Sunday, June 20, 2010

From dude to Dad

Today is Father's Day. It's not as big of a deal as Mother's Day I grant you. Moms rate over Dads usually, and sometimes dads take a bum rap. Consider this one Twitter tweet I saw today: "Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there who didn't quite deliver. Without you, there wouldn't be strippers or comedians." Ouch! Ok, I understand the underlying message here, that Dads aren't just a cultural invention that aren't needed in the grand scheme of things. Dads count. Dads are needed, just like Moms. A year ago I would have said the same thing, but it wouldn't have been from personal experience. Having gone from dude to Dad has reinforced my belief that we need two-parent families with a Mom and a Dad. Yes, I know we live in a culture with many different kinds of families. But honestly a family with a mom and a dad, who love each other and can parent their kids authoritatively (instead of being permissive or authoritarian) is the best family a child could have.

How do I know this? Studies prove it and I see it work in families where the marriages have been strong and the parenting was loving and consistent. I've also seen it fail in families where both the marriage and the parents were unhealthy and dysfunctional. Now I realize that there's a degree of relativity here. Marriages end for reasons that may not be the fault of both parties. Good kids can come out of bad families and vice-versa . But those situations are
, in my experience, against the odds and are the exception . But mostly I know these things from being Jess' Dad. Angel & I have been given the task of helping Jess rebuild her life; a life that was, shall we say, less than ideal. We have been given the task of picking up the pieces. We know we can't change her, but we can give her an environment of love, structure and responsibility where she will (hopefully) thrive. And it's more than one parent can give her. She, like any other child, needs two parents - maybe even more so than other kids.

While Jess will go to Angel for certain things, for other things she will come to me. Usually it's when she's scared, and that happens a lot at night. At night, when she's in bed, she needs to know that someone is close by. And when she has a bad dream or thinks that a stranger is lurking in the shadows she will call for Daddy. And no, the reasons aren't the same as for any other kid. Those fears are based on history. So when I hear her call me at 2am I'm doing more than just pandering to an unreal fear; I have to communicate presence, comfort and assurance. And when I tuck her back into bed, rub her back a little and pray over her I'm not only there for her as her Dad - I bring the Father in Heaven to her. Dads have the awesome responsibility of showing the heart of God the Father to their kids. This is because when people read the Bible and see God referred to as Father the reference point they have is their dads. How we see our earthly fathers is the way we will see The Father.

Obviously we dads will never get it right 100%. Even though I may be the best Dad Jess ever had (her words, not mine) I make mistakes with her. Lots of them. Even when I admit my failures to her she still has to process those mistakes, along with the mistakes that every other father figure in her life made. But those mistakes are the stepping stones we can walk on a journey that brings us closer to the Father's heart. Much of what I know of the Father's heart came from God healing my father-wounds. But now, almost eight months since we first met Jess, I am learning about God's heart for me through being a dad myself. I'm seeing God the Father more clearly as a provider, a comforter and, especially, a defender. I feel very protective of my little girl. It's surprising how strong I feel about keeping her from harm, almost territorial. But I can only do so much, and ultimately Jess has to make her own choices in life. I have to trust God to handle the things in her life that I cannot. So, as I wind down my first Father's Day I think of how my daughter has touched my heart, in spite of the bumps she sometimes gives me, knowing that God sees me in the same way.

And Jess, years from now when you read this, I want to say again what I said to you tonight when I put you to bed. "Thank you for letting me be your Dad. You have literally made my day."

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