This blog is likely the most personal thing I have ever written for my website. Please respect that in your own processing my transparent sharing.
I always wanted to be a Father; I always wanted to the right the wrongs of my childhood. I wanted to forge new life, new opportunities. I wanted to be for someone else, the very things I thought I never had growing up. And so, It cut to the core of my soul to be told by a doctor that it would never happen for us as a couple. I’d never get to be a Dad, or do the things that Dad’s do.
I learned a lot from my Dad. And that is saying a lot because he was mostly an absent father. I craved his attention; I craved his wisdom, I craved his affection. Like many Dads, he worked a lot, went back to school to get two degrees and became a teacher; and eventually left my family to be with some else. He rarely remembered my Birthday, forgot to call and often was just hard to connect with while growing up when I really felt I needed him.
I am not knocking him at all. I love him, and I know he loves me. The past is the past, and I can’t judge people for doing the best they knew how to do. Sure he messed up a lot at times, but even in that, I learned from my Dad too. I‘ll mess up too, at times. And when I do, it will never be too late for me to show “I am sorry.” Without my Dad’s mistakes, I may not have learned not only to say the words, “I am sorry,” but to live a life that shows a repented stance that desires a reconnected relationship. Before I even knew about the Apostle Paul, and his famous passage on The Ministry of Reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:11-21) my Dad was modeling it to me; always doing his best to make up for things long past.
My Dad was the most supportive person in encouraging me to become a Minister. Even when I knew I was called, undeniably sure of God’s intent, I was too fearful, and uncertain about my own abilities or worthiness to take that step and accept that call on my life. Then one night, during a long distance phone call, Dad said to me, “Son, every time I talk to you, you’ve been at that church, or are on your way to that church, and doing something for that church, I can’t figure out why you’re not already a Minister. You do all the work already. Don’t you think that is who you are?” Oh, I guess I should mention at this point, that my Dad is not a believer, at all. He is a self-professed, light-hearted agnostic. He, not my pastor, not my elder, not my church, saw the Minister in me and from a long distance phone connection.
I did not invite my Dad to my own Ordination Service; why would I? He is not a believer at all. But when I awkwardly mentioned it on another long distance phone call, at the last minute, just so I’d not seem to be hiding it, do you know what he did? He drove halfway across the eastern seaboard to get here in time. He bought a brand new suit because he did not own one. I assured him casual was fine, he insisted he fork out good money to have a quality suit to wear to the church. He felt so awkward and kept fearfully joking that he was worried the church might collapse on him when he walked in the door because he was such a sinner. He quickly fell in love with my members, and soon he was letting people call him up on stage, honor him, and pray over him; imagine that; my Dad, the agnostic! He even took a stack of my business cards back, with him to show the guys at the Legion (drinking club) because, he said, otherwise, “No one, none of the guys, would ever believe, in a million years, a guy like me raised a Minister.”
The only surviving picture from my childhood that I know of. Christmas 1978? April, Mike, and Me.
I wanted to be a Dad. I wanted to forge a personality, with love, kindness, insight and wisdom and most of all, with Christ. I wanted to be, to someone, all those things I had wished my Dad had been to me in those absent years. And my heart was broken when the Doctor told my wife and me we’d never have children. I’d never be a Dad. I’d never get to make those absent years full years for anyone. That pain is more than I care to share here openly. It broke me, in many ways I won’t go into.
Jesus is good. Even in the times when I pulled my car off the shoulder of the road yelling at him, and breaking down and crying it was not fair, I’d not be complete without this. I wanted to know what Father and Son was meant to be like, without that break, without that abandonment. Why did God the Father get to have His son, yet deny me for well over 20 years!
Then here comes Jose’! He had no father, he had no mother, and he was about to lose both brothers, all mandated away via the court system due to things beyond his control, much less understanding. I was the only Father figure he’d ever gotten to bond within the foster system. I was way beyond my prime to actually ‘father;’ at least in my mind that day had passed, I had given up on all those angry demands in those old silly prayers that God ignored for so long.
Jesus always remembers your heart’s desire, even when you’ve had to seal it off for a sense of survival. Jesus does not forget those dreams that you do when you wake up each morning.
Jesus had not given up. Jesus always remembers your heart’s desire, even when you’ve had to seal it off for a sense of survival. Jesus does not forget those dreams that you do when you wake up each morning. I could never have let my dear, sweet Jose’, whom I had fostered/ fathered since age two, start all over again. I had already become the non-absent father to him and did not even know it.
People see me and Jose’ and the way I thrive on loving him, spending time with him, investing in him, and am constantly taking him places and doing things with him. I am forever blowing up people’s social media with father-son and family pictures ad nauseam. I mean, I know I am literally over the top showing off how awesome he is. I know most fathers, who also really love their children are not as actively promoting their joy and pride as I am. And I know, behind my back, I am sure some get out right annoyed at Jose’ and me. But guess what? — They likely don’t understand abandonment like Jose’ and I, both, do. They likely forget we are not dysfunctional, we are reconciling lost bonding time; we are being caught up with being made whole in Christ.
Am I doing things wrong with Jose’? Heck yeah. And so did my dad with me; that is kind of the point right? And it does not stop there; so did your dad do wrong things, and His dad, and hey if you are a dad, you are too. I call it, if you haven’t guessed it yet, “That Thing That Dad’s Do.” And Doing That Dad Thing simply means messing up while doing the very best you can, yet not letting the fear of messing up stop you from “Doing That Dad Thing, That Dad’s Do!” Your children so desperately need and can learn from your worst mistakes done under love. Even when you make massive mistakes along the way, you later figure it out and reconcile together. Keep doing that thing that Dad’s do!
Dad and Jose
It came full circle. My wife was sick, and in need of the kind of brain surgery, that if not done at the right time, in the right place, by the best doctor in the field, she’d likely not survive. It was panic time! Jose’ was in school. We could not take him. It was too far. It would be too long, and he’d miss too much school. Being withdrawn in our area would kick-start a DSS investigation. We had no idea where to put him. So we patched together B and C level plans. Again, like ordination, I did not even think of my Dad. Why would I? He was an absent father to me. Again, another long distance phone call, a brief mention just not to hide it, and an instant heartfelt response, “Son, let me call you right back. I am going to go check the planes and get a flight; I’ll be on my way to look after him.” Five minutes later, he calls me back, says there is a change of plans and now both he and his wife will drive down, and care for Jose’ together.
And they did. I can’t tell you how much Jose’ loves his Grampa and constantly talks about him. Did you catch it? The Ministry of Reconciliation? My Dad, fulfilled in my son, what his own life robbed from us, and through this substitutionary relationship, all our relationships are healed like never before.
And Oh, It is not over yet, I still have unanswered prayers, which I know are sealed off, that Jesus has not forgotten. Reconciliation is forever unfolding in my family.
I just want to say to Dad’s out there, you are going to mess up, all Dads do. The only perfect Father is in Heaven. And he knew your imperfections when he called you. What matters is not how bad you mess up, but how honest you are in admitting it. Do your best, because your best is better than being absent. Your best is what your children need. Despite an image some carry, there are no Super-Dads. There are only imperfect Dad’s seeking to reflect the image of the perfect father in Heaven and learning to do better as they stumble along. It is that thing, that Dad’s do.
Dedicated too…. A Twitter Daddo.
I wrote this for a Twitter Follower who is a Dad, who watches my tweets and maybe has mistakenly measured his against mine based on the image of mine he sees. This is dedicated to him. You’re a great Dad “G” –keep going!