This is a passage from my recently released book, “What God Can’t Do.”
When most people use the word “father,” they mean that male family head that always loved them and made sure they did the right thing. But some people had fathers who were ineffective, mean, absent, abusive, or even dangerous. When we church people talk about having a loving Heavenly Father, we might as well be talking about some mythological creature to these hurt brothers and sisters. They often visualize God as a big bully ready strike with lightning at the smallest mistake.
Some of the problems fathers create within their children are accidental, but that doesn’t mean they hurt any less. And left untreated, they can fester throughout a lifetime and show up in succeeding generations.
Once, at the end of the school year, one of my high school students, who I’ll call Roy, was really having a bad day. He always dressed in black, had long stringy hair, turned in poor work, and acted like he was perpetually trapped in the middle of a bad day. That day he seemed even worse, so I asked him to stay a few minutes after class.
I asked him if he had any idea why he felt so badly. Nearly in tears he blurted out, “I think my father hates me. Last night he took my little brother to the Harvest Home Festival. He never misses any of his little league games, and is always buying him stuff. He never did any of that stuff for me when I was little. There must be something really wrong with me, but I don’t know what it is.”
We talked a while longer and then I felt the Holy Spirit nudging me to ask about the ages of the family members. It turned out that there were quite a few years between the ages of the two brothers.
All of a sudden, it was as if I could read his life story and knew what I could do to help him understand his situation.
I told him that I’d make a bet with him and that he could check with his mother to see if I was right. Whatever she said would be taken as fact. I said, “Based on the ages of you and your brother, I think I may know what happened. Only your mom would know for sure, so be sure to ask her.
“When you were born,” I continued, “your dad was probably still pretty much a kid himself, and wasn’t able to be a good father. He probably spent most of his time partying with his buddies and had almost no idea of what your needs were and how to meet them. Later on when your brother was born, he was older and was able to do a better job as a father for your little brother.
“If I had to take a guess, I’d say he is trying to make up for neglecting you by trying to be a Superdad to your brother. He probably feels so guilty about how he treated you that he doesn’t know how to even begin to make it up to you, or even how to start talking about it.”
It looked like a light was beginning shine a little in his eyes as he left school that day. He missed the last day of school and my position was eliminated so I never saw him again to ask how it turned out.
I went back to that school a year or so later to visit the principal about using him as a personal reference. I was walking down the hallway to his office when I heard someone call out my name. I looked at the kid who had yelled, but it wasn’t anyone I recognized. He was clean-cut and well dressed, but the thing that stood out most about him was a great big smile. He said, “You don’t even recognize me do you, Mr. Lewis?”
I almost fell over when he laughed and said, “It’s me, Roy,”
He looked successful and happy. He had lost some weight, and was even carrying BOOKS. Everything about him was different. “You were right about everything,” he said. “Me and my dad talked things over and now we get along great. It wasn’t me after all. All I can say is thanks for helping.”
God elected to change this family’s cycle of pain and misunderstanding almost twenty years ago through this brief encounter. I don’t know where “Roy” is now, but I know that what he learned about himself had the potential to change his family for generations into the future. Perhaps that’s what God had in mind when Solomon wrote in Proverbs 10:21 that, “The lips of the righteous feed many….” (NKJ).