The Father Who Wants to Be Known
SEPTEMBER 1, 2020
It’s not always easy for men to be open and honest.
Most of us were taught from an early age that openly expressing our feelings and sharing our struggles is not a particularly “manly” thing to do. We learn to hide who we are from an early age. This was highlighted during a study trip to the Georgia mountains when my wife Caron and I walked in the early mornings and evenings. We often saw lots of deer—all of them does. We never once saw a buck—they were all hiding. Of course, men aren’t exactly like bucks. But it did remind me of guys in one way: we hide well. We can live in isolation and feel like we thrive, staying hidden and unknown. It hurts us more than we know to be this way, and it hurts our sons even more.
In heaven I hope to sit down over a cup of coffee with my earthly dad because his story was hidden from me. He wasn’t able to coherently lay it out for me while he was here on earth. It was one of the reasons that I slipped and tripped at the starting line of my manhood. I’m sure there were many reasons he was so hidden. Perhaps one factor was that he lost his dad at age eleven—an earthshaking loss for a young boy. He said more than once to me that his dad was the person most like Jesus Christ that he had ever met. When the biggest person in his life was ripped away, he must have been cut to shreds. The dangling components of his inner life never came together as he became the man of the house way too early.
How would this orphan boy become a man? Would he follow in his father’s footsteps as planned and become a missionary doctor too? His Venezuelan grandfather rejected him when he wouldn’t stay in Venezuela and instead came to the US for medical school. World War II yanked him away to fix bodies torn by bullets and flying hot metal. The new normal of postwar Los Angeles must have been anything but normal. Marriage, two kids, a career out of medicine, divorce, remarriage, then death from cardiac arrest at eighty-seven. Unhappiness and darkness marked his life. He missed out on being a father to his son and daughter by his own decisions.
In my experience, sons want and need to know their fathers. A son that knows his father is like a sprinter with his feet firmly planted at the beginning of the race on the starting blocks. A father who lets his son know him, who opens his heart and his life to his son, acts like starting blocks for a boy. Feet firmly planted, he can move ahead more confidently and quickly in life, springing into manhood. Boys with a hidden dad slip and slide a lot at the starting point of manhood as they try to get some positive forward momentum in life.
When a son doesn’t really know his father, he can’t really know himself. A father who is unhidden—who shares who he is with his son without holding back anything—is able to help his son find his own point of reference and identity in a chaotic world. A father differentiates his son from the crowd, focuses him, reinforces the point that his son is unique, and points to the trails in life that are consistent with their family.
If you had an earthly father who opened his life and heart to you, you know your father’s story. That’s a wonderful gift. But to really know ourselves, we have to go further than our earthly fathers. We have to know the Father—the one who made us and knows us intimately. We have to know Him. All that our own earthly fathers can do only imperfectly, if at all, our heavenly Father does perfectly.
The good news is that our heavenly Father wants to be known. He wants his sons to know all about Him because He is not hidden. He is a totally committed “all-in” Father who wants you to know Him and His love for you.