This morning I woke up early on my day off again because I have committed to go to Lakeside Junior High School in Orange Park every Friday morning to hang out with a group called the "Gentlemen Gators." This before-school club of over forty boys comes together to be challenged to be the men God has made them to be. Topics vary depending on the week and sometimes we have special guests. There are even work and service projects the boys do throughout the year. This group was founded by Assistant Principal John Green. A few teachers from the school (including teacher David Bradley, who will be featured in the Florida Times-Union as one of the "Ten Who Make a Difference" on the First Coast) as well as some men from our church gather each week as mentors for the boys.
After the topic of the day is introduced, often with a video illustration, the boys meet with their mentors to break it down. I have a group that varies between five and eight boys that meet with me for about ten to fifteen minutes. I hope I'm helping them. Sometimes we joke (well, we always joke around) but we always get to the point. I wonder some days if the point is being made. That's the case when teaching any junior highers, I guess.
Today's topic was "Fatherhood."
This may seem like a simple topic, but I realized immediately, it would not be.
You see, every man and boy on the planet (women and girls, too, bu this group is all boys) carries a wound deep within their hearts. This wound is called the "father wound" and comes in a variety of ways.
In my group, we began talking about this. The fact that the earthly father is the first picture a person has of who the Heavenly Father is can be troubling. Some of these children come from homes where dad is absent. Some are in single-parent homes with no contact with dad. Some are living with grandparents. Some have dad in the house, but even though he's physically there, he's emotionally absent. Others have abusive and addictive fathers. This came out in my group today. Still, there are many who have great dads. Dads who try hard to be involved and who love their boys greatly. Some are even Christians and do their very best to raise these boys up in the love of the Lord.
Still, regardless of the dad in the story, each of these boys carries a heart wound. We all do. It's natural and a result of the sin that infests our world. That's what makes God's healing touch on our hearts through Jesus that much more incredible.
I asked these guys if they knew what the burning question at the heart of every man on the planet was. They didn't. Most don't.
The question is "Do I have what it takes?"
Every boy asks this. Every boy needs dad to say "Yes, you have what it takes!"
Every adult man still asks this question.
Some of the boys have dads who have been laid off and are struggling to provide for their family. They're good guys, but have just become victims of the economy. I asked these boys what that situation is saying to their dads. It was like a light went off. They answered "It's like the world is saying 'You don't have what it takes.'" When a man hears this over and over, it's not long before he starts to believe it.
This led to the next question, "Where does this statement come from?" We talked about God and Satan, about good and evil, about truth and lies and how the lie from the Enemy to every man is "You don't have what it takes. . .to be a dad. . .to be a provider. . .to be a good employee. . .to be a good husband, etc."
In truth, we don't have what it takes on our own, but through Christ, we do. . .and yet we still hear the lies.
I left this morning after looking into the eyes of my boys and telling them this, "Your dad may be absent, distant, or just silent. As a dad, I can tell you that in most every case, your dad loves you deeply. However, he probably doesn't know how to say it. Oh yeah, he probably, like me, says the wrong things at times that hurt you to your core. Hear this - 'You have what it takes!' God loves you deeply and so much, in fact, He gave His Son, Jesus Christ for you. You have what it takes, through Him."
I've known of this wound, these unanswered questions, and the heart issues of men for years. Today, I was reminded how deeply this goes. I'm praying for the men and boys that God brings in my path. May there be healing. As for the ladies and girls, there are deep wounds there as well. The heart question is different, but the pain is the same.
That's why God is Father. He provides what we need. Unconditional "agape" love.
The following video was shown this morning. You've probably seen it on YouTube or Facebook. Still, take a moment to watch. Team Hoyt is about a father's love for his son, shown practically and truthfully. (Also, know that the dad was not a triathlete who invited the son into this. The question was asked by dad to son about doing something together - Rick said "Let's run a triathalon," and the story began.)