"That's my dad over there." I looked and finally saw the gray hair gentleman sitting at a table, waiting for the next lecture to begin. We were all at a preaching seminar in Austin. (I was there Monday through Wednesday of this week). The break was almost over and I was talking to a younger guy who I have known for a few years. Seeing them together reminded me of a gathering a few years ago, where a friend of mine (a minister) brought his dad, who was also a long time minister. It seemed that both of these guys had special relationships with their dads.
On the other hand, far too many males, are gripped by by the "Silence of Adam." (To borrow a book title from Larry Crabb). Many males are passive. They are emotionally distant from their children. They tend not to be engaged emotionally with their sons or daughters. It is not that they say the wrong thing to their children. They just say nothing.
I hear the stories from lots of men. Some of these guys had fathers who were (are) disengaged from them emotionally. Sons in particular long for a "well done" from their dads. Many guys never receive this. Instead, they get silence. The silent father may never gives his son or daughter a "well done." The silent father may not allow his children see or know his heart. The silent father might back away from his children (emotionally) as they become adolescents.
This is one reason why the movie "Field of Dreams" was so emotional for a lot of guys. There was a scene in the movie in which Kevin Costner steps onto the baseball field behind his house. Out of the cornfield (which surrounds the ball field), comes his father. Now his father had been dead for many years. But at this moment, his dad has come back as a young man again. He is dressed in a baseball uniform and is wearing a baseball glove. Costner steps onto the field and realizes this is his dad. There are few words spoken and then they begin to play "catch." I was with a group a guys a number of years ago when this scene from the movie was being shown. It was emotional for many of these guys--especially those who longed to connect with their Dads. It was an emotional moment for me as well.
I don't have sons but I do have two wonderful daughters. When they were small, very small, I began thinking about this. I did not want them to grow up with a silent dad. Yet, I knew that silence would be the easiest way for me to function:
Silence is safe.
Silence is low risk.
Silence requires little or no vulnerability.
Yes, silence does feel safe--for me. But for children, silence can be deadly. A dad's passivity and silence leaves a daughter or son or feeling alone and wondering if she or he is "OK". A girl may grow up longing to hear from her dad that she is just right. She may wonder about her competence, her beauty, or her worth in general as a young woman.
Meanwhile, a young man may wonder about his competence as well. He may wonder if he is an "OK" guy or if he is "different" from other guys. He may wonder if he really measures up. He sees other guys who are close to their dads and wonders why he and his dad are not close. He is left to fend for himself in the confusing world of adolescence. He is left as a boy to figure out his questions, his sexual desires, and the pressures he is feeling. He may grow up with an emptiness and longing to hear a "well done." Or, he may grow up and just become silent himself, repeating the deadly cycle all over again.
Thankfully, we are not doomed to repeat this cycle. But--it must be intentional. I can tell you this does not come "naturally" for me with my two daughters. It has taken work, intent, and years of prayer. It has taken a willingness to be uncomfortable at times in order to be the dad they needed me to be. More later...