“A woman with a child is one I’ll never marry”… so I said… until I did. I met my son to be when he was two and married his mom when he was three. Sometimes saying “never” is a good investment. Nevertheless, an instant family is unwillingly tethered to a bit of instant stress. And like any good investment there is risk of some regret…in spite of our promises.
Wedding day vow to my son -“I love you son and always will but God will always love you more. I promise to do my best as a father and friend but even when I fail I will be truthful with you. I promise above all to point you to the Lord Jesus as your Redeemer, King and Truest Friend and to lead our family in His ways all the days of my life. I will always pray that by His strength your life will be lived for His glory”
Loving my new son was easy but I found that loving him from a distance was easier than standing in line behind him. So I chased my wife’s heart directly while she chased after his well being and we chased our tail in circles without ever blending a thing – certainly not a family. She’d been a prize fighter on his behalf but to my surprise she’d never left the ring. And there was no single expectation, commitment or concern, tougher than being in her corner when I knew her back was turned. But it wasn’t ringside applause she wanted or scriptural support from the corner. She wanted a husband who would jump in that ring and love her son like a father.
Sometimes when our burden seems most heavy God adds a bag of sand. Not for tearing our heart at the seams but to get our knees to bend. When I learned to bend down and love her son, my wife learned to stand up and love her husband. Truth is…we need more than just enough sand to draw a fish. We need enough to tip the scales – something God only does for a humbled heart.
Yes, God’s plan IS for spouses to hold one another above every other including our own children. But His plans are built by patient hands for bruised and broken hearts. Rome wasn’t built at the speed of an instant family but any family built by God will not fall apart like Rome. Sometimes God’s plan is a set of plans that take time to unfold gradually. And only gradually can we become each others first priority by learning to begin as each others last.
Fifteen years watching the ground – 2010
Few pleasures intoxicate the soul of a parent as deeply as the sweetness of a child’s heart. Like our heavenly Father, we find a more thrilling satisfaction in loving our children when they appreciate us. Decades are spent gladly sowing their good soil for a chance to witness that single harvest known as adulthood. So it’s a nauseating discovery at harvest time to find that the source of our once sweet intoxication is now the rotting sweetness of a character fermenting in the field.
My son, at eighteen, was in deep trouble, not with the laws of man but with the seduction of man’s opinion. He had learned to live life so dishonestly that hurting people seemed a reasonable price for gaining favor with fools. And as his parents, dishonor was our bitter inheritance. Included were the lies to us and about us, the assumptions he allowed others to believe, and the harsh judgments of the misinformed that resulted. But most distressing of all was the impossibility of knowing the true depth of Godly soil left in his character – after all the years of planting and waiting for something good to grow.
When confronted he made no apology, responding only by summing his indifference into one, well timed, remorseless stare. It was a direct blow to his one-time single mom and champion for not coming to his rescue – not this time. And he began to leave without considering that it was also a direct blow to my wife. It was the moment that my anger grew legs and followed him abruptly through the front door and into the street.
With only an inch between the fog of my angry words and his hollow eyes, I made a final announcement. “If you want to hate us then hate us, but you will never again treat my wife this way. If this is how you choose to live you’ll have to do it elsewhere”. And with no phone, money, car or clothes, nothing but icy ground beneath his feet, he turned away as the temporary courage of teen bravado carried each reluctant foot step forward. We hoped only that he’d spend a few hours becoming closer friends with regret but he was gone for nearly a year.
My wife looked at the door, fell to the ground, and gave the son she painfully delivered eighteen years earlier, to another subfreezing January night. “Lord, this is my son, do with him what you must”. It’s along the seams of a mother’s heart that we find the strength of her devotion. Not because the seam won’t tear but because it’s where she’s most willing to bend. She let go bravely as her own bag of sand began to tip the scales to our favor.
This went on in the midst of our financial meltdown and was part and parcel the continued stripping away of our self reliance. We’d lost everything and now everything included our son. He found refuge with people who considered us abusive and wouldn’t speak to us. They took him in without a word and by default fostered his staying away. The details we’ll leave with God but the lesson He leaves for us and all who will listen.
God knows the pain of betrayal very well but has never once been surprised by it. We on the other hand are nearly always surprised by it. In the end it makes the soul sick if we, like the alcoholic, continue to hold the nose, cover the eyes and drink the lie. We have to take the risk that will keep our children focused on God – even if we are hated for it. After all… what earthly risk outweighs the benefit of following the One who cannot be surprised?
Nine months later the phone rang and we knew there were tears on the other side. Sometimes God wrestles the heavy sacrifice from our arms in order to get them in the air. Other times He adds more weight to get us on the ground. Our son had been carrying his own bag of sand for all these months until finally, God gave him another one. “Mom, dad…” his voice did not tremble but surrounded us with a gentle integrity. ”I’m so sorry for what I’ve done, for the pain I’ve caused you. I was wrong. Do you think you will ever be able to forgive me?” With tears all around “We love you son and we forgive you. Don’t worry anymore – it’s all in the past.”
Just enough sand to draw a fish is not enough to grow a fisher of men. If it feels like God is adding weight when His burden is supposed to be light, remember that he’s adding to your depth by giving you more sand – one bag at time until you learn to bend. The extra weight will tip the scales and the extra depth will bring your precious seed to harvest. Our son, now twenty, is preparing for work in ministry. He’s a devoted student of God’s word who loves to encourage others for Jesus. He honors us so much more than we could have ever imagined. Glory to our God for He is faithful.
To my son who just turned twenty
For most it takes many birthdays to begin looking back across them all with gratitude. But occasionally… there’s a rare exception when a young man begins to listen for God’s voice, looks back briefly to see what He’s done and is thankful. You are one of those rare people who’ve chosen to see what God has done, and in turn, sees the trajectory of what He’s doing. As I look back across my own years I see that I’m thankful as well – thankful for being allowed to witness a miracle as my only son becomes my brother.
Dad’s back pocket proverbs
- Be surrendered instead of committed
- Get intimate with God – His voice is there
- Focus on how much God loves you. Your love for Him will grow from that
- Live by Matt 6:33 as your mandate
- Remember that God is the provider and you are His conduit
- Make sure others see the “Christ” instead of the “Christian”
- Love your mom & never forget how much she loves you (me too)
“Father we lift up our son that you would anoint him daily as the righteousness of God in Christ, transformed by the Hope of Glory living inside him. Let every day of his life be an honor to you and a blessing to those you lead across his path. Remind him of your unfailing love as you refine his character and let your Spirit burn faithfully in his heart as you assign purpose to each of his days. We surrender him and commit his life to you now as a young man of God, a city on a hill through which your light will forever pass. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.”