CHRISTIAN LIFE & GROWTH
By Mark King
This Father's Day will be my second without my father. In June of 2015, we almost lost him due to internal bleeding and then a heart attack. The bleeding was most likely caused by his cancer medication. He was in the hospital for about 2 weeks and after he was able to come home, he stopped cancer treatment and we knew, barring a miraculous healing, that it was only a matter of time. He lived about 9 more months, and I would say that he had pretty good quality of life for 8 of those.
On that Father's Day in 2015, I heard a message at church on fathers, and the pastor spoke of his sometimes-difficult relationship with his father. He said we all have "father wounds" that we need to be healed from. I called my dad that day and told him what the pastor said. I also very truthfully told him that I was so thankful that I did NOT have any "father wounds." My dad wasn't perfect and I am sure as a child I got angry about his discipline or when he told me "no" but as an adult I know that he never hurt me in any way, physically or emotionally. As a child, he was larger than life. There was no problem that he could not solve. There was no danger that he could not save me from. As an adult, I knew that he was not invincible, but I also knew that he would do anything within his power to help me if I needed it, and that he would gladly give his life for me if necessary. I would have done the same for him.
Sometimes you just don't realize how blessed you have been until you have some distance to reflect on it. I always knew that God had blessed me with a great father, but that came home to me in a new and powerful way in the past few days.
It had been a long-term goal of mine to teach at a Bible college or seminary. I seem to have the aptitude for it and people who have heard me teach have affirmed that I had the spiritual gift of teaching. When I was about 30 years old, I was working at an academic library and also working on a Master of Theology in New Testament, hoping to go on to a Ph. D. program so that I could find a teaching position. While I was working at the library, a new faculty member came in. He had just finished a Ph. D. and secured a position at the school where I was working in the library. We had been undergraduates together. I congratulated him, but I must admit there was a part of me that was envious that he had already accomplished my life's goal, and it seemed that I was going nowhere fast.
Soon after I took the pastorate of a small church and had to put my studies on hold for a while until things got going there. I finally finished my Master of Theology degree in seven years — it is designed to be done in one year if you are going full time. As I began to once again to think about a Ph. D., we also began to think about adopting. My wife and I had been unsuccessful in conceiving, even with fertility treatments. So, I put Ph. D. hopes on hold as I did not think we could afford both, not to mention that there might not be enough emotional energy to go around.
We adopted two children and finally, nine years ago, the time seemed to be right to enter a Ph. D. program. We moved half-way across the country, only to realize too late that the school I was planning to attend was probably a poor choice. Through a series of events, the Lord made it clear that this was not the place for me. My dream was stalled again.
As time went on, we had the opportunity to adopt a third child. I am so thankful for my children and I don't regret the choice to adopt over further education. Currently I am working at a job that I don't "love" but it pays the bills. I work part time as the Media Center Director at my church and I do love that job. I also love writing for Got Questions. Both of these positions allow me to "teach" in a somewhat indirect way — so I do get to do what I love, just not as much as I would like to. More importantly, the Lord has shown me that one of my most important jobs is to be a father to three wonderful children. I have all but abandoned the hope of getting a Ph. D., and I don't mourn the death of that dream at all because I see something bigger. I want to be the kind of dad that my dad was.
A couple of days ago I was processing some new books at the media center. I had purchased a lot of books from a bookstore that was going out of business. I grabbed up one of the books because I recognized the author — it was that professor that I just mentioned — the one that caused me to struggle with envy. I hadn't really examined the book at the time I bought it, but as I was preparing it to be added to the library, I stopped to look at it more closely. It was a book about helping men recover from sexual abuse. I thought it was a bit strange, because this man is a Bible professor, not a Christian counselor. As I skimmed through it I found out why he was writing the book — he had been sexually abused by his father for a period of about four years as a teenager.
Now I think about how foolish my envy had been. He had a Ph. D. and a faculty position, but obviously I didn't know what else he had. I had no Ph. D. and no faculty position, but I had wonderful father who loved me. Had I known the whole story, I would not have been envious for a minute. If he had known the whole story, he might have been envious of me. But really, neither one of us would have been justified in our envy. The truth is that we each have a loving Heavenly Father who has specific plans for each of us. In His providence, he allowed one man to have a Ph. D. and a faculty position as well as an abusive father, and now a ministry to help other survivors of sexual abuse. In another instance, He allowed me to have no Ph. D., and no faculty position, but a wonderful father, an all-around wonderful childhood, with an opportunity to try to give the same kind of home to three children who needed it. We both have to trust that He knows what He is doing.
The longer I live, the more I realize that my father was exceptional. What Michael Jordan was to basketball, Wayne Gretzky was to hockey, and Beethoven was to classical music, my dad was to fatherhood. The older I get, the more I realize that many, if not most people, do indeed have "father wounds." (About a month ago I found out that a friend from high school was regularly sexually abused by her father in her teenage years. If you have been sexually abused by your father or anyone else, you need to tell someone — silence and secrecy only makes it worse. Help is available from loving people who have been through it, but you have to let them know!) If your earthly father has let you down, you can find comfort and healing from the Heavenly Father if you become part of his family by faith in Jesus Christ. And if your father was a wonderful father, you can thank God for that blessing — and tell your father if he is still alive.
I have been blessed to have been educated by some of the best scholars in the evangelical church today. Fifty years from now my children will not care about that nor will they mourn the fact that I never earned a Ph. D. I think this because I know that even though I place a high value on education and scholarship, it matters nothing to me that my father only finished 8th grade (although he later earned a GED).
If my dad had left me a million dollars, I could not be any richer than I am now because of all the love he gave me. I pray that my kids will be able to say the same about me.
Image Credit: brfcs; untitled; Creative Commons
Tags: Christian-Life | Family-Life | God-Father | Hardships | Personal-Life | Personal-Relationships
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Published on 6-5-17