When you’re a kid, all you know is what you know. You don’t know that the situation you’re in is any worse or better than someone else. You simply accept what you have and don’t ask a lot of questions. At least most of us grow up that way. Some of you may have grown up from an early age and experienced horrific things in your life that even as a child you knew it wasn’t right.
I grew up without a dad in the home from the time I can remember until my mom remarried when I was 8. My biological dad was around and took me out once a week when I reached a certain age. I can’t honestly remember when that was. I looked forward with great anticipation to Sunday’s when my dad would come by and we would just hang out together. We always had fun though we didn’t do a lot on a regular basis. Usually just go to his house, have lunch, eat snacks, watch TV, listen to music and chat. My dad introduced me to NFL football by purchasing season tickets to the Minnesota Vikings games. Back then (1970) the Vikings played outdoors (the way real football is played up north . For Christmas Story fans, I felt like Randy (main character, Ralphie’s, brother), all bundled up and unable to put my arms in a vertical position whenever we went to a late season game.
When I turned 15 my dad began taking me on a summer trip. Our first trip was a weekend in Duluth, MN. We lived in Minneapolis, MN so it was a couple hour drive and some time to be with my dad. It was fun to just spend time with him. The following year was our country’s Bicentennial celebration. My dad planned a trip for us to go to Boston, Philadelphia and New York to visit some of the most historic cities in our country. It was a lot of fun. I don’t remember much of the details but I remember the anticipation of going, the joy of being with my dad and the excitement of traveling somewhere new and big.
The trips got more extensive (and expensive for him) as the years went on, culminating in our last trip when I was 21, I think. My dad was (and still is) very good to me. We laughed and had a lot of fun together. But, there came a time later in my life where I realized that I missed some significant aspects of “growing up” that should have come from my dad but never did. And, as a result, I went into the most critical relationships and events of my life bereft of knowing what it would take to be a man, a husband or a father. This isn’t a dad-bashing piece but rather an acknowlegement that there are some life lessons I was supposed to pick up from my father but because he wasn’t around regularly I never got them. I never heard him tell me about girls or about how to handle adversity in life. We never spoke about sex and the propensity men have toward lusting. In fact, it was from his house (and my step-fathers stash) that I got involved in pornography (another post forthcoming on that one). He never helped me sort through all the feelings I had when it came to dating or asking me about the woman I had just proposed to and talked with me about the commitment of marriage, the expectations of a husband, the challenges that he faced or why he got divorced. I don’t ever recall having a serious discussion about the real issues of life…ever. Maybe we did and I simply don’t remember– so dad, if you’re reading this, understand that I don’t want to minimize all you did or the challenges you faced. I’m simply laying the groundwork for what I missed because I didn’t grow up in a home designed for successful transitioning from youth to adulthood. And, unfortunately, it was a house that is very similar to our divorce-riddled culture today. It wasn’t abusive, per se, or a terrible experience. I have a lot of fond memories of my childhood. But, for the most part I didn’t receive the tools to mature into a man that I believe God embedded into the fabric of marriage and family.
As I look back and took time in later years to investigate, I have come to realize that my dad really did the best he knew how. Back then I didn’t know (what I would learn later) his upbringing or what legacy his dad had left for him. This happens millions of times around the globe…young men growing up in homes of an absent father. Absent in different and varied ways…emotionally, physically and, mostly, spiritually. That was my story. Neither my dad or my step dad spent ANY time taking me aside and teaching me about the most critical areas of life and preparing me to be a man someday. I now believe with all my soul that the most important aspect that I missed was a grounding in the truth of who I really was as a person. There was no religion in my life as a young man. I knew about God and don’t ever remember thinking there wasn’t a God. But, there was certainly no significant effort as a family to confirm or even an attempt to deny that truth. It just was. So, I was left to find that on my own.
Without going down a big rabbit hole, I now know that every young man needs to determine what he believes about God, Jesus Christ and the bible on his own. No one can live off the faith of his parents. At some point, those beliefs will be challenged to their core and if a young man (or woman) has not solidified what they grew up believing (speaking mostly to those who grew up in “Christian” homes) and, will very likely walk away for some time or maybe for good from the faith they grew up knowing. I think that’s the story of a lot of Atheists today. They have a false view of God through what they saw in their homes. And instead of investigating the truth of God, His Word and the life of Jesus Christ, they take some childhood circumstances that don’t match up and become embittered toward a God they’ve never really sought. They experienced an poor earthly reflection of the true God and have turned their back on Him and, without repentance and a turning of their hearts will be destined for an eternity without Him. Very sad. (See this article by Ricky Gervais to get a glimpse into someone who’s childhood soured him against God and now speaks out about why he doesn’t believe in God at all and ridicules those who do) God designed the family to be the place where we learn about Him, about life and all that God has for those who follow Him. A family who’s firmly established in the truth of God, His Word and built on the rock of Jesus Christ has a chance of building a legacy of life vs. the present day legacy of destruction we see laying all around us. That is the first link that every man needs. A direct link to God the Father through Jesus Christ. Without this link established in ones life, all the others that I’ll share over the next three days will fall woefully short of being impacting. They will help but they will be missing the critical link.
So, that begs the question: Are you “linked” to God through Jesus? Does the fruit of your life reveal the relationship you have with God? What comes out of your heart, your mouth and your mind? Scripture tells us that “out of the overflow of our hearts, our mouth speaks”. Not having a Godly father who taught you about God is not an excuse for not making that the foundation of your life now. It’s certainly a factor in why you might not be followiing that path but it is not an excuse. We are agents of choice when it comes to making wise decisions with the knowledge we have been given. Then, and only then, can we come to conclusions that can transform us from the hopelessness this world gives to the hope that only God through Jesus Christ can give.
That is the KEY link. If it’s a ‘missing link’ in your life, it might be time right now to begin the process of searching for it or, if you’ve found it but laid it down some where, to consider picking it back up. All of the other links a man needs build on this one.