Last week, I was at Windy Gap, a Young Life camp in the mountains of North Carolina. My excitement about what Young Life is doing around the world continues to grow. The more staff I meet, the more impressed I am with their vision, passion and commitment to reach every kid with the good news that they are deeply loved by Jesus.
As I got to observe and participate in the ministry that was going on last week, one thing stood out to me more than any other:
A dad has tremendous power to bless or break his children.
That’s not a new idea, I know, but as I listened to the stories of staff or campers, the common denominator in almost every wounded soul was the damage done by a dad.
Dad was abusive.
Dad abandoned the family.
Dad was an alcoholic.
And the effects on those telling their stories were tremendous. Often, girls sought validation and love by giving themselves sexually to guys. It didn’t work, of course. It only led to more rejection and feelings of worthlessness. But they were trying to fill a hole in their hearts created by their dads.
This does not diminish the power and influence of a mom. Personally, I believe being a mom is the hardest job in the world, but as I listened to story after story of broken lives, it was dad who was at the center of the problem.
We arrived at Windy Gap on Sunday, June 24th. That would have been my dad’s 80th birthday. He was a good man. A very good man. Especially considering what he experienced from his own father.
I never really knew my dad’s father. He died when I was very young. I do have a vague memory though of him chasing me with a stick. A stick with a nail in it. Maybe he thought it was funny. As a toddler, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t laughing.
My dad once described his father as a “mean man.” That sums it up pretty well, I guess.
My dad was anything but mean though. He was loving, kind, generous and encouraging. And the older he got, the more those qualities grew.
One of my favorite memories is my dad driving five hours to see me play a football game at Cornell and then driving us both five hours back to New Jersey so I could spend a weekend at home. We probably arrived home at 3:00 a.m. He drove the whole way and never complained a bit.
No man is perfect, including my dad. He made mistakes. There are things I wish he’d done differently. But I feel very blessed to have been his son. He could have easily followed in the footsteps of his father. He could have verbally abused me. He could have disowned me like his father did to him. But he didn’t. He stood in the gap between generations and chose to change history.
I imagine that my dad’s father didn’t have a very good father either. I imagine my great-grandfather was probably a “mean man” as well. So my grandfather was only passing on what was modeled for him. It doesn’t excuse his behavior, but it at least explains it.
My dad stood in the gap and changed history. He could have continued the legacy of meanness. But he didn’t. He changed history. He refused to let his past define him. He chose a better path. A better life. For himself. And his family.
It changed my life. And the lives of my children. My dad’s words and actions live on.
He’s been dead now for over seven years, but his influence isn’t dead. My grandchildren, whom I don’t yet have, will never know my dad, but they will be blessed by his life. Because I was. And because my children have been.
If you’re a dad, or hope to be one, you need to know the tremendous power you have in the lives of your children. You have the power to bless them or break them. I saw it all so clearly last week.
If you’ve been wounded by your father, I feel for you. I know your wounds and your pain are real. As a result, you may be angry or depressed or dealing with feelings of insecurity or loneliness or low self-worth. Don’t struggle alone. Talk to a trusted friend or counselor. Process the hurt and the pain. Don’t stay wounded.
It’s possible to move forward and experience the love and acceptance our earthly father’s couldn’t give. God is able to heal our wounds. It won’t happen overnight, but it can happen, if we will walk with God, trust Him and believe that what He says is true, not what an earthly father said or did to us.
One last word to father’s–your every word and action is making a lasting mark on your children. Teasing your daughter about her weight isn’t funny. Ignoring your wife sends a terrible message to your children about marriage. Pressuring your son to play a sport he hates is slowly killing him. Watching porn after the kids have gone to bed isn’t really a secret. They know.
Which dad are you going to be?
The selfish ones I heard about last week who abused and abandoned their children?
Or are you going to be a dad who stands in the gap and changes history by being a blessing to your wife and children?
Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:4