Tuesday, June 11, 2013

It is NOT too late

With Father’s Day coming up, devotionals this week will be all about dads.  Included are some personal accounts from some of our staff.  Their thoughts are honest reflections on fatherhood with the struggles, strengths and weaknesses of real-life dads.  Enjoy. 

Submitted by Kerry Patton
"Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

Fatherhood is a tricky endeavor.  While it may seem relatively easy to conceive a child; being a father is altogether a different proposition.

I have very mixed emotions when considering my own upbringing.  My dad will retire later this month for the third time as a minister.  At 74 years of age, the responsibilities and weight of leading a congregation…particularly one an hour’s drive away from home have become too demanding.  His absence will be felt by all whom he has served across over 60 years of ministry.  I have great love and respect for my father and he is one of my closest friends and allies.  But it hasn’t always been that way. 
Dad and I weren’t close when I was growing up.  But, I think he came by it honestly.  My father’s parents had lived a hard life.  For most of my dad’s childhood, his father was an alcoholic who was a harsh disciplinarian. My dad was fourteen when his father became a Christian and began to turn his life around.  Coincidentally, that same year, my father surrendered to the call of the ministry.  My grandmother essentially ran the farm they lived on.  From her labors, my dad learned that love was to be shown in hard work…providing for your family.  He was not affectionate nor was he present; he worked.

Dad worked extremely hard to provide for his family of a wife and four hungry, growing kids.  I can tell you we NEVER went without.  Dad was a gifted pastor, an impassioned preacher, and a dedicated man of faith.  Working, at times, three jobs…plus doing auto repair on the side, we were well fed, well clothed, and well housed.

As a ‘body man’, Dad could take a damaged, banged up car and restore it to like new condition.  I suggest that as a minister of devout faith, he frequently did the same for the people of the communities he served to the glory of God.

His disciplined work ethic did deny us kids one vital need though…himself.  We grew into adulthood not really understanding him, or really knowing him.  I don’t have any memories of being hugged by my dad or being kissed by him while I was growing up.  My siblings share this experience.  In truth, practically the only time he touched us was to discipline us.   We loved our father.  We deeply respected him.  But we didn’t really like him, and we didn’t look forward to his coming home. 
My mother tells of an event that started to change all of that though.  She said that Dad woke up one morning…what must have been twenty five years ago…weeping.  He had experienced a nightmare…a nightmare rooted in the truth of his life…of OUR lives.  Mother said Daddy kept saying over and over again: “I’ve lost them!  It’s too late!  It’s too late and I’ve lost them!  My children don’t know how much I love them, and it’s too late, they’re gone now!”  My younger two siblings were both in college then, and the distance between them and our father was not closing, but increasing.

In great wisdom, my mother corrected my father.  “No, it is not too late!  You can start today…you can change your relationship and effect the rest of their lives!”  That indefatigable work ethic of my father assisted him in reaching out to my sisters, my brother, and me.  He would call and converse with us weekly.  That frequency increased over time to the point that I converse with my dad almost daily.  When I was preaching every week as a pastor, Dad would call me each Sunday morning and pray with me before I took to the pulpit.  Those prayers were welcomed, needed, and potent.

Whereas when we were growing up, he was not an affectionate man, I can say that I do not part from my father anymore except that he embraces me…and frequently kisses me on the top of my head.  I hear him tell me that he loves me at the end of every telephone call.  It was not too late.  I know my father, because he has opened his heart.  I know my father’s love, because he has made it his point to show me.

If you are a father and you feel estranged from your children, be encouraged…it is not too late.  Act, and show your children how much you love them.  Tell them.  It is not too late.

Scripture to Claim:
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Colossians 3:12-13

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