Mental Back Stock
Overall I live a simple and free life. For the longest time it has been just me, God, and the possibility of going wherever, whenever, however. The past is the past for me, I let it go, I move forward, and that is that….most of the time. For a while now I have wanted to write on my experience regarding not having a father, how that impacted my initial view of God the Father, and where my thinking on it all currently stands. As I sat each time with the hope of writing these thoughts I would either lose motivation or find something else to write on. Over a year has gone by now, and after all this time I decided that what you are about to read is what I waited for so long to write.
How to Train a Dragon
I grew up without a father in my life. A fact that no longer bothers me, apart from the occasional traces in my thoughts and feelings from time to time. Not having a father, or to be more personal, a dad, I found myself developing a patchwork male presence from the few good men who came in and out of my life. Looking back all I can really think is that the Lord preserved me through all of this. I have seen the effects that the zero presence of a father has on young men, and it is not pretty. My brother is a prime example of that. Most of his childhood and teenage years were spent in state ran facilities, becoming a child of the system. You can imagine what he is like now, and you would probably be right, just another fatherless statistic fitting all the stereotypes of one raised by the American government. Thinking about my brother makes me thankful. Why? All that separates him and I, that makes me any different from him, is that I found God and believed in Christ. Very easily I could have been and still could be my brother, but as I follow the Lord I see He has something different, something better.
What was different for me, something I found in which my brother did not, is that while I did not have an earthly father, I most certainly had a heavenly one. The best kind, I’d say! While having to depend on God to be a father where my earthly father failed has been such an amazing experience, I would be a liar if I said this dependence on Him has always been this way, because it has not. When I became a believer I allowed the failures of my earthly father to be projected onto my heavenly one, creating a skewed idea of how I though God operated as a father. For the longest while I truly believed that God, while unable to take away your salvation, could abandon you. I truly believed I deserved to be abandoned and one day He would do so. Sometimes I still buy into that lie. In my mind he did not care about me on a personal level and it was only a matter of time before I saw His provision, His blessing, removed from my life. Not only that, but I bought into all sorts of retribution theology, and some really nasty stuff not conducive for a growing young believer. Over time, through each provision, every moment of peace, and overcome trial, I became more convinced my earthly father was in no way a representation of my heavenly one. Did I still resent not having a heavenly father? Yes. Does it hurt not having the presence of a physical father in my life from time to time? As much as I try to appear above it, sometimes I do experience hurt, that wishing my dad were in my life and loved me. The point is that while there have been many hurts and resentments in my not having a dad, what the Lord has taught me through those things, through having to be dependent on Him, far outweighs in good, any of the bad.
To Days to Come
I am not sure what the future holds for me. I like to say “if” I get married not “when” (Christians often seem to have an attitude of entitlement to marriage) that more than anything I look forward to being the Christian father to children that I myself never had. My lack of having an earthly father, and my dependency on my heavenly one, has given me a certain sort of drive and appreciation for what it means to be a dad. Sure I may make mistakes, and will never be a perfect parent, but if the time comes, what I never had will help keep me on the path of not taking for granted what I do. Often I try to appear as it I am a hard, emotionless, type of guy, bent on nothing but logic and truth, hold anything associated with feelings in disgust, honestly though, that is not who I am. I do have emotions, I would love to be a godly husband, with a wife to love, children to look after, and all around experiencing that bond of a family who is pursuing the Lord together, in love. Of course this is all presently theory, but this is what the Lord has done through my not having a father and showing me the value of what a father who follows Him is. Like I said before, fathers are supposed to be earthly examples of what God the Father is. This is not a call to take lightly, but one that should be treated with the utmost importance and care. Maybe you are married with children, perhaps you have your first child on the way, do not take what God has given you for granted. From the perspective of a single person it is rough out here in the field, especially with the desire to have a family in the Lord, think back on your single days, and see the value of what you have now. I do not pretend to have any idea about any of this stuff, not yet anyway, all I know is that being a godly father, like many things in life, begins with dependency on The Father. To my single friends, keep the faith guys and gals, and when you put Him first whether you do or do not ever get married, you will be perfectly content so long as you follow Him.
Another Side Another Story
So as I thought through what this blog post meant I realized that I was not content with my perspective alone. Discrediting myself, I am merely a single guy, who never had a father, that because of the Lord, has theories on what being a Christian dad may one day mean. I pondered long hand hard about what direction I could take this, what better insight I could include, when finally it hit me, I knew just the people to contribute. Over the course of my Christian life I have watched believing families who have come and gone through my life. I have watched the parents and how they parent, what is their walk with the Lord like, how does the Father lead the family. Not only that, but I also compare the parents to their children, are the children rebellious, or is the same faith instilled in the parents a component in their young lives as well?
Recently two dear friends of mine, an old man and his son, were the subject for interviews on CBS, Fox News and in ESPN, regarding the fact that both attend college together (Emmaus, the school I presently attend) and play on the school basketball team.
(The links to these interviews are as follows)
It has been my privilege to become friends with Mr. Ruter (the father) through class, not to mention endless amounts of joking, and through Caleb (the son) being an authority figure over me as my R.A. As I read, and have saw interviews with these guys it struck me that there was a much larger story than just an old timer and his child palling around together in college. Caleb describes his dad Mr. Ruter as his “best friend” and Mr. Ruter expresses how much he loves being able to be in school with his son, completely valuing the bond between them. What these news stories have missed though, the BIG IDEA you could say, is the Ruter’s relationship is manifestation of something much greater, they both are in Christ. The relationship these two have is not from a book or parenting classes, but from Christ, and walking entirely in who He is. If I were to have had a father growing up I would have wanted him to be like Mr. Ruter. Mr. Ruter is in every sense of the word a godly father walking with the Lord, and because of that you can see the same light the Lord placed in Him, in his son Caleb. Caleb is my R.A. and for any of you who know me, you can testify to the fact that I do not compliment people simply for the sake of complimenting them. In my short life on this earth, I have never seen a young guy who so freely practiced the spirit of grace (I have had to experience this quality of his a lot) and in the Lord genuinely leading, the way Caleb does. I truly believe these qualities are from walking with the Lord himself, and by being raised by a man who had lived and instilled the same character, by walking with the Lord too. Mr. Ruter, a man who has fathered through following The Father, and Caleb a son who lives for The Son, offer insight and a fuller perspective in which I could only give part. The only reason they have this relationship, that they share this bond, is because of the work of Christ in their lives alone. Do they have flaws and weak moments like everyone else? Of course, I have seen them, but at the end of the day Christ, like so many other solid believers, is their beginning and end. Below they explain their respective perspective in the positions of a father and a son.
The Old Man and the Sea (Paul Ruter)
“When I was a teenager I was intrigued as to why some of my friends would be rebellious and why some would not. As a Christian I was taught that a father should be the leader in the household and to teach the children the way to walk with the Lord, so I tried to watch how each of the dads responded to his kid and to see if I could see a pattern to how they turned out. My father was a very hands off guy when it came to religious matters but a very active in involving us in working together. I assumed the more the father told the child how to live and made them go to all the meetings that they would turn out to be Godly children and not rebel. What I found to be the case was that the more stringent the father the more likely the children would be rebellious. This went against, I thought, the scripture that says to teach the children when they walk and when they lie down and basically all the time telling them what the Bible says. I asked myself what was wrong with this picture, why were the kids rebellious from these God fearing families and some of the kids from more relaxed families walking with the Lord? I wanted to know the answer because I wanted to be the best father that I could be. I came to my own conclusion that it had to be more than just preaching at them and dragging their butts off to church every time that the doors were open, although I believe that that is not a bad thing to do, it has to do with involving your kids in your life, in your walk with the Lord. Some say it is better to show someone how to live than to tell them, I believe there is a lot of wisdom in that. The problem is to know how much of each one should do. As a father of six kids who range in age from thirty down to twenty, I have been extremely blessed that all have made a profession of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and are showing signs of living for Him. I might think that it was because of my parenting that they turned out so well but then I see some other kids that reject the Lord from a family that I know loved the Lord and their kids but they wanted nothing to do with God. So does all this time invested in each of your children’s life really does have a say in how they turn out, I say YES. The Bible says to train up a child in the way they should go and that the fathers should be the leaders in their families but it also warns not to exasperate them also. One of the hardest things not to do is to tell your kid where they went wrong, after a while of hearing that same message they no longer focus on what they did wrong but on the rejection that is waiting for them at home. They know that they have blown it, which is a good thing, they need to man up and take responsibility and know that the responsibility has to come from themselves, not their dad. I can’t expect them to take this path unless I take it myself first. In conclusion, I feel that a father can make a huge difference in their children’s lives but it not so simple when you’re out in the battle field because this world is constantly telling us to live for ourselves and to make yourself happy then give the rest to your family, but the Bible says to give all to your family, starting with your wife( I know that we are to make God first in our lives but this little blog is about being a dad and He tells me to make my family number one in my life) and then to your kids, I really cannot see where the Bible tells me to look after myself first but if I become a servant to my family, I win, more importantly, they win.”
Watching You (Caleb Ruter)
“Whenever I am asked who my best friend is I would immediately say, “My dad.” This is not to provide them with some soppy story but what I believed to be entirely true. Growing up and having a father who disciplined me to become a man of God was so important! He taught me Christian values that I still hold on to today. But not only was he a father, he was also a friend. This is what I believe a true father and son relationship should look like. My father invested his heart, his time and his money to further his relationship with his sons and myself. He didn’t treat fatherhood as some sort of job. It was what he wanted to do, and he showed that through his love for us and his desire to spend time with us. My father has 5 boys (including me) and one girl who are all professing followers of Christ. This is an example much he cared for us and how much effort he gave for our benefit. I could not ask for a better father. He is my mentor, my friend, my classmate, my teammate, and my best friend. He was everything for me. And I hope someday that I can be everything to my son.”
After the Storm
The Chronology of Chris is about real life as it happens to me and in the lives of those around me. These guys are real life, I am real life. My goal was to be true to myself, the Ruters, and the Lord, to tell the full story, not the edited version. We are people who have lived the above things, not idealists speaking in theory, but people who have walked with the Lord on our very best days, just as we have on our very worst days. Maybe you experience with your father is like mine, perhaps you can relate more to Caleb, or possibly you are a father who needs to hear what Mr. Ruter has to say, whatever the case may be, take this post as an encouragement. Whether or not you had parents, good, bad or nonexistent, God still can, and will use your situation, all you have to do is let Him. In every area the rubber of our theology needs to hit the road of life. Who we are in Christ, not our flesh, should be what defines us as people, parent or not. Live life for Him, nothing else, and then, only then, will the full depths and magnitude of your life, be complete.
(Below are the links to the interviews mentioned above regarding Mr. Ruter and Caleb, in case you missed them the first time. I would suggest the Fox News one first, as it brings the most joy to make fun of them over.)