The Other F Word

I’m on a retreat with my youth staff from Island ECC. I wasn’t part of the planning committee (and by committee, I primarily mean my colleague Amanda), so I’m just along for the ride. Like any good retreat, there’s a healthy combination of relaxation and reflection. I shouldn’t be surprised at the reflection topics, but again I’m overwhelmed at the amount of time I’ve been spending thinking about family and their influence on my relationship with God.

Just when I thought we might be done with the evening, we decided to watch a movie. As we bounced around some ideas, we settled on a documentary called The Other F Word. The title is quite intriguing, but I had to surpress a chuckle when I found out the F word stands for FATHER.

I think God’s trying to get my attention.

Anyway, it was an intriguing and occasionally insightful movie. The storyline follows the lives of punk rockers that have become dads. I especially liked what Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Art Alexakis (Everclear), Ron Reyes (Black Flag), and Jim Lindberg (Pennywise) had to say about fatherhood. [As a note of warning, it’s not for those sensitive to the standard F word or other words like it.]

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This Thursday I’m heading to the United States for a conference organized by Simply Youth Ministry. Once it’s over, I’m going to spend a week with my immediate family. I’m hoping and praying that God will help shed some light on why I’ve been bombarded with thoughts and reflections surrounding my family – particularly my dad.

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We All Need a Father

It’s crazy how often the theme on dads and fathers keeps popping up lately. I just can’t seem to shake it. Whether from work, friends, or home, I keep thinking about my dad and the other father figures in my life.

Fathers are so important to our identity. Depending on the dad, this could either be good, bad, or a combination of the two. I think my dad was more of a combination, and I learned some unique things from him:

  • Throwing a Frisbee and playing disc golf
  • Understanding bumper pool (few of my friends have never even heard of this game)
  • Learning to identify, classify, and price antiques
  • Sanding, finishing, and restoring furniture
  • Using a riding lawn mower
  • Playing many variations of poker and other card games

The list goes on and on. We really do learn a lot from our dads.

The problem though is that while we’re learning all kinds of new skills, we also pick up on the destructive habits. There are some things that my dad said and did that I’m ashamed of, and I wish that I could’ve ignored or never seen many of these things happen. However, this just isn’t true or even possible.

Then again, though there are some things my dad did that I hope to never repeat, I know there’s still a lot to learn from him. Furthermore, I’ve also chosen to learn from his mistakes and do my best to try and be better – whether for the sake of myself, my wife, my friends, or even my future kids.

My only regret is not realizing the importance of a dad sooner. My father died nearly five years ago, and I didn’t get to say goodbye. He unexpectedly had a massive heart failure at the age of 54. I really wish that we could’ve talked more and reconciled some of our differences…

Like I said, I’ve only realized recently the importance of having a father or father figures in my life. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always known dads are important. However, I think I underestimated the impact they can have on my life beyond adolescence.

Though I can never bring back my dad, I find myself fortunate enough that other, older males have stepped into my life and reached out to guide me every now and then. Most of them have children of their own, and I appreciate the way they’ve made room in their hearts for me. It’s taken some time for me to let them in, but I’m glad I did. They’ve been amazing guys, and I hope that they can continue to help me along the way.

Thank you.

I wanted to also give a special shout out to one guy in particular. His name is Mike Witthoft, and he’s a great husband and father to his family. I appreciate the way he’s opened up his home and shared his life with my wife and me for the past four or five years. It’s meant a lot.

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I’ve known for about 14 years that God is my true Father, but sometimes this concept is hard to understand or even believe. Our earthly fathers often shape and influence our view of God, for better or worse. Fortunately, I’ve had some good guys point me in the right direction over the years. But if you’re reading, and you’ve had a terrible fatherly experience, I want to encourage you and tell you that God is the best and most perfect Father you can ever have. He’ll never leave you or forsake you, and His love is everlasting. Nothing can separate you from that. Nothing.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:38-39

Families and Fathers

It’s funny how youth ministry (or any ministry profession for that matter) can infringe on your life outside of work. It’s just the nature of the job. It’s built upon relationships and constant reflection on one’s own life. I suppose this blog is even a testament to my statements!

The current topic for our Sunday youth sermons is a book called Orphan, Slave, Son by Ben Pasley. Today we covered the idea of being an orphan and how our families shape our identity in Christ. In preparation for today’s message, I had to reflect on my own family and how our parents affect our image of God as our Father. One of my colleagues asked me a lot of questions about my dad and how he’s affected my faith throughout my life.

The thoughts and conversations I had were quite challenging for me. Even though my earthly dad passed away nearly five years ago, I think there are still things I’m thinking about and working through. I tried to reflect about it via Men’s Fraternity (check out the “Garrett’s Wound” video) a few years ago, but I don’t think I fully delved into all my thoughts and feelings. This week’s message gave me a good excuse to re-hash the “dad” topic, and I’m glad it happened. I think I’ll continue thinking about some of this stuff.

Another upside to my current interest in my dad is that I’ve decided to spend some of my upcoming holiday time at home, looking through all of my family’s old photo albums. I hope I come across some funny photos and get a chance to hear my mom share some stories. Keep an eye out in early March for a bunch of old photos that I hope to scan into my digital library!