I want to tell you a story. A deeply personal story.
I grew up in a home in West St. Louis County. Ballwin as a matter of fact. There I spent several formative years on good ole Churchill Lane with other kids my age, the perfect public school environment and a set of parents who deeply loved me.
From the age of six and a half till I was just about thirteen years old I lived in a little three bedroom home that was a developmental sanctuary. One of the most development elements I can remember as a young boy was the nightly routine my father brought into my room when it was time to go to bed.
As I was going to bed and the lights were going down my father sat on the side of my bed and asked me how my day went. Good or bad I’d tell him. Then he would tell me he loved me and I’d respond in one-accord the affirmative, “I love you too Dad”. From there he’d pretend to get up, waiting for me to squeal and assertively tell him not to tickle me. After I thought I’d pulled it off in telling him not to tickle me, he’d turn to me ever so coy and would begin tickling the daylights outta me.
Howls and screams would abound. I was wiggling and he was tickling. A joyous ruckus for the ages. The images lovingly etched in my heart.
Then I matured. Got a deeper voice. Grew taller and gained muscle.
I can remember being on a basketball team as I was becoming a man. Somewhere between 12-13 years of age, sinking a winning shot at the end of the game and remember running clear across the court to jump into the arms of my dad. I must have cleared 10-12 chairs in my leap and looked like a flying squid to him. For all I can remember is my Father standing there like a chiseled statue. He did not move, he did not say anything and he sure did not say, “I love you”.
It was painful climbing down off of him. Something changed. The same dad I remember tickling me till I turned blue was not engaging me on any level. I was shocked.
A separation began between me and my Father. For the next thirty-three years I did everything I could to hear those three little words again from my dad.
I starred in school plays, joined several performing choirs, was an athlete in every year of high school, delivered signing telegrams, became a star sales person and won awards at every sales position I had and even went into full-time ministry thinking my performance at one time would ‘nudge’ my dad to say “I love you”. But none of it impacted him like I wanted and I could net get him to respond like I wanted.
Then in November of 2012 I hosted a banquet for a ministry I lead. The speaker was John Fuller from Focus on the Family and he gave a masterful presentation on the Prodigal Son. As only John could do, he turned the subject into the Forgiving Father. For twenty-five minutes he kept us spell bound listening to him as he transparently spoke about being a father of rules, a father of discipline. How he as a dad had blown it at times and how, now, well on into his years as a dad he realized so much more about grace. Using the backdrop of the Forgiving Father ~and not~ focusing on the prodigal son John sweetly demonstrated the Father’s love for us.
My dad was in the audience hearing this, some thirty feet away from John. As soon as John was done speaking it was my turn. I reminded the guests of all the wonderful things happening with our work, the reason they were there and how they could support our calling. When I was done I quietly made my way to my table.
My dad sprang from his chair, came directly over to me and knocked me off my feet. He:
- …told me I did a great job.
- …told me he was proud of me.
- …said, “I love you”.
- …gave me a great bear hug.
All I can tell you is this: That single embrace and personal encounter taught me more than any sermon, any Christian broadcast or real world example of love by my bride and children ten-fold. For a longing in my heart to hear my Father say, “I love you” – a yearning to feel my dads embrace and – a hunger to know he appreciated me as father-to-son were fulfilled.
It’s the same for every child born today. I’m not special, I’m not unique. I’m not in this thing all alone.
More than 2.5 million men ages 15-24 are going to become fathers this year – and the lions share – have or never will experience the power of a fathers embrace like I have. They will never know the restorative healing power of a fathers touch, and as such, not know how to embrace their children.
As a Father, you can help break that cycle.
Here are 3 ideas you can try, right now, and break the curse of an untouched child:
- Start early and often – They’re easy to hold when they are little. Kiss them, hug them and embrace them appropriately ALL the years they grow in your house. (Yes, I still hug and kiss my 17 year old son, who lets me, in front of his family and peers)
- Say what was not said to you – A good number of you reading this were not told, “I Love you” often or maybe at all. Deep down, you know you want it said to you. Well if you want it said to you, think of how much more your precious kids want it from you. Break the barrier, if you’ve got God’s love, give it away (WITH YOUR MOUTH) often and without fear.
- Turn around and make it right – Those times you want to walk away mad knowing in your heart you should be doing something else with your child to make it right – well dummy – that’s the Holy Spirit bonking your noggin. Take His cue. Turn around and make it right. Your transparent repentance before your child will build them up, help dirve down the temptation for them to lie to you and keep them from seeking some one else’s approval at any cost.
It took my dad 33 years to return to a place he and I were comfortable with. As a result, my dad, well into his 70’s and I talk on the phone more than 2X’s per week and get together when we can having a blast talking and loving one another. A great healing and acceleration of our relationship has occurred.
Can you imagine if something had happened where my father would have been taken from me – before – he could do this?
Now imagine that in your life.
Now imagine that in 2.5 million guys ages 15-24 becoming father’s this year.
As a man, start embracing your children and defeat the enemy of God – TODAY.