A few days ago, my oldest son called me on the phone. We spent about twenty minutes discussing the new video game he is caught up in…pleasant conversation about something that matters to me only because it matters to him…and then he asked me how I was doing. When I was honest and told him that I wasn’t doing all that well (a moment of vulnerability that I’m not sure parents are supposed to have) he was quiet for a few seconds…
Then he began to tell me what he loves about me.
He began to tell me what he respects about me.
He began to tell me how grateful he is that I am his dad.
And I sat and listened to the voice of this boy whom I have adored for more than twenty-one years and absorbed his words and his heart. And it filled and healed me in a way that I just can’t describe.
When loss enters our lives, it is easy to feel like a failure…to run through entire lists of “What if I’d done that differently…” and “Why can I never get it right…”. And the answer always comes back that there are no satisfying answers. Life is complicated and there are so many moving pieces and, sometimes, things just go south no matter how hard we try to keep them together.
And that place of loss is where I was camped out when Isaac called me. And he, instinctively, knew what I needed. He took some of the love I’ve tried to speak and pour into him his whole life and he gave it back to me when I desperately needed it.
Yesterday, my father called to sing me Happy Birthday. His sweet serenading voice is a tradition I deeply love. It is a reminder that this sweet man will drop everything to tell me how much he values me. And, as I listened to his song, I recognized something. I recognized the strong thread that has been woven between him and me and, then, between me and my sons. These traditions…these words of affirmation…these reminders of commitment and respect and concern and unending adoration.
I have been able to love my sons because of the way my father has loved me. I have been able to speak words of strength and character into their hearts and minds because of the gifts my father has given me. The incredible substance and enduring legacy of my father is played out moment by moment in my life and my sons’ and daughters’ lives and, someday, in the lives of their children. Being in the middle of this chain is a uniquely powerful thing. I’m able to see the rich continuity of how precious and connected these relationships are.
We are imperfect men: my father, sons, and I. We have a wealth of failures and shortcomings stacked up in the columns of our lives. But we are also more than that. We are men who are imbued with strength and character…men who are loved and who know how to love. That doesn’t happen by accident. It is the product of purpose. It is the result of years of seeing a worthy example lived out in front of our eyes.
It is humbling to realize – in moments of weakness and need – how blessed I am to be the son of a man of strength and character…to be the father of young men who are growing in strength and character…to be in the middle of this rare and precious thread.
I have been reading the book of Deuteronomy lately. There is a passage at the end of the first chapter that seems very appropriate to this post:
29 Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them.30 The LORD your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as He did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes,31 and in the wilderness. There you saw how the LORD your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.” (NIV)
As a father carries his son… That is how God carries us. That is how He loves us and provides for us. When we are in a place of loss…when we are in a season of plenty…when our hearts are broken…when our spirits are full of joy… In every moment, our heavenly Father loves and carries us.
And that is the kind of love continuity of which I want to be part.