I am a broken man. A man who easily preaches grace, bu often fails to demonstrate it. A man who has honestly tried to do what is right for my family and those I have been called to serve and lead. Yet I am still a broken man. And no – I don’t want sympathy. I don’t deserve sympathy.
Not broken in the sense of lost without Christ. But broken in my imperfections. Broken in my personal issues. Broken in my failure to grieve over the loss of both of my parents within months of each other. Broken in my apparently vain attempts to be the man I think I am suppose to be.
I love my family – indeed, there is nothing else in this uspide-down world that I love more. From Diana, my wife going on 30 years, to my two daughters who really are precious jewels to me – and in who I have a great deal of pride – and yet I am so very unworthy to be a husband or a father. I have so frequently demonstrated a lack of grace, or sometimes a misdirected grace. You see, I get angry. No – I am not a danger to anyone when I am angry. And indeed, over the years, my anger has become far more compartmentalized and even more constructively-directed. Mostly. Yet there is still ONE thing that will push my proverbial button – ONE thing that I simply cannot tolerate – and that is lying. And the more brazen the lie, the deeper the anger wells up from.
It doesn’t really matter WHO it is lying – whether it be a politician or a family member – lying just simply triggers me in ways nothing else will. Yes, we have sadly grown to essentially expect politicians to lie – it is almost as if our support hinges on just how good of a liar a politician is. But when it comes to our family (or those we view as close as family), a lie is a particularly offensive and painful dagger. Even small lies cut deeply. So when big lies, on top of big lies – then in the face of contrary evidence- even more lies – the offense becomes more than I can handle. I pray. I count. I try to distract myself – but alas: I simply fail and generally blow my lid. And this is where I most fully fail as a husband and father: I forget about grace. Maybe it is the fleshly perspective of personal offense and injury (lying is an act of hate and betrayal). Or maybe it is my own personal pride being dented by the lack of concern by the one lying. But regardless – lying, particularly brazen lying by those I love – quite simply is intolerable.
Unfortunately, even a justified outcome/penalty for lies, when not administered with reasonable grace can be more of a hurtful kludge than a useful and productive tool. And I’m afraid that, by my own grace failures, I have begun to learn the real meaning of this text:
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.Ephesians 6::4
For years, this one verse has hung out at the tail-end of an often-preached passage. Many enjoy reading and hearing the command for children to obey their parents (vvs 1-3) that come right before it. But verse 4 is essentially as tossed in the closet to be ignored nearly as much as the seemingly politically-incorrect verse 5 (slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters). Right there in-between – is the clear command for fathers to NOT provoke your children to anger. But what does this really mean?
I must admit, my perspective was way-off. Maybe partially as a product of my first encounters with this verse in the KJV – “provoke not your children to wrath“. In all honesty, I would guess my viewpoint was primarily a picture of child abuse- unreasonable expectations (even super-human demands), impossible standards, even dramatic forms of favoritism might would have fit into my viewpoint.
But recent events have brought new light to my eyes – a new light that causes me much grief. Because the actual sense of this actually is, as John MacArthur put it:
“…suggests a repeated, ongoing pattern of treatment that gradually builds up a deep-seated anger and resentment that boils over in outward hostility.”MacArthur, John F., Ephesians (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary) ©1986, p. 317.
In fact, Dr. MacArthur went on to say that often it is really thought of as in the child’s best interests, and could include well-meaning over-protection. But the one point he brought out was that continually questioning their judgment can build walls between a father and their child. Trying to control a child’s will is a futile battle – but with grace, one can often help guide it.
And I have utterly failed. Failed to the point of now believing that even outside intrusions that recently have come to light, that I wasn’t even aware of – are still, indirectly, my fault. Have my grace-less words and over-bearing responses pushed my daughter into a state of brokenness? Have a I unintentionally placed her on the edge of oblivion totally confused and lost regarding faith and eternity even? Have I, in my efforts to protect her, actually driven her into danger and trouble? My youngest and I use to share some hobbies, I most definitely enjoyed her accomplishments and have always been proud of her equine knowledge and developing riding (and training) skills. She was my hunting buddy – my deer-cleaning helper, and my “partner in crime”. And I have apparently, despite my best of intentions, lost that buddy. Not that I expected her to remain that little girl hanging on her daddy’s words and wanting to be with me – but I feel like I lost her – because I lack grace- and because of it – I have provoked her to anger…
In my efforts to be consistent and firm, while also trying to convey the seriousness of offense (remember my beginning regarding the truth)- I have taken away what is more precious than her own life (in her eyes) – and now I don’t even know what to do. Again… Fail.
At this point, as we seek help to deal with the current situation, while also dealing with some recently-revealed external issues, our biggest need… MY biggest need – is prayers. Prayers for grace. Prayers that I would demonstrate far more grace, and not just talk about it. Because at this point, I feel completely unqualified to be anything – unworthy to be this young woman’s “father”, and have most assuredly lost the title of “Dad”. I just pray I haven’t lost my daughter…