Father to the Fatherless – Part of My Journey
Mindy asked me to share my story about spending most of my life not knowing my biological father. I am currently 31 years old and we have three young children in our home, which means all of my memories are a little foggy lately. However, when I really think about it, I only have, at most, a handful of memories of my father. Let me preface these memories by sharing that the last time I ever saw the man was when I was seven years old. So here is a quick recap.
I remember visiting him when he lived in San Antonio, but I only remember laughing and having fun with him while also being scared and asking him if he took his medicine. He struggled with a severe chemical imbalance that eventually led to extreme paranoid schizophrenia.
I remember seeing my mom crying as I could hear his voice screaming on the other end of the line.
I remember seeing him literally fight with my stepfather (more about him soon) and kick in a large window which caused glass to fly all over my baby sister Nicki. Praise God she was miraculously unharmed.
I remember flying on an airplane and the stewardess (that’s what they were called back then) reading to me because I was nervous about flying by myself from San Antonio to Philadelphia.
I remember being in court and having to go into the judges chambers and explain, all by myself, with no leading, why I did not feel safe living with my father.
I remember seeing him at McDonalds in Kerrville, TX for what I did not know would be the last time. Apparently there was much more to the story that I am thankful I cannot remember. Like when I was an infant and my Dad literally kidnapped me from my mom in Philadelphia. I was only returned when he pulled over because he was too drunk and/or high to keep driving and he called 911.
Some of these experience’s help explain why I am the way that I am, both good and bad. For example, I am extremely independent and if left alone to my own devices, I would probably spend all of my time alone. Why? I could guarantee that way no one else could hurt me.
That same independence has led me on the other hand to be a leader much my life, not always to my liking I might add. After all if as a kindergartener you can speak with a judge and help determine where you will live, what can’t you do?
At the same time I have some serious trust issues which would make sense from some of the chaos that happened while I was a child, despite my families attempts to keep me safe.
There are days when I am fearful that I do not have what it takes to love my family how I desire, after all, this is where I came from. Other times I wonder if some of the same chemical issues that haunted my father will work their way into my life. Will the same thing happen to me, will I and my family be destroyed? Will my grasp of reality slowly drift away and rob from me the very ones I love and cherish the most? Will my ability to provide for them physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually begin to deteriorate before my very eyes?
None of our lives are easy, and we all have different baggage that takes part in shaping who we are and will become. Those of you who are children of divorce know that there is plenty of blame and hurt to go around, and normally only a minute portion is actually justified. Such was the case with me. The amazing part of my story is that from as long as I can remember, I was blessed to have another father in my life, my stepdad. In reality he is my father and I am his son, but for the sake of confusion I will refer to him as my stepdad in this setting.
You see the Bible says, “The LORD is near the brokenhearted; he delivers those who are discouraged.” If you are a child of divorce then I know you already know what it is like to be brokenhearted and discouraged. If not, then I am fairly certain your life experience has led you through hurts and pains, just from a different perspective. As I child I did not know this verse, or truth, or really anything about God. All I knew is that I was brokenhearted, scared, and confused. Little did I know that God truly was near, but in a way I would not understand for well over a decade.
You see God put this man in my life. My stepdad, if you know our family then you probably know him by the name we call him, “Pop”. All of my life, Pop, has loved me, even though I am not his flesh and blood, as his flesh and blood. He has taught me what it is to have strong work ethic and good character. He spent more hours than I can possibly remember investing in me, teaching me, coaching me, and spending time with me. Even when he would discipline me, all my memories are of him doing so fairly, although I admit I never once thought it to be fair in the moment. Even some of my most difficult memories, are him protecting me and the rest of our family from the man who biologically had that right. He is and always has been a real man, a man’s man. Not concerned about how he looks on the outside but who he is and what his life would stand for.
Many years later as a young teenager I would learn about another father who had been near to me all my life and desired to deliver me from discouragement. It was not for years after that until I began to understand what it meant to be a follower of this Jesus. Yet, the more I began to know him, the more I realized this to be true, “He is a father to the fatherless and an advocate for widows. God rules from his holy palace.” It was not until I truly began to know God, my father, that I began to appreciate all he had blessed me with in Pop.
For most of my childhood, I had a deep bitterness toward Pop, I blamed him for not knowing my father. As a teenager this began to come out in ugly ways. Time would end up revealing truth which allowed me to stop blaming Pop for things that were never his fault and God would allow me to see how he used Pop as his way of being near to me, the fatherless.
As I began to know Jesus better, and my desire to follow him grew, it was always easy for me to see God as a father figure. It was easy because God gave me a representative on earth in Pop that allowed me to see him more clearly. Pop was and is not perfect, but all of those wonderful attributes of his are Godly attributes that allowed me to view God for who HE truly is. My Father, My Prince of Peace, My Lord, My Messiah, My Savior, My Friend, and My Rock.
Why do I share all of this with you today? Well, if you are old enough to read this, you have most likely experienced the hurts and pains of life that leave us brokenhearted. To be honest, it kinda sucks, this is the reality of the world we live in. The great news is that there is one who is a father to all the fatherless, if you are willing to admit that you need a daddy. Knowing Him might not make your circumstances better, it might not take all your fears away, but knowing Him will allow you to persevere.
Therein lies the next question, why should I persevere? If you cannot guarantee it will get better, what is the point. Well, as I shared earlier, I never know if today will be the day I begin hearing voices, seeing people who are not really there, or begin losing a grasp on reality in some other way. What I do know is the world is full of fatherless children, of children who are brokenhearted, and discouraged. But as long as God gives me breathe and his spirit is leading me that will not be my children. Just as Pop showed me glimpses of God throughout my life, so do I seek to do with my children.
Wait, the challenge does not end there. My Pop has always been known and loved by his children but many others as well. You see he is that guy that people ask to keep coaching kids sports teams for years after his children are grown. He instilled in me another teaching of Jesus, to be leader not by right but by service, a servant leader.
What children has God placed in your life? How can He use you to be a part of healing their broken hearts? Are they in your home? In your neighborhood? They are all around, what will they remember, what will they know from your influence? More brokenness, more disappointment?
My story begins with baggage, hurt, pain, disappointment, confusion, and who knows the same darkness that plagued my father may fall on me some day. However, that is out of my control. I am not a victim of my baggage, I am who I am in part because of my baggage. God has used my baggage in part to reveal to me His grace and mercy, and all I am certain of is that I have today. Today to show the brokenhearted around me a little glimpse of the grace and mercy I have found in Jesus. To show those around me the father who will never leave, the father who will never lose his mind, the father who will never cause you to cry in those silent moments, the father who will never, ever break your heart.