It’s raining outside. Actually, it’s pouring. The repetitive patter creates a rhythmic backdrop for thought. The occasional roar of thunder breaks the pattern. I’m alone with my thoughts and Him. This is my personal sanctuary.
This morning, the rain reminds me of His grace, His life-giving hope to an otherwise dying soul.
Has it really been five years? Is my little boy really five years old?
I can hardly stomach the thought. Whoever wrote the words, “Time is on your side,” well, they lied. Time is your nemesis – stealing away precious moments – casually rushing by, careless of its effects.
Amid these moments in time, there are some we cannot erase. Others we would prefer they be erased, if only they could. Oddly enough, the birth of my son and the events leading up to it represent both ends of this spectrum.
If time has done anything at all, maybe it has helped me find comfort in both. Either way, this morning, the thunder brings a piercing echo of a painful past and the rain, a soothing reflection washing it all away.
Today, Matthew is five years old.
An Letter to my Son
My road to fatherhood was anything but enjoyable. If you ever read my book, and I hope you will, you’ll see these words:
“I began to lose count of how many times I would wait outside the bathroom to see if that month’s treatments had worked; waiting to hear Liz’s shouts of joy from a positive pregnancy test. Instead, it was the continued loss of hope.”
This awful cycle lasted nearly three years. Truthfully, these were some of the worst moments of my life.
I’m finally comfortable with the truth. Back then, I listened to lies. I have come to learn that lies create fear and fear itself, is a liar. The truth is, my social drinking was an attempt to mask the thing I couldn’t fix. Furthermore, the countless hours I poured into my work were a hopeful attempt at achievement, a facade to the failure elsewhere.
If you don’t hear anything else from me son, hear this: trophies and plaques and money are about as helpful at healing brokenness as that fifth rum and coke.
I hope you never have to find that out on your own.
Fortunately, at rock bottom, I held on to hope. The hope that God hadn’t left me. He hadn’t. Actually, forget what I said a few lines ago, this is the most important thing I hope you read in this letter: no matter where you are or how separated you feel, God hasn’t left you. He loves you too much. At times, my love may fail you, but His never will. Whenever you feel like He’s finished with you, He’s just getting started.
Marriage counseling helped your mom and me process through our challenges and it encouraged conversations that had long-since been abandoned. Those hard conversations were necessary for our growth and stability. You see, we thought children were the ultimate goal. As much as we love you and your brothers, marriage itself is the blessing. It is our opportunity to honor each other in service to God. If you miss that, you’re missing the point. Children fix a bad marriage, about as well as social drinking or a successful business.
I laugh now at my own naivety, but you’ll learn that clarity and discernment are very difficult to grasp. The enemy will try to keep you blind to their importance, telling you they don’t matter. Don’t listen. They matter immensely and you must search for them.
As I traversed these new perspectives, I began to find new strength. A familiar support from above that I had nearly abandoned. Your mom and I had finally come to a place where we truly began to love each other. Our love to that point wasn’t fake, it was simply immature–circumstantial at best.
True love transcends circumstance, that’s when you know it’s real. It becomes a reflection of His love.
As we were beginning to find this true love, it happened. The hope-crushing words from the doctor, “It looks like, if you are able to conceive at all, it won’t be naturally.”
A passage from the Book of Joel was painfully fresh:
“The joy of mankind is withered away.”
Up until that point, I’d never considered not being a father. It hurt a lot more than I thought it would. But, I needed those words. For a man who’d always been so sure of his abilities and inner determination, I needed to rely on something other than my own strength.
God was beginning to show me that my deepest longings were simply a call to trust Him.
As the prophet Joel wrote:
“Even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and He relents from sending calamity.”
So that’s what we did. We wept and we mourned, but we rested in the grace of God. That was our hope. He knew better than we knew for ourselves. He always does.
One month later, on November 12, 2009, your mom was waiting for me when I walked in the door. Her bloodshot eyes carried this look of disbelief mixed with joy. Grace flooded her, making her more beautiful than I had ever seen her. She didn’t even have to speak the words. I knew I was going to be a father.
November 12th is ‘Duke’s’ birthday. It is also the day Grandpa Jim died. For your mom and me, it was God’s reminder that our father’s legacies were to continue. And that our Father was in control. As we would soon realize, we desperately needed Him to be.