Becoming a Father.

November 24, 2009

“But while he was a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”  -Jesus Christ, “The Parable of the Prodigal Son,” The Gospel of Luke 15:20

There must be some spiritual substance that we cannot comprehend. Maybe it is biological and just runs through our blood and that is why we cannot control it. The sins of the father are visited upon the children to the third and fourth generations (Numbers 14:18). This is even the case, it seems, when the father is nowhere to be found. How can this be? How is a man’s seed laid so deep in just one moment of climax, when we spend nine months incubating in our mother’s womb? Shouldn’t we be more like our mothers than our fathers? For me, I have my mother’s personality; it is true. However, I cannot escape my father. Somehow in my blatant rebellion against him when I was trying to prove my manhood to the world, I did pick up a bit of wisdom from the man; for instance, I have his solid and strong work ethic. Just the same, ask any woman I’ve ever been with and she will tell you: I also possess all of his faults to some degree. I think of my own children, my two sons, and when I consider the mountain of faults that I have possessed while raising them, I shudder with fear and shame.

My first experience with fatherhood came when I was only nineteen years old. I had befriended a woman who was pregnant at the young age of eighteen. She had no interest in marrying the father. When her son was four months old we were married, and by the time he could talk, he was calling me dad. I did not steal him from his biological father. That man just disappeared. He was a man in his mid-twenties who preyed on girls still in high school with the enchanting ability to purchase alcohol. A real winner. When this man stopped showing up for visits, everyone agreed it was better for the boy I began to call my son.

I was a good step-father; one of the best, but it wasn’t until three and a half years later that I truly became a father. That is when son number two was born. I am not saying that we can only truly be fathers to our biological children. On the contrary, I did my very best to love and cherish and provide for the first boy. As I made the decision to love, I did love, and delight in my child. However, something deep inside me changed the day my second son was born. There was a spiritual shift in my heart. It did not happen when he was conceived; it did not happen when my wife grew large and I could feel him kicking against my back at night; it did not happen until he came out of the womb and I saw him for the first time. It was at that moment I discovered the meaning of life. I held this tiny human being in my arms, all bloody and gooey, and I knew that I would fight off dragons and swim across oceans to protect him if need be. I knew I would clean his poop and throw up. I would listen to endless stories, answer endless questions, and laugh at pointless jokes. I would learn to play sports and read books that I hated because he loved them. I would take a bullet for him, and more importantly, I would sacrifice all my hopes and dreams, everything that I did not get to accomplish in my very short life, to ensure that he was able to succeed in his. I looked into eternity that day; I understood what my most important purpose in life was. And when I carried this frail human being out and placed him into his big brother’s arms, I looked into my oldest son’s eyes, and for the first time I saw the eternity in him. For the first time I understood the difference between adoption and sonship. All the love, all the hope, all the wonder so newly discovered in my heart for the son of my flesh, was poured out for and transferred onto this child I had so long taken care of. Where physics and logic might tell you that there would not be room enough for both, it was like the size of my heart exponentially doubled and then quadrupled in size to make the room. Truly looking into this child’s eyes for the first time, I knew instantly that I would sacrifice my life for both of my boys.

Our Heavenly Father is like that with us. Ever since our very first parents, Adam and Eve, sinned, we have been spiritual orphans. By submitting to the snake’s authority, we chose to remove ourselves from the Father of all things, we stole his parental rights and claimed freedom, but we lost the blessing of inheritance in the process. With no place to call home, we wander a harsh and lonely wasteland. Unwilling to trust anyone around us, our first instinct is murder and survival of the fittest. But ever since Jesus was born, that pure and perfect Son who only did what he saw the Father doing, he began to forge the path to help us find the way back home again. In his perfection, he took the place of our punishment. He gave his life for ours, and he became the way. When the Father looks in our eyes, he does not see our sin and rebellion; he only sees the pure and positive possibilities: He sees all our hopes and dreams and his love freely pours out to us. We are not just adopted sons and daughters; rather, we are co-heirs and siblings with Jesus. Through Jesus, we have found our way to true sonship, and we finally have a father who will truly guide us into goodness and righteousness. In Jesus, all our sins are forgiven; even the ones passed down from generation to generation. However, to receive the blessing, we must make the choice to accept his authority once again. We must learn to walk in his ways.

Son number one is now seventeen years old. He is a man, so he tells me, and he does not need to follow any of my foolish rules anymore. I would probably agree with him, were it not that his rebellion started while he was still very young, and I fear he may have missed some of the most important lessons I offered him. What can I do? He will be a legal adult soon, and he will truly be responsible for all his own choices. He has made it clear to me that I am only step-dad at best in his eyes; he wants nothing from me, either good or bad, so I need to just keep my advice to myself. He will find his own way without me. Some of what he speaks is justified. His mother and I split up a long time ago, and he has had trouble trusting me ever since. In the wake of that title wave of destruction we call divorce, I have made many mistakes. I often chose the heritage of my earthly fathers over the heritage of my Heavenly One. But that, too, was long ago, and my redemption and restoration has been solid and true. My heart still glows with love for him, but it is also broken at his rebellion and rejection, but what can I do? He will be a man soon; he will be cast out into the wilderness to wander without the guidance of the compass of lessons he could have chosen to receive from me. What can I do? I will choose to do what I see the Father doing with all of us: “He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:45. I will continue to provide for him and be there when he needs me, whether he acknowledges my existence or not. “The LORD is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression.” Numbers 14:18. I will wait, and I will pray. I will look everyday for signs of his return, and when he comes home (for I have to believe that he will), no matter how long he has been gone, I will welcome him with open arms, and perhaps we will have a party in his honor, and I will even prepare the fattened calf.

“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”  Romans 8:14-17.

Peter L Richardson


6 Responses to “Becoming a Father.”

  1. Pete, that was very personal and very nicely written. I can only imagine the complicated grief you feel concerning the effects of the divorce on your relationship with your stepson. It is obvious you deeply love both sons as though they were both your natural children and that is a picture of God’s love and relationship with His children. Sacrificial love is never, ever wasted because it isn’t about whether we are loved back.

    • peterrock12 Says:

      Thanks, Eileen. That is what I have truly learned from God in this experience. To continue to love when I am not loved back. It is hard, but when I go to God, he always gives me the strength. And I know; I just know that he open his eyes up and understand my heart someday. It might not be until he is a father, but he’s a good kid; he’ll come around!

  2. bditws Says:

    I’ll be honest. I skipped over all the bible quotes but loved all the other parts. You know me and religion from a previous thread.

    Favorite line:
    “I would fight off dragons and swim across oceans to protect him..”

    The unconditional love parents have for their childre is one of humankind’s triumphs. Whenever I read about parents still supporting their criminal children(rapists, murderers, etc) it chokes me up.

    Give the teen space. From the sounds of it you treated him like your own. He’ll realize that at some point in time.

    We have our first in the “oven” due out in April. Sharpening my sword so I can slay dragons.



    • peterrock12 Says:

      Hey, Ryan. Thanks for the encouragement. Congrats on your child who will be joining us soon! Keep that sword sharp. It will come in handy, but there is joy in the fight. Parenting is probably the hardest thing in life to do, but it is also the most rewarding. I can tell by the little I know about you that you’ll be a great dad! I’m looking forward to reading your insights on the experience as you embark on this new journey.



  3. Chester Says:

    Good essay, Pete. I totally understand your point of view, and only have my own experience to offer: Divorce sucks, there is no way around that. It’s sometimes worse than death, because the effects linger for years, maybe even a lifetime.

    My parents split up when I was 14, and my Dad moved out of the house when I was 15, leaving me essentially alone in the world. I had to learn to make my own way. I am not mad at my faher for doing that, he needed his own sanity and was hurting in a way I now understand. But our relationship has never been the same. I really, really miss talking to my Dad in more than just a superficial way.

    My own son is now 20, going on 21, and we remain close. There was the normal teenage rebellion stuff, and we hit some bumps, but he’s a really good young man with a solid future, and I am really proud of him.

  4. peterrock12 Says:

    Thanks for sharing, Jim. Stories like yours give me hope that Gabe and I will come to an understanding some day. Josh really is a solid young man. You did a great job raising him!

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