Grief is certainly not the right word, though I am not quite sure what is. That is odd, for me. I have never had any trouble at all with words. Regret? No, not quite that, either. Whatever the emotion is that I am grasping to describe, it is a bit of a different animal for me.
I recently learned that the father that I never knew passed away. Not recently, mind you, but way back in 1980, when I was a mere 10 years old. This was the father that wanted me dead, the father that precipitated my mother running for her life and mine.
When I was younger I sometimes wondered about him, though truth be told, I had enough other troubles that I did not do so very often. But God was so very good to me all along the way that I have no regrets for what my life became. Most of the gaps were filled in by others that God so kindly placed in my life. An employer taught me about finances and business. My karate instructor taught me how to fight. A pastor taught me about God, though my amazing mother beat him to that one and did a fine job of that on her own. Dr. James Dobson (with a strong assist from John Avery Whittaker and all the crew at Whit's End) became my dad voice and taught me how to grow up and how to raise my own children one day.
And yet here I am at 49 years of age, not sure how to react at the death of my biological father.
The man wanted me dead and was no part of my life whatsoever. I have lived my own ultra-full life, including having three amazing kids of my own. So why in the world would there be this tugging on the inside over a death that occurred 39 years ago, a death that I was blissfully unaware of until my wife found it while doing genealogical research?
I suppose the answer to that one lies in the way God himself designed the human family. While casual sex and abandonment of young may occur with some frequency in the animal kingdom, God's design for the family was one man for one woman for life, with children being the result of that union, children that would then be nurtured and raised by that father and mother. God put all of the pieces together to form the structure in which children could find everything they need for their youth and every example they will need for their future adulthood.
At the end of the account of Job, we find these words. Job 42:12: So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses. 13: He had also seven sons and three daughters. 14: And he called the name of the first, Jemima; and the name of the second, Kezia; and the name of the third, Kerenhappuch. 15: And in all the land were no women found so fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren. 16: After this lived Job an hundred and forty years, and saw his sons, and his sons' sons, even four generations. 17: So Job died, being old and full of days.
From the beginning of the book, we find Job as a godly father, deeply involved in the lives of his children. At the end of all of his trials, we find the exact same thing still. While mothers sometimes named the children, Job named all of his, and he was generous and loving with each boy and girl in the family. He went on to be part of the lives of his grandchildren and even great-great-grandchildren. There would be no regret over an unknown father in this family; Job was there and was everything he should have been for all of them.
To say that fatherhood has fallen on hard times in our society these days seems obvious. More children than ever have absentee fathers especially. The pleasure of sex has been separated from the responsibility of marriage and fatherhood, and the result is an all too large percentage of kids growing up without a dad.
Ladies, save sex for marriage, and be as careful as you can to marry a godly, responsible man. Don't allow the pleasure of the moment to result in a child struggling to make his or her way without a father.
Men, save sex for marriage, and make up your mind now to be a real father to your children. Any idiot can contribute the biological necessities to create a child; fatherhood requires much more than that. Fatherhood means raising a child, not just producing one.
I still cannot figure out what emotion I am grappling with. I suppose in the long run it does not matter; I have my own children to finish raising.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at 2know email@example.com.