Dear Dad – and all the men who choose their families – but especially Dad,
I don’t know if you know this or not, but I have a fear of abandonment.
I think part of it stems from hearing the story of my grandparents’ divorce – you know, how he wanted to go to law school, and how she told him (probably tired of him not being around with all the hunting and political campaigning) that if he did that he may as well give her a divorce, and how he did exactly that. She was ever after portrayed as having gotten what she deserved – bitter, demanding, divisive, but he – he only did what any reasonable man in his position would have done.
Part of it stems from watching men choose things over their wives and families again and again. Things like other women. Things like alcohol and drugs and porn. Things like their careers. Things like church and ministry and doing things for God. Watching the blame for these choices be shifted to the women and children who are either too much or not enough. Watching the devastation that ensues.
And I’ve been so afraid of doing and saying things that might be too much or might not be enough because I might lose people in the process.
And I say, “Thank you,” because I didn’t learn that fear from you.
Because you chose your family. And you continue to choose your family.
I remember this one Sunday morning, about six-and-a-half years ago. I had an attitude about where I was going to have to go to church that morning, and so you and Mom and I stayed home and hashed it out. It was the culmination of four or five years of being sat down and lectured by you about things I didn’t remotely understand, and I guess all that miscommunication exploded to the surface that day. I remember it was ugly and rough. I remember understanding some of the things you’d been saying for years, just because you worded them differently. I remember our communication got better after that.
You know what I don’t remember about that Sunday morning? Any resentment on your end about not being in church. There was no sense that you were supposed to be anywhere but right where you were. That day, I was your ministry.
In another ugly and rough situation, I remember you stood up for your child and another man stood up for his ministry. There were a couple years you didn’t get to preach as a result, and the other man did. Your child knows your love for him prompted your actions, but the other man’s child has no such assurance. In that situation, my brother was your ministry.
I remember when I first began understanding the blessing of having a dad who recognized his family as his primary ministry and chose accordingly. It was during a season where I was running around doing things for church, but my bedroom was a mess. You seemed to think cleaning my bedroom should have been a priority, and, not for the first time, I thought you were out of your mind. You were trying to teach me that God is not impressed when we’re out doing “big” things for Him when the things closest to home are neglected, but I started to realize all the ways you placed value in your family.
When we found out Mom was sick at the end of last year, I was most glad she has you to take care of her. Because I know – even before your eight kids – she is your ministry. It means something to me, yes, but even one of my cousins commented on it when you visited her several months ago.
With so many people pursuing greatness to be seen by other people, and the ruin they too often leave in their wake, your way is needed, Dad. And even though you don’t do it for the credit, your way is appreciated.
So, thank you.
And I’m sorry. This fear of abandonment does not come from you, does not come from any personal experience, but I operate from it nonetheless. Too often, I surround myself with men who live up to this expectation that I will be abandoned in my too-much-ness and not-enough-ness, like they are the only kind of men. It’s actually a pretty crappy response to the kind of man you are.
I have to do things differently.
I will stop affirming men who choose other women, because they offer excitement that I don’t. I will stop affirming men who cling to alcohol and drugs and porn, as if those are the real things, and I am not. I will stop affirming men who fling themselves into careers and church and ministry and doing things for God, and leave their families vulnerable.
I will expect men who remain loving and faithful. I will expect men who fill their bodies, hearts, minds, spirits, and souls with true things. I will expect men who seek the Heavenly Father’s heart in everything they do.
Of course I will say and do things that are too much and not enough. Everyone does.
I will still be loved.
And I will still maintain high expectations.
You are a man after God’s own Father-heart, Dad. Hopefully this encourages all husbands and dads who make their wives and children their primary ministry, but I mostly want you to know.
I love you!
“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court” (Psalm 127:3-5 NIV).