Recently, I was with a group of guys who were sharing some of their worst DIY disasters. As I recounted my own misadventures, I tried hard not to sound too pathetic. But, honestly, getting stranded on one’s roof while seized by fits of acrophobic paralysis doesn’t necessarily get you any holes punched in your man card if you know what I mean. (Thanks for talking me down, Darlene. I might still be up there if it weren’t for you.)
Others had similar stories””plumbing turned deep sea diving, electric furnaces exposed as gas-powered imposters, auto repairs that ballooned into something only TARP funds could fix. And like most responsible young men, we placed the blame for our failures squarely where it belonged””on our fathers. They didn’t teach us enough. They didn’t pass down the right genes. We’re talking generational malpractice of epic proportions! But, in the end, we all knew it wasn’t their fault. After all, stupid is as stupid does. At least that was what Dad said.
So I spent some time thinking about my father and the lessons I have to show for our time together. What did I miss? What did I gain? Who would I be if things had been different? Genetics aside, we are who we are largely out of our experiences and our relationships. And when it comes to my father, I can say there are certainly things that are different because of our journey together, the one we took and the one we never got to take.
Unlike some of my friends, I didn’t have the advantage of growing up with a dad in the house. While I certainly never lacked for any parental guidance, love, or care (thanks, Mom), I did face the reality of chasing after a distant, if not elusive, paternal relationship.
I loved my Dad. I didn’t know him or understand him, but I loved him. Yet, like most sons, I seemed to instinctively need his instruction and approval. Other men were present in my life (most notably my sainted grandfather) and worked hard to provide that male influence for me. But there were still things I felt should come from my dad alone. When I was sixteen, my hope for these things ended when Dad lost a long fight with heart disease.
Obviously, Dad and I didn’t share a close day-to-day bond like some fathers and sons. So his passing, while tragic and difficult, wasn’t necessarily devastating for me. But now, as a father myself, I seem to be missing him the most.
I want so desperately to be a great father, yet I have no road map for raising a son, no practical lessons or experience. And unlike some funny DIY disaster story, this kind of home improvement deserves to be done right. I can’t screw this up.
One friend told of his botched experience installing a light fixture. As it turns out, his type of fixture needed to be installed in reverse order. This is a fact he discovered only after he had nearly completed what should have been a quick job.
“I turned around,” he said, “and there was my wife holding the part I should have installed first, along with the manual. She said,’Forget something?’ So, I took it all apart and put it back the right way.”
Wives are good like that. The other day, I was talking with Darlene about Dad. She said, “You know, I watch you with our son, the fun you two have together, the way he clings to you and loves you so much. It’s almost like God is giving you what you never had with your Dad, only in reverse order.”
I know! Right? I was a puddle in the floor. Right there in Bone Fish Grille. I just fanned my face and shouted, “Man, those Bang Bang Shrimp are HOT!” But there was no recovery. She had uncovered a great truth of God’s love and faithfulness in my life, and my cup simply ranneth over.
So when I look back on what I did or didn’t have with my father, whatever lessons I failed to master, it’s almost as if I can see God quietly allowing me to build my life the best way I know how. And now He’s standing there with a missing piece and the instructions saying, “Forget something?” And I did. I forgot my father””my Heavenly Father.
Could it be that the lessons I thought I had missed I’m actually learning right now? So, I guess I’m going to take it all apart and put it back the right way. The good news is: I’m not alone. I do have a Father, one who loves me and can teach me any lesson I need to learn.
How thankful I am for my wife, for my children, for a mother, and for grandparents who taught me how to love and to be loved. And how thankful I am for a God who seeks to be my Father and walks with me, no matter how big a mess I make of things.