We did the typical guy-talk thing. You know—news, weather, and sports. Nothing that would require too much vulnerability. We men don’t readily bare our souls with other men. Especially when we’re talking in a sauna wearing only towels.
But as Brett’s and my friendship continued to grow, our discussions began to involve more important matters. One morning, as we sat in the whirlpool after working out, I noticed that conversation wasn’t coming as easily as it usually did. Brett seemed preoccupied.
After several unsuccessful attempts to engage him in discussion, without even looking at me, he said, out of the blue and completely void of emotion, “My dad called me last night from California. He told me he was dying.”
I went into full-scale counselor mode. “Oh, no,” I said. “I am so sorry.”
I’ll never forget the look on his face when his eyes locked with mine as he said, “Don’t be. I hope it’s a long and painful death.”
Over the course of the next few weeks Brett doled out more and more of his gut-wrenching story. His dad walked out and him and his mom when Brett was just ten years old. He never saw his father again. The only tie between them were monthly child support checks received in the mail. There were never “How are you?” notes included. There were no Christmas cards or birthday wishes. Not even a phone call. For almost two decades. Until his father's call to share his diagnosis.
If Brett’s father thought the news would evoke sympathy and compassion and would magically undo all the damage he had caused his son he was badly mistaken. The family tree had been uprooted, its branches splintered. In Brett’s eyes, his old man was dead wood.
Brett’s story is all-too-familiar in the world in which we live. Kids trying to make it through life void of love from the one who gave them life. For way too many people, the term good father is an oxymoron. And society is reaping the results.
Allow me to explain what effective fathering entails.
A good father is someone who not only tells his kids he loves them, he shows it.
A good father is someone who is true to his word.
A good father is someone whose love for his kids is not dependent on their behavior.
A good father is someone to whom his children can always come for advice, for encouragement, or to simply listen.
A good father is someone in whose presence his children always feel safe.
A good father is someone who teaches his kids to be kind, to accept others, to be responsible, to forgive when they've been wronged, and to live each day to the fullest.
A good father is someone who wants what is best for his children, even if that means he sometimes has to say, "no."
A good father is someone who beams with delight at the mere thought of his kids.
Healing from our father wounds begins when we understand that we all have a Father like that. Every one of us. We have a Heavenly Father who thinks the world of us. Who seeks to fill the void left by earthly fathers who, for whatever reason, didn’t do their job. Who longs for us to find in Him what we didn’t get from our dads.
The sooner we discover Him, the sooner we will find the peace, hope, love, and healing we're looking for.
"See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!" ~1 John 3:1a, NLT