I haven’t really left the fight. In fact, I’ve been arming up and getting in the fight quite a bit this summer. I just haven’t been recording podcasts. Sorry about that. But, join me to catch up and let’s get back in the fight together.
“Be willing to make decisions. That’s the most important quality in a good leader.” – Gen. George S. Patton
My cat had to be “put down” last week. When I was a kid, my parents said, “put to sleep” when it was time for a pet to die. It sounded nice until I realized what was actually happening. I never understood how hard it would be to be the dad in that situation, though.
Our cat, Aslan (named after the lion in C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia series), was born at my mother-in-law’s house nearly 18 years ago. He and his sister came home with my wife and me a couple weeks later. A few minutes of their adorable little kitten meows (“mew, mew”) and scratching at our bedroom door and our resolve to not let them sleep in our room melted away. For years to come, we would have cats sleeping on our beds. They kept our feet warm on long winter nights and pawed our noses to wake us in the morning. If one of us was having a bad day, almost on cue the cat would curl up next to us and purr. I must say, there is nothing quite like the comfort of having a warm cat purring as he is pressed up against you.
“There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.” – Albert Schweitzer
The decision to put down our cat was not difficult in the sense that I knew he was dying, he had had a good life, and I understand that we humans have dominion over the animal kingdom. The hard parts were the timing, the pain of letting him go, and the overarching anguish of watching my kids go through the loss of a beloved pet. Also, it was difficult trying to maintain a balance between showing grief and showing strength for my kids. Like it or not, we dads are the strongest earthly representation of God our children see. How we handle death and other big life issues makes a profound impact on our children.
While my wife and I discussed the decision to let our kitty go, somehow it seemed like my ultimate responsibility as the patriarch of the family. It is a burden men carry, a responsibility not to be taken lightly. This may or may not seem like such a big decision to you, but there are many such burdens that fall to the shoulders of the father – decisions of great importance that can have lifelong ramifications. That’s not to say that no one else has any input into the decisions. How you handle them in your family may differ from others, but ultimately you are responsible for your family.
What big decisions have fallen to your shoulders? How did you make them?
“Don’t these things come with a set of instructions?!” Almost every first-time mom or dad has said something like this at some point. In my case, it was several times a day for the first two kids. By kid #4, I was starting to get the hang of it. Now, I just get that perplexed, Bill Cosby ‘dad’ look on my face and say, “Where’s your mother?”
The age range of my children is 2-13. As my children have grown, I’ve started thinking less about having an instruction manual for me to use in figuring them out and more about giving them an instruction manual for how to live. I see them experiencing some of the same struggles I experienced and I want them either to avoid the pain altogether or to learn quickly and well so their pain is not meaningless. There is nothing worse than pointless pain.
So, I’m starting to develop a strategic plan of sorts for my children’s success. As a start, I’m compiling a list of books I want my children to read before they leave the comfort and protection of home and head off into the “real world”. Starting with the Bible, here’s the beginning of a list of books that are essential reading for my children:
- The Bible
- The Traveler’s Gift by Andy Andrews
- Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
- Epic by John Eldredge
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
While the books are a great start (and those make up a small portion of the list), I want to identify the simple core principles that define who we are as individuals and as members of our family. I want my children to be able to recall them from memory with ease. The Golden Rule and Andy Andrews’ Seven Decisions are a great start.
Have you every thought purposefully about what you want your children to do and be? What lessons do you want them to learn? What are the guiding principles you want them to live their lives by? Or, are you just trying to get through each day and hoping they turn out ok?
“And closely akin to the visions… was the call still sounding in the depths of the forest. It filled him with a great unrest and strange desires. It caused him to feel a vague, sweet gladness, and he was aware of wild yearnings and stirrings for he knew not what.” – Jack London, The Call of the Wild
When was the last time you felt the call? Do you remember? Are you like a lot of men who can remember something like this in boyhood, when adventure seemed to lurk around every tree in the woods? Like the Pevensies in C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia, longing for the magical land where they are kings and queens, do you sometimes feel “aware of wild yearnings and stirrings,” even if you don’t know what for?
I feel this perhaps most strongly when I am at the sea. I recently returned from a vacation at the beach. I always feel like I’m at my home away from home when I’m at the ocean. When I have to leave, I feel a small sense of loss. I long to go back and yet, when I’m there, the call doesn’t dissipate. If anything, it grows stronger. I’m forced to wonder if this desire points to something larger, and far more important, than vacation or adventure.
“If we discover a desire within us that nothing in this world can satisfy, also we should begin to wonder if perhaps we were created for another world.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Could it be that this call or yearning, or whatever we shall label it, is evidence of a home we have not yet seen? Our true home where we are children of the King and where we are kings and queens ourselves? If that’s the case, then what happens when we lose the ability to feel this yearning or to hear the call? Some people spend lots of energy trying to silence the call. Some spend lots of money attempting to numb the yearnings. Don’t give in to that. We need to feel this longing for home. It is our destiny. We need to remember that we were made for more than this life has to offer and that we will receive it if we will follow the one who leads us home.
“Nothing is yet in its true form.” – C.S. Lewis
We had better get used to living with some amount of mystery. There are questions that just aren’t going to get answered in this life. If we cannot accept the mystery, we will destroy our own souls. Indeed, we must embrace the mystery. We need to have an eternal perspective. Death is not the end, though it may feel like it, even for a very long time. Though it may feel like God has given up on you, he has not. The complexities and mysteries of his creation are far beyond our ability to comprehend. Yet, his goodness is so simple a child can grasp it.
When I read the Bible, I see a God who wants to bring healing. Why doesn’t he heal everyone who asks? I don’t know. I have a hunch it has something to do with his perspective. He holds eternity in the palm of his hand. I can only manage to maintain an eternal perspective for a couple minutes, maybe a few hours, at a time. In all of eternity, HE IS. And he is patient.
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” – 2 Peter 3:9
He is patient with us. As I struggle this week, alternately praying and crying with my wife as she reads the updates from an old friend whose wife is dying of cancer, I know that without a miracle from God, there are two children who will grow up without Mommy. I know many people have been praying, asking God to heal her. He hasn’t yet and she has been moved to hospice. The doctors say she hasn’t much time.
Last week, a similar scene played out in my family. My cousin’s husband died of cancer, leaving two teenage children. Again, honest, sincere, and humble prayers for healing were offered. How does one deal with that? With an eternal perspective, I can see that God truly is omnipotent and that nothing can touch us until we have accomplished what we were sent here to do. There is a larger story than our own. Either God is in charge or he is not. It makes no sense to say he’s “sort of” in charge, like he started out caring for his children but he got tired or bored or distracted.
Yet, these words are probably little comfort to the grieving child or spouse. I pray now that they will not grieve without hope. I pray for God to make himself real to them, that they will feel his embrace – the perfect Daddy loving his children.
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” – Psalm 68:5
All else is hopelessness.
No. God is not tired. He is not bored or distracted. He is mysterious. And, as C.S. Lewis noted in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, he is not safe (nor tame, as the movie version puts it), but he is good.
“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” – Romans 8:32
Yes, he is good. It just doesn’t always feel that way.