Monday, March 23, 2009

Cutting Wood and Building Bridges

I have had the joy of walking together on my fathering journey with several men over the years. I have a friend who lives nearby so we began to meet at a mid-point for breakfast on the first Saturday of the month for mutual support. Over the past several years this man has financially supported our ministry to fathers with the hard-earned profits from his construction business.

As we have watched our young adults begin to leave home and seek to find their way, we have both been perplexed that this “launching” has not exactly been as easy as we envisioned. My friend has three sons and each has taken a different road entering the adult world. My friend even experienced some depression as his sons struggled on their journey. He thought that he had failed as a father, even though he had been an extremely faithful, “hands-on” dad, home schooling his older sons and younger daughters together with his wife.

As we met recently, he began to talk about one of his sons who had joined the Army and was engaged to marry. His voice cracked a bit when he began to talk about him. His son, who could only spend one day at home before he needed to return from leave, surprised him with what he wanted to do on that one precious day. “I want to spend it with you, Dad, cutting and stacking wood together just like we used to do.” With that, his son explained that in the Army he is often asked how he learned to do so many things. He explains, “Let me tell you a story about a boy who grew up with his dad in the woods.”

My friend had thought that much of his “hands-on” fathering had been wasted but now was hearing that he had not only equipped his son with a certain competence as a young adult but had created special father-son memories that his son deeply valued. My breakfast buddy has reminded me that hands-on fathering is the most valuable investment we can make in the lives of our children.

It is so helpful to have friendships where we can share stories like this with each other. Why? Because we need to remind each other that what we do with our children is always more than “cutting and stacking wood.” Through these activities bridges are built from one generation to another.

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