There’s a message that’s burning in my heart today. For weeks and months now, it’s been growing inside me. Like a flaming-hot coal, its warmth has permeated my entire being, and today I know that I must share it.
It’s brought me healing, and life.
As I write you this morning from The Three, my beloved, waterlogged homestead, I don’t come to you as a professor speaking down from an ivory tower. I’m no media maven; no sociologist with reams of data and statistics stored in a frontal lobe (or any others, for that matter). I am not Billy Graham. I am not a politician.
What I am is one, small, caffeinated American mom who’s raising boys, making ends meet, and loving her husband. And her country.
I’ve been watching, just like you, the aftermath of the bullets on an ordinary day in February. Down there where the sun (almost) always shines, a troubled, young man walked in, pulled the trigger, and death rained down. Seventeen people were murdered, along with hopes and dreams too many to count, now discarded like backpacks lying on sidewalks, forlorn.
It was the day that a little more innocence died.
Predictably, a thousand voices, shrill and angry, shocked and hurting, began to rage. “Gun control!” “Mental health awareness!” “Psychotropic drugs!” That quick, the pundits began pundit-ing, the spinners began spinning, and our heads collectively exploded. Who is right? And what’s the answer?
In ages gone by, it was literal plagues that threatened nations. Threatened communities. Wiped out countries and cities and families. Small pox. Black death. Malaria. The bubonic plague. So much death and destruction a-wasting.
Here in America, we don’t fear those plagues anymore. They just aren’t threats. What we should fear instead; what we should be vaccinating against is not those viruses, but rather, this great devastation…
In our “enlightened” society, we’ve convinced ourselves that fathers aren’t necessary. That the traditional role of a father in a traditional family unit is irrelevant, not needed, and is dispensable. And for that, we are paying a terrible price.
Here is where I am going to be very vulnerable with you, and utterly honest. When we were young parents, we parented out of our own wounding. We parented from our hurt and in that, we made some big mistakes. My husband will tell you (and I have his permission to say this) that he was an angry man, which meant he was also an angry father, and even though he loved his sons and often told them, he still caused significant wounding and pain.
He passed it down.
I parented in fear, used control. I loved them incredibly, but I still caused wounding and pain.
I passed it down.
Our oldest son rebelled. Those hurts combined with others he’d received lured him into bitterness (he’s admitted to choosing it), and he went down a slippery, destructive path that included alcohol and drugs. All of this in a solid, Christian family.
God, in His vast kindness and mercy, intervened. He did a great work of healing and repentance in my husband. That man turned around, making no-none-zero-zilch excuses, and he sought his sons’ forgiveness. The natural, inevitable result of God’s intervention was that he became a different kind of father.
He was humble. Patient. Kind. Gentle. Loving. Willing to admit mistakes, to ask forgiveness. Full of wisdom and grace. And his sons, all of them, began to respond.
God, in His vast kindness and mercy, intervened in my life. He did a great work of healing and freeing, and I turned around towards His love and fatherhood, making no excuses. I, too, sought my sons’ forgiveness, and I, too, became a different kind of parent.
In my country, so many people have been hurt by men. Wounded by abuse with fists and words. Wounded by neglect, a father gone missing. Sexually exploited, strength terribly misused. A famine of a father’s pure love.
Now, mothers cause pain and devastation, too. They do. For mothers can leave and abandon their children. Mothers can drown their own sorrows, ignoring kids. Mothers, too, parent from their own lack and famine, and there we go, passing it down.
We can hate it. We can fight it. We can rail and curse, fists raised to the sky. But we cannot nullify this truth–we were made to be loved by a father.
Our own hurt doesn’t cancel it out. Deep pain and abuse cannot change it, this ache to be fathered. Societal reconstructions of the family can’t alter it, this need for a father’s involvement.
I know (and I grappled with this before I sat down to write) that for so many people, the very word “father” sparks nothing but anguish, trauma, and rage. To one who’s suffered at the hands of an earthly dad, the idea of God as a Father is repulsive. Hideous. Unthinkable.
As God Himself told me once, “The best earthly fathers are but a dim reflection of what I AM, and the worst ones are a terrible perversion.”
Philip Yancey said, “The fatherhood of God represents an ideal which, for many people, has been badly marred.” He goes on to quote George McDonald, “We must interpret the word by all we have missed in life.” (A whole blog series resides in this quote, but that shall not happen right now.)
It is truly in knowing the fatherhood of God as He actually is, not by our own experiences, not by our own perceptions, but in knowing God as our Father personally, individually, resting securely in His love, that our deep, inner wounds will be healed. If we are parented first by the Perfect Parent, it will transform our own families and homes.
When our families are transformed, then our cities and counties and states are transformed. Men, loved by God, loving God and their families. I believe that our healing starts here.
My dear fellow Americans, God wants to father you. He wants to bind up your wounds, to bind up my own and, in so doing, heal our land.
Our oldest son whom I referenced above? He dearly loves his father. He calls him for wisdom, seeks him out for advice, and knows that he’s deeply, sincerely loved. In his own words, if his father had not pursued him with that paternal love and care during his wild years, “I would for sure still be in my sin, and I would either be in prison. Or dead.” What a testament to a daddy’s love and to the love of our great, wonderful Papa. Who loves you, too.