October 11, 2014

The Heart of a Father

His life this past week has been a crazy whirlwind, and this evening he finds himself, once again, in a strange city on the other side of the country, far away from the family he loves.  It is a constant effort to find the right balance between taking care of his responsibilities at work, and taking care of his wife and children.  And since it is impossible to be in two places at once, the struggle remains.

He has an unexpected few hours of unscheduled time, so he decides to take a walk along the beach.  To take a few minutes to try to unwind after his long day of meetings, from the relentless pressure to produce more, more and always more.

As his feet sink into the warm sand, and he listens to the comforting sound of the waves whooshing in and out, back and forth, he takes a deep breath and feels his tight shoulders begin to relax.  His thoughts travel towards home, towards the one place his heart longs to be.  And in his rare moment of solitude he begins to reflect on the past week.  What a week it has been!

Last week-end, he and his wife became aware of an emergency situation involving a single mother and her six young children.  They had nowhere to go.  They didn’t know to whom they could turn, and the mother’s worst nightmares were about to happen:  she was in imminent danger of being separated from her children.  When he and his wife heard of her desperate circumstances, it didn’t require much discussion; it was almost a foregone conclusion.  Of course they would welcome her into their own home.  She could stay for as long as she needed.

Their friends and family were shocked at their eager willingness to offer their home to a complete stranger.  Overnight the number of children in their home totaled 11!  Where would everyone sleep?  How would everyone fit in their car?  Who would drive the children to their school, now located in a different county?

But no one was more surprised than he was himself.  He had never before considered the possibility of opening his home to someone else. 

His wife may have suggested the idea of adoption a time or two.  Every once in a while, when they had a chance to envision their hopes and dreams for the future, she dared to mention to him her secret longing to adopt a child.  But it seemed so improbable.  How could she convince him that in spite of her own overloaded responsibilities, her overbooked calendar, and her 5 overly-rambunctious children, that inexplicably, her heart had room for another one?

His response was almost always the same:  maybe some day . . .

It’s not that his heart is hard or selfish or cold.  It is actually the opposite.  The truth is, he has the heart of a father.

The heart of a father wants to protect his wife.  It sees her exhaustion, and wants to shield her from it.  It wants to help make her life easier.  To ease the burden of her many, many responsibilities.  It wants to support her, encourage her, offer her some respite from the daily monotony of cleaning, correcting, cooking, and carpool.  How does adopting a child make any sense?

The heart of a father loves his children.  Passionately loves them and prays daily that they would surrender their lives to the Lord.  It often feels the frustration of never having enough time to spend with the 5 who are so precious to him.  Rushing out the door in the morning, long days at the office, arriving home at the end of the day, spent and weary.  The heart of a father does find time to build them a tree-house in the back yard.  To take them camping sometimes and to coach their soccer games.  To read books to them at night before tucking them into bed.   His time is already spread painfully thin.  How does adopting a child make any sense?

The heart of a father wants to take care of his family.  It motivates him to work hard and take seriously his role of provider.  Each month it carefully pays the bills and puts a little bit into a savings account, hoping that there will be enough for college for all 5 children, a wedding for his daughter, a comfortable retirement.  Budgeting and planning and preparing for the future makes sense.  Adopting a child does not.

When the topic of adopting a child comes up, the answer is always the same:  maybe some day.  

And suddenly, here they are with a house full to the brim with a mother and her small children, depending on them, quickly worming their way into their hearts and lives.  How did that happen?

His walk on the beach and his reverie are interrupted when a couple of small, smooth stones catch his attention.   He reaches down to pick them up, and as he rolls them around in his hand, he thinks, “This would be a perfect treasure for these 6 children, now living as guests in my home.  They are small enough to hide among their clothes or school items, so that they would not burden them wherever God might take them.  Their journey is far from over, and they will carry few possessions on the way.  I will tell the children that these rocks can remind them of their sojourn in my home; that God has a special plan for them, and that He will likely carry them to many far-away places in their lives.”

He looked for a few more stones just like them, thinking that he could do a project like make a wind chime, perhaps to hang in their car.  Had their father ever done projects with them?  Doubtful.  The oldest was quite young when their father disappeared.  Even so, it is unlikely he would have had the time or opportunity.  He asks his Heavenly Father for help to represent Him and His love to these fatherless children. 

He leaves the beach without really counting the stones, drops them off in his hotel room without a second thought, on to the next meeting, the next task at hand.  Several hours later, he settles into his hotel and takes the stones to the sink to wash off the sand.  He sets them on a towel to dry, and that is when those stones practically shout to him:  he had unknowingly collected 11.  Exactly 11.  One for every child in his home.

Instantly he falls to his knees, weeping.  His eyes are opened, and he understands with clarity the heart of The Father. 

The heart of The Father cares deeply about every one of those children, not just the ones who were born to him. 

The heart of The Father will provide him with everything he needs, just as he desires to provide his children with everything that they need.

The heart of The Father desires that he put aside his worry for the future, and simply to trust Him today for his daily bread.  Why?  So that he won’t feel hunger?  No, so that he can most effectively glorify his Father, hallowing His name.

“O, Father,” he cries out, “I confess that I am so often unwilling and just unable to believe Your word. Please forgive my disbelief.  I desire to trust You and walk in whole-hearted reliance on Your care.  Change me.  Transform me.  Cause me to trust You and to see how Your provisions are there to assist me in being a living sacrifice to You.  I want to walk closely with You today.  And tomorrow.  And forever."

He doesn't know what the future holds.  He doesn't know how long these children will be staying in his home.  He doesn't know if God will call his family to adoption some day.  But for now, for today, his heart overflows.  

"Help me," he prays.  "Help me to have a heart like Yours . . . the heart of a Father.”

Special thanks to Dr. Marc Ulrich for honestly and transparently sharing his father's perspective.

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