Sunday, January 02, 2005

Fathers and Sons

John 14:9 (King James Version)

“9Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?”

John 10:29-30 (King James Version)

“29My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
30I and my Father are one.”

This past Thursday morning, on the heels of our men’s group discussion about fatherhood, I saw some things that struck me in new ways.

For me, the issue of fatherhood is a bit difficult. My dad died when I was very young, so I have few memories or recollections of what he was like. About all I have is what other people have told me, and a lot of that isn’t too flattering. Hearing my friends talk in specific terms of the wounds that had been inflicted on them by their fathers was, while difficult, also fascinating.

After listening I offered a few takes for the guys. First, I tried to get them to see that this is not an issue they can tackle as if they were practicing their roles as fathers “ex-cathedra.” I offered what I believe to be the following insight on the matter. “If a group like this is meeting twenty or thirty years from now our kids will have very similar gripes about us.”

While I believe I had a good insight, I’m not too sure it took. It’s hard to see our own faults when our fathers have so many that are readily available for analysis.

I also offered what a friend once offered me about my father. I complained to him about all that I’d missed by my father’s absence in my life. It made it very, very difficult for me. Well, I must have displayed some real anger, because I got an unexpected response. “You’d better be careful, Phil. You’re your father’s son, and if you keep hating him you’re going to have to starting hating yourself too.”

I’m not sure that took either.

At the risk of seeming unsympathetic I think we men need to get over some of this thinking. We’ve all been wounded, I’m sure, but the bottom line to it all is that we just now need to learn, and relearn, how to become wounded healers.

On the morning after our discussions I took my morning trip down to the Emporia “Rec Center” to do my daily thing to ward of entropy. Now while I try my best I think entropy is winning. And, based on the sights and smells that morning, it’s winning out in the lives of lots of other men as well.

As I entered the center I was greeted by the smell of liniment or Ben-Gay. The odor was quite strongl, so much so that it almost overpowered me. I covered my nose and mouth and made my way upstairs to the fitness equipment and the walking track. Once I got upstairs the air was clearer. I signed in and made my way out to the walking track to warm up before lifting weights. I started my loosening up, and as I did I noticed a group of men playing basketball on the court below the walking track. Some were young, well muscled. But the ones who caught my eye were the guys around my age. There were about five or six of them, a compilation of bald heads, double chins, and pot-bellies. They were warming up down below as I was warming up on the track above them. After about two laps around the track I noticed them choosing up sides, doing so by shooting free-throws. About a lap later the teams had been decided. The grey foxes still had something left, because they had hit their free throws and now composed a team which would, in a professional setting, be called the “Emporia Pot-Bellies.”

About fifteen laps into my walk I noticed something happening. My “peers” down below were slowing noticeably. Youth was taking its full advantage. Now my peers didn’t lack for effort; they just didn’t have the physical wherewithal to cope with the young lions any more. With each rebound, the younger men would start a fast break. The “Pot-Bellies” would try to get back into positions to defend, but it was hopeless. Actually, the sight of pot-bellies bouncing like Jell-O as my “peers” desperately tried to fend of the attacks of their younger opponents was both funny and touching. It appeared that youth was going to be served and there was little that could be done to stop it.

Then something happened. My “peers” got their heads together and changed their strategy. They played two men back at all times on defense and played a three on five on the offensive end. With each rebound on the defensive end only three would move the ball into the offensive end of the court. It was, at first blush, desperation in action. But as the strategy played out it became clearer and clearer that it was absolutely brilliant. The three who played at the offensive end could really shoot the “trey.” They began to hit one shot after another. The ball would come up quickly and they would launch a shot, hitting about seventy percent. Then, with two men already in position to defend, the fast-break advantage of the young lions was stifled.

The winning shot came about thirty laps into my warm-up. It was an NBA variety three-pointer, not one of those easy college shots. As the ball made its way through the net with a “swish” the “Pot-Bellies” gave each other high fives in congratulations. The younger, stronger, swifter opponents stood around looking stunned, wondering how something like what had just happened to them could actually happen.

As I finished my last warm-up lap and entered the fitness room to pump a bit of iron I felt a real sense of satisfaction on seeing what had happened. I wondered as I began lifting if the young Turks who had started the game with such speed and strength understood what had just transpired. They’d been taught a lesson, but I’m not sure it took with them any more than what I said on Wednesday night took with my buddies.

I’ll make three points and then get on to church this Sunday morning. First, we are, whether we like it or not, our father’s sons. We can’t escape it. Now while that may seem trite and unimportant, I believe it’s critical that we do. I’m sure that each one of us has things that we can be critical about in our fathers. But, if push were to come to shove they could have much in us to be critical about as well. They are, for better or worse, our fathers and we need to respect that. Second, while we may think we have become stronger and faster, we need to see that time often makes our fathers wiser. Time may have diminished some skills, but it has honed others. They’ve learned how to compensate for the weaknesses that time has brought on them. And, finally and most importantly, we need to see that they’re doing, for the most part, the very best they can. Have they made mistakes? Absolutely! Have they made big mistakes? Absolutely! But they’ve kept plugging away, doing the very best they can. We need to respect that, and we need to learn from that.

For you younger guys out there, keep in mind that while you’re now young and strong and able to critique, there is going to come a day when you’ll be a candidate for the Emporia Pot-Bellies or a team of old geezers from your home town. I have a question for you. When that time comes will you have the wherewithal to make the team?


Avalon's Knight Dreamer said...

Good morning, this is my second post to your blog and I must say I like this post. Your words are correct and as a female I too can relate. Until I saw who I am in Christ, I suffered the usual pains of being treated a certain way by my father. The difference now is that I have been forgiven much and now I can forgive much. God is so good! What is an apologist? Did you ar your wife read my other post? I have and inquiry about Saint Augustine's Confession. God bless

Anonymous said...

What a tremendous post! Thanks so much!!!!!!

Guy said...


Thanks again for your insight and willingness to be used of God.