The Greatest Compliment

For a good part of my life, I’ve always believed that “He is a hard worker” was a great compliment. It is. Hard work is at the core of my soul.

However, my son Paul sent me an email this afternoon that was better by factor of ten- thousand.

In 1985, when Ann and I were engaged, we attended a Family Life Conference (http://www.familylife.com/) in Minneapolis to begin building a foundation for our marriage. On the way home–all the way home–for five hours I wept as I described the men’s session led by Robert Lewis (http://mensfraternity.com/dr_robert_lewis/).

He had men call out one word to describe their dad. Man after man said things like, “Angry, violent, drunk, absent, distant, dishonest, unfaithful…” Overwhelmingly negative. There were very, very few positive comments. This was a room full of several hundred grown men–all broken by their fathers. Lewis then challenged us to break the chain of weak, absent and angry fathers and leave a positive legacy with our children. To love our children as a representative of our Heavenly Father.

As I described the session to Ann on the way home, I wept because of my own pain. My dad was absent. He was dishonest. He was unfaithful. He later became an alcoholic. As a young man in central Iowa, I was always embarrassed when someone said they knew my dad. I feared that my dad might have conned them out of a significant sum of money.

I wept for five hours because I had been broken at the core of my being.

I wept because I didn’t want to be like my dad. I wanted to be a good dad, to spend time with my children, to teach them values and to love them like my Father in heaven loved me.

Now twenty-seven years later, my son Paul sent me an email. He had just read a blog post (http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2012/10/09/a-good-dad-is-hard-to-find/) this afternoon about the negative impact dads can have on their children and how that can distort one’s image of our heavenly Father. This distortion often prevents men and women from trusting in the True Father.

I wept this afternoon because he thanked me for being “such a great picture of our heavenly Father.” Paul certainly knows that I’m not anything close to a perfect dad. Yet, in the big picture over the last twenty-five years, I’ve been able to love him as God’s representative.

I weep as I pen this blog now, because I had broken the chain of weak and absent dads. I weep because Paul paid me the greatest compliment that I can receive this side of heaven.

I have been more like my Father than my dad.

What a Loser

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed this morning and stayed there most of the day.

I finally crawled out of bed at 7:45, about an hour after my alarm first buzzed. The morning commute to the kitchen wasn’t too bad, so I was able to have a gluten-free bowl of cereal with almond milk on my desk by 8:00 and started working.

I was relentlessly taunted by a feeling of worthlessness throughout the day.

It all started with sleeping in, because hard working mid-westerners never reset their alarms. Real men get up even when they are tired. (Never mind that I had some type of stomach bug yesterday, slept most of the day and couldn’t get to sleep last night. That was so yesterday.)

I didn’t have my timesheet submitted by 8:00, so an automatic love note was on its way from the corporate office. And as I started recapping last week’s hours, I remembered that that I didn’t get a full eight hours of work in on Friday afternoon. (Of course it didn’t matter that we burned an hour with the salesmen from A#1 Air [http://www.anumber1air.com/], because we had finally decided to replace our units after limping along for the last couple of years. Or the fact that we spent another hour with a teenager having a heart-to-heart, and perhaps making some headway.)

If I was a committed employee, I would have worked in some time over the weekend because my billable percentage for the week was a bit below 90%. (The fact that Hannah was home from college in Colorado and that I had some type of stomach flu on Sunday was irrelevant. I should have worked Sunday evening after Hannah left.) It’s tough to claim that I’m “busy” when I’m not billing at least 100%. (I was on track until Friday.)

As the day progressed, my Inner Voice reminded me that:

  • I had dropped my beginning Hebrew class because I couldn’t find the time or manage my character flaws well enough to even audit the class. This was to be my first legitimate step towards preparing for the PhD program at Dallas Theological Seminary. I quit after two weeks.
  • I just finished teaching a series on confidence in prayer, and I hope to turn the material into a book. Yet I don’t pray enough, or with much confidence much of the time.
  • I’ve only worked out once in the last couple of months–wasting not only my heart, but also the Anytime Fitness [http://www.anytimefitness.com/] membership fees.
  • We can’t seem to manage our finances well enough, even though I receive a good salary, for me to work part-time so that I can start the PhD. If I was a good  Christian steward, we would pay all of our bills, never fail to pay off our credit card every month and always manage our money well. (The $26k in family medical bills last year, which is probably more than either of us spent when Brian and Ann had cancer, does not factor into the equation.)
  • My dream of pursuing a PhD continues to be just that.
  • My book Honest Wrestling [http://honestwrestling.com/] has probably sold less than 200 copies in the six months that it has been in print. And that I blew a signficant amount of money to publish the book with a Christian publisher that has done very well off my book.
  • I don’t blog and tweat and do whatever other social media activities I’m supposed to do to help promote my book.
  • Most importantly and most disturbingly is that I’ve repeatedly taken my Priceless Gift for granted this last month. I, of all people–since cancer stole Ann from me and put me into a dark pit–should never, ever take Fran for granted or treat her harshly or allow irritations to annoy me.

I went for a walk after super because I needed to get out of the house and breath some fresh fall air and spend some time with the Lord. As I recounted all that The Voice whispered into my ear today, this verse came to mind:

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

 It’s time to tell The Voice to shut up, so that I can hear His voice of truth.