Pastor, this is my personal invitation for you to come to the 2012 Conference for Pastors on God, Manhood & Ministry: Building Men for the Body of Christ. Fathers of children with disabilities need you to really get biblical manhood.
Who Am I?
On the evening of July 4, 1995 I stood outside Fairview Riverside Hospital, watching the rain pour down in sheets. My life felt like it was over. My son had been born less than 10 hours before and we knew he was blind. And we had been warned there could be other things "wrong" with him.
I stood there thinking, "who am I?" I knew how to be a grandson and a son and a brother and an uncle. But the father of a boy who would experience life so differently than I did — I didn’t know how to do that. He was my first child. I have no clue about how to be a father.
Merely an Appendage?
Over the following months and years I would discover that many (not all) medical, educational, and social-work professionals thought they understood my role: you’re not that important.
I would attend appointments with my wife and discover they weren’t interested in what I had observed or thought. Most questions would be directed to my wife. If I had said something of interest, they would seek confirmation from her before noting it in their charts or records. I was merely an appendage with health insurance.
I’m not alone. Most fathers of children with disabilities have stories like that. We can even feel it in the church.
This sort of thing can feed deadly, horrible things, like men who pour their lives into work or alcohol or pornography or sports or hobbies rather than in their children and marriage. And I don't mean men who walk away from their families. I mean men who simply disconnect.
Disconnecting isn’t all that difficult when men start talking to themselves with nothing more than a cultural compass to guide them: I didn’t ask for this child with disabilities, everyone says I deserve better than this, nobody listens to me anyway. . . . so why not tune it out and turn to other things that make me feel validated?
Pastors, Point Us to God
Pastor, your church should be the primary place where fathers are given a true vision of manhood. Where else can men hear that our sovereign God will supply all that they need (Philippians 4:19)? That children are a blessing (Psalm 127:3-5)? That disability is part of God's works (John 9:1-3)? That he will strengthen me for what he has called me to do (Psalm 119:25-28)? That men are called into joyful, sacrificial service (Ephesians 5:25-33)? That all things work together for good for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:28)?
I have been surrounded by extraordinary men my entire life, beginning with my father and grandfather. And as solid as my upbringing was, I still needed my pastors to get this issue right. I need them to persistently, kindly, and directly point me to God as the source of hope and strength. Will you point the men in your church to him?
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