Being a Father
Our quirky landlord said something to me the day Lydia was born. “I learned once they come out, you can’t put them back in.”
Thoughts flooded my mind. She, was our responsibility for the next 20 some years. She is totally dependent on us. She needed me now. No more running down to the South Side for a Sox game. No more pickup basketball games at Lombard Chapel. (Actually marriage had somewhat eliminated some of these youthful pursuits of mine) Will I be able to provide an adequate income to feed her/clothe her/house her/educate her/spiritually train her? God, am I adequate for this? He answered, yes of course, “children are a gift from the LORD” scripture says in Psalm 127:3. If He, in His perfect wisdom gave me a child, wouldn’t He also give me what I need to carry out this overwhelming task as a father?
That day was 22 years ago. Three more kids, three more moments of am I adequate? More questions, boys? I hear they’re a different animal. Where’s the instruction manual?
Thursday we took Jamie to college. At least he’ll be close. This morning we took John to the airport to go off to college for another year. Lydia is a working adult, praise God, but far away too. We do have Grace left for another two years unless she decides she would just like to live with her parents. Everything was cool until I walked into what was the boys shared bedroom for most of their life.
The boys still have what I’ll call a bookcase of memories. It contains trophies of athletics (go Antigo little league champion Red Sox!) academics, and some Awana trophies. There’s a picture of a living (well dead) trophy largemouth bass John caught after ignoring my advice of where to dangle his worm! There are souvenirs, a sharks tooth, dinosaurs made of clay, items that would never bring more than a few cents on one of those pawn shows but of great value in this house. There’s a baseball, a game ball awarded to Jamie for “his first homerun”, a classic little league homerun on a batted ball that traveled 3 or 4 feet and then was thrown all over the park.
As I looked through the shelf a sense of nostalgia kicked in, but also a sense of satisfaction. All those day of birth questions have been answered, or at least mostly answered. God in His great and awesome strength had seen us through this process. It’s been joyful, fun, hilarious, (“how bad do you have to go” we asked John in the car during hurricane season. He replied, it’s a category 5 urinecane!) a great adventure. I know our job as parents never ends, but you know when we drop kids off at the airport and watch them fly away for the next 4 months, well, it’s mostly over!
So these thoughts have been rolling through my brain this week. And then I watch the news, read the newspaper and thoughts of fathering shifts. It’s been a tragic week. A 9 year old boy in Chicago, playing in his yard, shot. A 7 year old boy riding in his car with his mom here in Baton Rouge, shot. A five year old, also at home here, beat to death by his father. Three boys no longer with us adding to their own bookcase of memories.
“How long, O LORD, must I call for help? But you do not listen! “Violence is everywhere!” I cry, but you do not come to save.” These are not my words but of a little known prophet named Habakkuk. He questioned God. God answered him. I will take care of the violence among you. It will happen in a way you may not like, but I will take care of it.
Since my kids have been very little I have prayed for their protection. I pray for protection from serious accidents, illnesses, harm at the hands of others and even protection from the ways of this world. But I have also prayed for God to give us His grace to comfort us and strengthen us should we need it in a case of extreme hardship regarding the children.
Please pray for children. Not just your own. Pray for the children who are in harms way in this dangerous world. Better yet, get involved, particularly with children who don’t have a father, or a mother. You probably don’t have to go far. There’s probably kids in your church who fit this category. Tutor if you’re able. If you’re looking for something to do, go to your local elementary school or high school, and ask. Counsel at camp. Look up the boys and girls club in your town and find out if volunteers are needed. Coach if you can. Teach Sunday School.
But don’t forget these children have parents. When possible, come alongside them, not in an intimidating way, ie, “I’ve got it together and I’m here to help you”, but in a way that maintains their dignity, ie, “I’m a parent too, what do you do that works?” Establishing relationships with people is a scriptural model. Look at these words of Paul and tell me if this happens without relationships: “We urge you brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”
As a father of children who are approaching adulthood, I now encourage them to do the same.