I felt it right away. I mean, in the hallway in the minutes following my father’s death, I knew something that I didn’t understand. There was a shifting of a mantle that was real. I was no longer simply the son of Tom; I was now one of the carriers of his legacy.
My father’s father struggled. He had an alcohol problem and the life my father knew as a son was drastically different from the life I have known as a son. The benefits of my father’s faithfulness which I have enjoyed were not a product his heritage as much as it was the legacy he began. As a result, I inherited a heritage with benefits that had predominately begun with my parents. They initiated a legacy that was significantly distinct from the heritage they received.
It’s easier for me than it was for my dad. He made a way for me. He created and I get to build on. My sister and I have the benefit of a higher floor than the one which was passed on to our father. Now we get to steward that and our ceiling is higher since the floor was elevated for us.
The mantle of a legacy is a mantle of honor. It has a weight to it, but not a burden as much as a privilege. There is privilege in my position as an heir of the legacy my father passed on. As such, I have an appreciation for its value and want to handle it with intentional care.
My father wasn’t perfect and neither am I. Legacy is not the burden of perfection but the choice to honor. The choice to be intentional is what multiplies what was started before me. Whatever I received, I want to pass on to the best of my ability. I choose to honor my father, his memory and legacy by paying attention to it as displayed through how I serve and care for my family.
That responsibility has a weight to it, but it isn’t burdensome as much as it is empowering. I’ve seen what it looks like and have been equipped to walk in it. Now I lean into the grace of Jesus to realize the fullness of the potential that has been handed off. Multiplication of blessings is available to the thousandth generation by the grace and favor or God, and by agreeing with Him regarding His heart and desire to continue what He started in my dad.
There are only two choices; fear or love. One or the other is going to be the driver. Neither will be particularly overt most of the time, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t in control. We are either operating from the security of love or the insecurity of fear.
As I’ve been writing previously the love that we know from our father can help us to know the love of the Father. In the absence of knowing His love, we’re left vulnerable where otherwise He willingly provides, protects and promotes us. When we know His unconditional love as our Source of love, then our supply is abundant. We can work from knowing that Source and tapping in when fears and insecurities creep up to attempt to hijack His purposes in our design.
The security of love is the fuel of greatness. Greatness is accompanied by selflessness and selflessness won’t breathe without security. True greatness is within what we do for others; it has an impact beyond us. Only those that experience that impact can declare greatness; it can’t be declared by the one that seeks the tag. It can be declared by another and the other is only like to declare it where they have benefited. That benefit comes from selflessness and that selflessness comes from love.
It’s not love that is conjured up, however. Love isn’t produced within us; it’s received to be distributed. We can’t work from an empty tank and we can’t give away what we don’t have.
Where we are not connected to the Father, we are left exposed. Exposed without a fall back. No safety net leaves us fearful, even if just a little bit. Even if just a hint. Even if just the absence of love.
Our dads could and should model the opportunity that the Father presents. They should provide, protect and promote us. They should, to some degree, be our safety net. No matter how good or bad they are, they are limited and are only a bridge or a barrier to the Father. He is the only legitimate Source.
Even a great dad, even my dad who was great, can’t be our Source. That’s OK, though, because truly great dads didn’t want to be our source in the first place because they were selfless. Because they loved. Because they were loved.
The pain that comes in the wake of losing my father has layers that I didn’t expect. I’m caught off guard by the emotions that accompany the hurt.
I didn’t expect the fear. For the first time in 50 years, the guy that I could always count on isn’t there. The safe place, reliable counsel, unconditional love and complete support is gone. The result included a feeling of vulnerability that I didn’t expect because I have never felt it before. I found myself uncovered and unprotected in a way that I had never known.
I’ve ministered to hundreds of people with significant dad issues and represented hundreds more as a criminal defense attorney. I’ve understood the reality of the how important the dad relationship is and diagnosed the cause and effect correctly. I didn’t know and couldn’t have known the depth of the fear that accompanies the hurt.
I have felt aloneness in the adjustment to my father’s absence even though I enjoyed the benefit of his presence for 50 years. It breaks my heart to know that some people go through their entire life with the pain and fear that come from an absent father without knowing the joy of the contrast. I don’t have to stay in the hurt or the fear and neither do they, but the fact that I know what it’s supposed to feel like is a huge benefit.
In the processing of the grief and void of my dad’s consistency, I’ve realized the love of the Father. I’ve known it before, but it’s different now. It was incredible always, but it’s different when there isn’t a father. The joy of knowing that I am a son to the One that gave me a father in the first place is tangible.
No matter if your father story is one of a good dad, bad dad or somewhere in the middle dad, the target and invitation is always to the Father. He wants to provide the eternal relationship which may or may not have been modeled well in your temporal experience.
God gave His son so we could be sons and daughters. We are invited into the security of a relationship which will never end. We are invited into the safe place, reliable counsel, unconditional love and complete support of a Father that is perfect and forever. We don’t have to be afraid; we can be loved.
In the weeks leading up to my father’s death, I was reminded of a previous surgery he had been through. Eighteen months prior to this most recent surgery, he had been through a similar procedure. Someone had encouraged me to “leave nothing unsaid” as we entered into that previous procedure.
As I had stood by his bed prior to surgery the first time, I considered what it was I should say and I couldn’t come up with anything. My father and I had discussions in the flow of life leading up to that point from which I knew that he knew how I felt about him. More importantly, perhaps, I knew how he felt about me.
My father had told me that he loved me and that he was proud of me with his words and actions. I had heard it from him and I had heard it through others that he had told. I also saw it in is support, presence and contribution to things I did. He proved it by being there.
- He was my Boy Scout leader
- He commissioned me as an Army officer
- He wanted to see my office at various jobs I had
- He came to court just to watch one day
- He came to “Bold” men’s meetings I was leading
- He came on a Quest I was facilitating
- He was at my book signing when I rolled out my first book
- He wanted me to come and speak to the men at his church and set up a men’s event
Really, the list goes on and on; those are just what jump out initially. I don’t have any doubts about who my father said I am. He said it and he showed it. His investment positioned me to receive the Truth.
God’s relationship with us is as Father. He wants to be “Abba” to us; not a distant or angry Judge. The realization of His identity as well as ours comes from Him but it is easier to realize when/if our dads agree.
From the affirmation that my father gave me, it was easier to know of the love that the Father has for me. From my dad being there, it’s easier to know that my Dad is always there.
Your father is either a bridge or a barrier to the Father, but the target for all of us is the same no matter if we had a good dad, bad dad or absent dad. The target is to hear from Spirit to spirit that “you’re a son.” Once you hear that, the good, bad or ugly of your earthly father has its proper context and you have your eternal perspective.
The bad news is we can’t do it; the good news is we don’t have to. We really don’t have anything we have to prove or accomplish that advances us in favor or blessings. We don’t have any burden to do stuff that protects God’s reputation or advances His cause of our own initiative. We do get to, however, join Him in the stuff that He will do.
“We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain.” 2 Corinthians 6:1.
Paul writes about the opportunity of walking as an ambassador of Christ, offering the message of reconciliation to a world that needs to be reconciled to Him. The only thing that qualifies anyone as an ambassador of Christ and minister of reconciliation is that they have been reconciled to Christ. The qualifier is Him. The Savior is Him. We just receive.
In the same way that we once were lost and dead in our separation from Him, others still are and we are commissioned to bring them the good news of His salvation. In the bringing of that good news, however, He doesn’t become any less the Savior than He was when we were saved. It’s Him that saves and we get to be there when He does. We get to participate with Him. We don’t do it for Him because we don’t have capacity to save.
Remember what Paul wrote in the passage quoted, “together with Him.” How many times have we said or heard others say they were doing something or wanted to do something “for Him.” Big difference between the “with” and the “for.”
Agreement with Christ as King in the advancement of His Kingdom is acceptance of an invitation into life and living. We are just as impacted in engaging the lost and broken as the lost and broken are in our engagement. We are encouraged and alive in the purpose that comes with accepting the invitations into the eternal even as we are otherwise bound by the temporal.
Doing stuff for Him is burdensome and lifeless. It’s fulfillment of an obligation that never existed towards a purpose we can’t accomplish. It’s hoping distant father notices the striving child and grants approval based on performance. It’s orphan stuff.
As children of God the Father through Christ the Son, we are already in Him. We can’t get anymore in and we don’t need to do anything else. We are invited to experience Him in an infinite variety of ways through our finite earthly existence. We are sons and daughters in Him and we don’t need to prove it or earn it.