood, and his life comes with its own problems. In order to self-medicate, he began to drink, and he would drink daily. For years I could not understand why he would want to choose alcohol over me, his one and only son. I grew angry, and I resented him for it.
After my grandfather died in 1992, I was left without a true male figure in my life. I was left to my own ignorance, and I was forced to begin a life anew that I was clueless about starting. I would go to teach myself how to tie my shoes, cook food, etc. My wife loves to poke fun at me because I tie my shoes with two loops instead of one. In fact, I don’t know how to do the one loop simply because I never learned it. I figured that I wasn’t important enough for my father to teach so I had to teach myself. I thought that since I wasn't packaged in a beer can or whiskey bottle, I wasn’t good enough to be loved. As I grew older, my anger grew more and more and more. Then, like my father, I began trying to self-medicate. Alcohol wasn’t my choice of medication. Instead, I chose pornography, lying, and a myriad of other things.
I struggled with loving him and even caring for his well-being. After a certain time my heart grew cold towards him. We would be in the same house but neither of us would take the time to speak to one another. To this day I don’t know much about my father even though we lived in the same house together for over 18 years. You know what? That pains me and really hurts me to even write. I did know, or at least I speculated, that my father loved alcohol and my sister much more than he loved me. Please understand that this isn’t an attack on my sister. She’s a great woman; it’s simply a personal and heartfelt observation that holds no grounds except in the private corners of my heart.
I, like most sons, wanted my father to affirm me and be involved in my life. I wanted him to talk to me about sex, take me on an adventure, come to my award’s programs, be involved in my emotional stability and even wrestle with me. It hurt me to look out in the audience during my award programs to only see my mother. I would go on to receive many awards for community service, academic achievement, leadership, etc.; however, my father wouldn’t be there to see any of it. I just wanted to know that he cared, and I wanted him to express that concern to me. Nonetheless, I couldn’t allow for that hateful poison to affect my life or his life any longer. I knew something had to change, and I knew I had to be adult enough to change it.
The Apostle John writes in 1 John chapter 3 verse 15 ‘Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.’ The evidence of our continuing abiding in Christ is that we love our brethren, and that includes our family that irate us and does terrible things to us. This love that is birth from God gives us the ability to love what isn’t lovely and care for what isn’t caring. After I believed Jesus to be the Savior, I knew I needed the Holy Spirit to begin to really work in me. I knew I couldn’t hate my father forever. The evidence of hate in me would be proof that God was not in me and I was not in Him.
I began calling my father just to check on him to see how he was doing. That would sometimes really hurt because I would want him to call and also check on me. Nonetheless, I would call him from time to time. I wouldn’t entertain or give him an audience when he was under the influence of alcohol. I will admit that I would get enraged to the point of wanting to fight him at times, but it was the presence of God who would calm me down. I had to realize this great truth: My war was not with my father; it was with spiritual principalities in high places and rulers of darkness. My war was with untold pain, hurt and heartache. My war was with ignorance and darkness. My war wasn’t with the man who assisted in my conception, but the demon who desires nothing more than to see me without hope, hurt and forever separated from God.
After realizing this, my love for my father began to grow. I began to learn how to love him despite how hard it was to do so. I had to learn how to be there with him and make myself available to be there if he ever needed me. My father’s salvation is the only thing that concerns me now. I pray for him often. I pray for his repentance, his freedom, and his release. I pray he’ll have the courage to stand boldly before men and proclaim the Gospel. I pray he overcomes the hurt that I know plagues his own heart. Even though my wounds are deep, I cannot focus on them while I know the man who is partially responsible for my birth is lost, hurting and in pain.
Fathers, please tell your children how much you love them. In fact, show them. Let your love be seen and felt. Wrestle with your sons; and treasure your daughters. Teach them the ways of the Lord. Sit with them and study the Bible together. Love your wife, and let the children see the love you have for her. If you’re not married to the mother, always convey a good image of the mother in front of the children. Don’t allow adult differences to darken childish images. With children, more is caught than taught. They will pick up more of what they see rather than what they hear. Give your children freedom to fail, and don’t forget to tell your children that you love them and you’re sorry, when necessary.
Now, I live my life given to young men what my father didn’t give to me, unconditional love and guidance. Nonetheless, I don’t hold that charge against my father any longer. I’ve set him free in my mind. He’s no longer a prisoner in my mental jail. I love him. He’s my father, and that will never change.