Summary: A brief Sharing of my childhood experiences and fatherhood expectations.
I had a rough childhood. Not a normal one. I moved for the first time when I was 3 months old. By the time I was 5, I had at moved at least 7 times. I was a very sickly child. I was born with severe allergies and chronic asthma. These fed off of each other. I was taken to the hospital 18 times between my 4th birthday and my 7th birthday. I spent a lot of time in the hospital under a plastic tent full of oxygen because I was unable to survive breathing normal ambient air. On two of these occasions I was admitted into the ICU for a week-long stay. I remember one occasion, my mother asking me if I was ready to die. She wanted to know if I had accepted Jesus into my heart. I learned later that the doctor had just told her that my O2 count was so low that he doubted I would make it through the night and that my parents needed to be prepared for the worst.
It was a difficult childhood also because my parents didn’t really get along. Being as sick as I was, my mom was predictably over protective and hovering. My dad, well he coped by ignoring the situation. He dealt with problems by either working, drinking, or hanging out with friends while they fished, hunted, or drank. He was not around a ton. When he was, it was anyone’s guess if he was going to be the fun dad that would play with me or the angry dad that would argue with my mom about trivial things like finances.
Because of this tumultuous beginning, I started thinking of eternity very early. I mean, how many five year olds have their moms ask them if they are ready to die? I didn’t want to die, but if I did, I wanted to be ready to meet Jesus. I had learned in Sunday School that we all were sinners, meaning that we all had done bad things. I knew that was true. Even at that age, I knew right from wrong. I knew that I had lied to my mom on multiple occasions.
I had a real talent for doing things wrong and blaming other people and getting my mom to believe me. One day I convinced a kid that my mom was baby-sitting to climb up to the top of a tree with my sister and me. When my mom found us, she was furious! Once down from the tree I told her that the other kid had told us that she had said it was ok. He was so shocked that he didn’t even deny it! There was more than once that I threw my cousin Scooter under the bus! I knew it was wrong. And in Sunday school, with my teacher putting up flannel graph images of Heaven and Hell, describing that those who lied went to Hell, but those who knew Jesus could go to Heaven, I made a decision. I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins and to allow me to live in his Kingdom if I died. I didn’t stop there. I told him that if he would let me live, that I would stop lying and live serving him as a singer/pastor/pilot/missionary…
That was my first experience with my Heavenly Father. I didn’t understand it all. I didn’t know what it all meant. I had a child’s faith. I certainly did not keep all of my bargain. Sin found me again and again as I grew up. However, God kept His side of the bargain and added me to His family. He sealed me with His Holy Spirit on that day.
Fatherhood is a funny thing. It is such an overwhelming job. The truth is, the main job of a father, is to show his children what God is like. He is to represent the Heavenly Father on earth. The father’s job is to care for, love, and provide for his children as an extension of his creator. God did this so that when a child is old enough to actually have a relationship with God the Father, He will not be a stranger! He will be familiar. “Of course you are my Heavenly father, you are a lot like my earthly father!” Boy did sin mess this up.
It messed it up for me. My parents’ troubles only got worse and came to a climax between my 7th and 9th year. At age 7 they divorced. Following 2 years and 2 separate court cases, my mother lost both, my dad dropped my sister and I off at my mom’s place and I never saw him again as a child. My understanding of a “dad” was someone that a “mom” hated. Someone that was never around. Someone that lied. Someone that punished you when you didn’t understand why. Finally, someone that abandoned you and disappeared.