Nearly a single day doesn’t go by without thinking of my dad. Each morning, as part of my routine, I put on this bracelet. It was the only spontaneous gift I ever remember my dad ever giving to me. One day back in the late 70’s, I showed up at this car dealership to meet him for lunch. Dad was sporting his usual business suit attire. His 6’2″ frame always looked good in a suit, regardless if it was all black, if he had some flashy shirt/tie combo or if he decided to wear his fire engine red slacks that day, some how he always pulled it off. Anyway, I noticed his bracelet dangling off his wrist and I told him, “That is a rad bracelet dad.” He said, ” you like that son?”, and he took it off and put it on my wrist. I was pretty stoked. I misplaced it for many years and when I found it, I started wearing it everyday. It keeps me connected to him.
Dad was a hard worker. He was driven to be successful. He had something to prove to his own father, I believe. In fact, I think most men want to make their dads proud; proud in their work, with their families as husbands and fathers. For my sister, brother and myself, I’d say we had a pretty normal upbringing as a white-collar family. Dad managed a Sav-On Drug store and mom was “stay at home” taking care of us kids and managing the family. We found our recreation and escape at the Colorado river with the boats, dune buggies, dirt bikes and all. I didn’t realize until later in life how much my dad needed those weekend river trips to download and to escape the turmoil that was going on inside of him.
I think it was somewhere in 74′ my mom sat me down on the couch and told me that they were going to be separating. Like all the other “river-rat” families that we hung out with, whose marriages fell like dominoes and their families broke up, ours would now follow. Dad would be leaving us. Twelve years old and I cried like a baby. Before I knew it, he was out of the house and living in a small apartment. The kitchen didn’t even have a stove. He had a single burner hot plate. I remember him joking about it, but I know that on the inside, it was killing him that he had put us all in this situation. Dad had an addiction that destroyed his family. And though you would never know it, the pornography had taken it’s toll on his marriage, and cost him his family.
Dad didn’t handle the divorce well. Who does really; eighteen years of marriage down the toilet because of a sexual addition. He took some Valium one night an did a little “bodywork” on his ’69 Cadillac with a sledgehammer. Then he came back and begged my mom to take him back. She declined. The pattern had been established. It was over for them both, and us kids. I was sad and angry. This wasn’t supposed to happen to our family. We laughed together, ate dinners together and played together on the weekends. Even a brief stint in the Mormon church couldn’t keep us together. Dad seemed to spiral after that. He remarried a “river-rat” lady whom he thought would bring some satisfaction to his addiction. Their relationship seemed to be all sexual. (Her string bikinis could not contain her assets.) Theirs became a very toxic relationship. Sex became her weapon and she wielded it against him often. After twenty plus years of a dysfunctional marriage, dad couldn’t go home to her anymore. His addiction had blinded him, gripped him, and was now it was preparing to destroy him.
Flash forward to December ’98. Our family had just spent Christmas with dad and his wife. He didn’t seem to be himself. Dad could fill room with his personality and his laugh. He loved his kids. He loved his grandkids, but that Christmas he was very somber. I didn’t know it at the time, but dad was severely depressed. He was not doing well in the car business. The young up and coming salesman were beating up the sixty-two year old veteran of the automobile industry and he was tired, tired of the fight to make a buck, tired of his broken second marriage and exhausted from his addiciton.
I drove up the driveway on January 3rd, 1999 and something kinda settled on me as I got out of the car. Looking back, I believe it was the Lord preparing me for what I was about to hear. I walked in the door of my house and my wife was waiting for me, but not with the usual smile and a kiss. I could hear my twelve year old son crying in the back bedroom. Michelle told me to sit down. She just got off the phone with my stepmom; dad had died yesterday. I dropped my head and began to cry. I asked her after a moment, “How did it happen?” “He took his own life.” My knees gave out and I dropped to the floor and cried so hard I could not contain myself. I was angry and sad at the same time. I could here the rest of my kids crying, scared of seeing daddy like this. My mind flashed back to that morning in ’74 when mom told me dad was leaving us, and now he had left us again.
Theres so much more to the story that this blog won’t allow for, and a lot has happened in the last seventeen years since dad’s death. But I will tell you this, I forgive my dad for leaving us, both times. Because of my trust in Christ, because of my hope in God’s redemptive work though the cross of Christ I am able to keep living. I’m able to keep the pursuit of being a godly husband, of being a father to my kids and to keep pointing them back to Christ. I’m able to process my sadness when I miss him so deeply. His mistakes are a lesson to me on what not to do, and how not to live. I thank God for my dad. There are so many life events that he has missed out upon; watching all his kids become God fearing adults, his grandkids growing up and learning to chase after the heart of God, and missing the joy of his great grands.
It is my hope for you fathers reading this that your Father’s day was blessed. But more importantly, I hope that you have found your purpose, your healing and your salvation in Christ. There is a great worship album that I have been soaking upon, “here as in Heaven by elevation Worship. Here’s one of the life-giving songs for you to soak upon: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=rYQ5yXCc_CA
I can tell you that whatever good you may see in me, any success that I may have in my family, is only because I have had to spend many a moment over the last 30 plus years at the altar of Jesus. In Him, I have found healing to my broken heart. In Him, I have found the strength to take on a new day when my heart is just not in it. In Him I have found courage to face my fears: fears of failing as a husband, a father, a man after His heart, that He won’t forgive me of my repeated sins. My dads errors, his failings have pushed me closer to the cross. I fail daily. In my heart and my mind I fall short of Him and His will for me…but I also swim in the ocean of His grace and forgiveness.
The word of God is filled with a history of broken men who have been used to accomplish His purpose, and His purpose continues today. Are you men, part of His purpose, or are you hamstrung by some sin that the enemy has convinced you to live with? My God tells us to throw it aside and run! “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12.
I love my dad. I hope and pray that somehow, he found Jesus before he took his last breath in that lonely hotel room. I trust my sovereign Father in heaven to make that call. For you and me, who are still breathing, we need to keep running. Run my brothers. Run to Jesus. Run to your victory. Run to your healing. Run to your Savior and settle for nothing less, than all of Him. Peace friends.