Dads. Probably one of the most influential aspects of shaping who we are as humans. Fathers can shape us in positive ways through their leadership, guidance, consistent presence, love, and discipline. They can also scar us through their abuse, their addictions, their emotional distance, selfishness, or complete absence. Some dads are impact neutral as they’re not strong enough or brave enough or simply incapable to act in Godly ways of both caring, grace, and affection, or in terms of Godly truth-telling, setting and enforcing healthy boundaries or consequences. Fathering is a difficult and challenging journey to be sure.
I feel more than fortunate. I got one of the really good dads. My dad Fred, did it right. But in all my years of ministry, I’ve witnessed so many souls who have not, and I’ve witnessed the long-term negative impacts and effects in those who had absent, neutral, or negative fathers. And I as a father of three wonderful kids, know that I have blown it on multiple occasions with each of my children, and for our family as a whole, too many times to count.
I recently witnessed a beautiful picture of fatherhood done right. The last several months I’ve been walking beside a kindly and well-respected gentleman who was dying of cancer. The last two weeks he spent in his home on hospice. He had lived a full and vibrant life, centered in his Christian faith, and fathered three wonderful adult children along with his beautiful wife. I have rarely encountered such a deep sense of love in a home as I did on these several visits. On a friend’s suggestion, the two sons each wrote their father long, heartfelt letters of gratitude, affection, and love for all their father had done for them. And while their dad was still conscious and alert, they each read these beautiful letters to their dad. Tears flowed freely and the love had come full circle. A finer gift could not be given for a father who was heading for his home.
Most all of us crave, ache, and yearn to hear this simply fatherly blessing: “This is My Son/Daughter Whom I Love, with him I am well pleased!” And without it, we climb endless corporate ladders to nowhere, ride on merry-go-rounds of achievements and success, and burn through endless relationships that fall in the wake of our rearview mirror. We’re trying desperately to fill that hole in our heart left by a negative, neutral or absent dad.
Two prominent writers/theologians speak to this very prominent and real phenomenon. Their insights are eerily similar: The Father’s Wound- John Eldredge Wild at Heart "Every boy, in his journey to become a man, takes an arrow in the center of his heart, in the place of his strength. Because the wound is rarely discussed and even more rarely healed, every man carries a wound. And the wound is nearly always given by his father… What about the achievers, the men running hard at life, pressing their way ahead? Most of it is fear-based as well. Not all of it but most of it. Achievers are a socially acceptable form of violent men, overdoing it in one way or another. Their casualties tend to be their marriages, their families, and their health.”
“Father Hunger” by Father Richard Rhor, “I mean the profound, but usually unconscious longing for affirmation and limits from male authority figures. The most common words people use to describe their relationships with their fathers are “absence,” “sadness” and “I don’t know him.” That vacuum creates a similar emptiness in the hearts of sons and daughters. Dad is an un-nameable mystery, which only calls forth fear, doubt, and sometimes endless rebellion.”
Take a look at this poignant and powerful video clip from the movie “Click.” The protagonist Adam Sandler is a good, loving father, husband, and businessman. He is given a unique and powerful gift in the form of a remote control or clicker by a “God” like character played by Christopher Walken. This remote allows Adam to fast forward through the difficult, boring, tedious, and painful parts of life. At first, it is a useful tool that has many humorous results. But as life goes on and he gets sucked in more and more choosing work over family to climb the corporate ladder. His life becomes an empty, repetitive, and meaningless treadmill.
Adam’s father played by Henry Winkler passes away. We pick up this short scene where Adam wants to go back to the day his father died. But he can’t, because he was never there. He had fast-forwarded through that difficult and tragic event.