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How To Make The Dad Connection: Lesson 5 and Conclusion

September 23, 2010

Dad and me, c. 1965

Your father, no matter what role he played in your past, is a critical component of redeeming your purpose. This is the final post in a series of five lessons on Making the Dad Connection, learned from personal experience. (If this is your first visit, click here to read Lesson 1. If you’ve been reading along, you may want to revisit previous posts; the comments are adding value to the series). As always, your thoughts and suggestions, gleaned from your personal experience, are welcome in the comments below.

It’s been almost three years since Mom’s midnight phone call. Dad is alive and well. He has patiently walked beside me for 52 years, and I love him more than ever. Once when I was in college I called home to tell Dad I wanted to quit. I could easily find a job. Why should I put up with this academic crap? It was a waste of my time and his money. Dad didn’t get upset or tell me how stupid that would be. In a calm, quiet voice he suggested, “Why don’t you just sign up for one more semester?” I relented, only to call home with the same threat the next semester. He suggested I sign up for “just one more.” The scenario recurred again and again until one day I realized there was only one semester left. He had tricked me into finishing college lovingly taught me how to accomplish a long term goal by breaking it down into manageable objectives.

But Dad wasn’t perfect. There are things I wish he’d done differently, like:

  • Talk with me about the consequences of a promiscuous lifestyle instead of leaving my sex education in the hands of the public school system (and relentless peer pressure).
  • Tell me about the dangers of pornography and how it denigrates and objectifies women, rather than tell me to hide my Playboy magazines so Mom wouldn’t see them.
  • Teach me how to budget, and the value of delayed gratification, and the magic of compound interest, rather than just preaching, “Save your money.”

With my kids, Summer 2009

I could go on, but you get my drift. If you’re a dad (or a mom), you’re going to mess up. My dad messed up. His dad messed up. I mess up. My kids will have their own special set of disappointments that screw them up. (I can’t wait to read their blogs!)

Lesson #5 in Making the Dad Connection: No father on this side of eternity is perfect.

But there is one perfect Parent. He created you, He loves you, He sent His one and only Son to die for you so that you could have the choice to spend eternity with Him.

When we place unrealistic expectations on our earthly fathers, it messes up our understanding of the Heavenly Father. But when we try to look at our earthly fathers from the perspective of the Heavenly Father, it becomes possible to accept, forgive, and understand our dads’ shortcomings… and our own.

Gregory Boyle, the Jesuit priest who founded Homeboy Industries in East Los Angeles and lived to write the story, encourages the reader to be watchful for the heartwarming and the sublime. “This way will not pass again,” he writes, “and so there is a duty to be mindful of that which delights and keeps joy at the center, distilled from all that happens to us in a day” (see page 148, Tattoos On The Heart). It’s easy to remember that which causes us pain. This can be a good thing; it is, after all, the painful memory that warns us not to touch a hot stove. But it takes effort be mindful of the joys of a lifelong relationship, and it is our duty to keep the joy at the center, distilled from a lifetime of interactions. In my experience, the prize at the end of the race is well worth the effort.

For many of you who read this series, I know the memory of your father causes great pain, perhaps greater than I can imagine. Your father may have abused you. He may have died, leaving no hope of reconciliation. If you find yourself in these ill-fitting shoes, allow me to suggest Abba’s Child by Brennan Manning as a great place to start the journey anew. Manning masterfully points the reader to the One Perfect Parent, the One who offers perfect peace, the One who says to you:

Acknowledge and accept who I want to be for you: a Savior of boundless compassion, infinite patience, unbearable forgiveness, and love that keeps no score of wrongs. Quit projecting onto Me your own feelings about yourself. At this moment your life is a bruised reed and I will not crush it, a smoldering wick and I will not quench it. You are in a safe place.

(Brennan Manning, Abba’s Child, pp. 22-23)

For those of you whose fathers are still around, Abba’s Child is also a great resource. But don’t stop there. Make a move to connect with your dad. Drop by and say Hi, or pick up the phone, or send an email. You have nothing to lose but regret, and a world of possibilities to gain.

Potter Family Reunion, August 2008

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Janny permalink
    September 24, 2010 11:51 am

    ……..This was beautiful and filled with the passion of love YOU have for your dad. I think each generation learns from mistakes and regrets, but I loved the quote, “This way will not pass again.” , although I wish it could many times. Strangly enough, being a single Mom, I read this for me and not their dad, which really never existed. But to my girls, I don’t know. I would like to read the book Abba’s Child and see if it would be something to share with them.
    You have encouraged me, made me cry, made me laugh and have drawn me closer to who you are.

    (Playboy Magazines, you naughty boy).

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