Most men tend to stuff. Often, we trade our grief or sorrow for anger. But in order to release the past into God’s hands, you must fully encounter your grief, and you must be willing to forgive yourself and others for the pain that’s occurred.
This isn’t easy. But we can learn from some people who went before us. Many of the Jewish exiles who returned to Jerusalem after captivity in Babylon had forgotten the laws of God. During the exile, they hadn’t been taught his laws, so, naturally, they hadn’t practiced them. After rebuilding the city wall and the Temple, the priests gathered the people together to read the Book of the Law. The people were overwhelmed with grief and began sobbing because their lives in no way measured up. But the priests said to them:
‘Today is a sacred day before the Lord your God’Go and celebrate with a feast of choice foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength’ (Nehemiah 8:9-10).
The process of releasing the past requires grief and forgiveness. Then you are given the ‘joy of the Lord’ as your strength. This joy comes from recognizing, even celebrating, God’s ability to set you free from the past, and in doing so, a new way of life.
When Esther started dating Robert, she felt there was something different about him. He was quiet and stoic, and never got excited about too much of anything except when it came to his favorite West Texas football team. When they were playing, he became a different person, full of energy and expression. But other than those games, very little sound or passion came from Robert.
One day Robert took Esther out on a ski boat. He had flowers and wine. And after dinner he held her hand, and while processing said three words she’d never hear again, ‘I love you.’ Esther said yes to a life of quiet devotion.
Don’t get me wrong: Robert was a good man. He was faithful, hardworking, and generous with his wife. He cared for her when she was sick and listened intently when she told him of things that happened to her. But until the day he died, he’d only said, ‘I love you’ one time’the night he proposed to her.
Robert’s an extreme case of a man’s difficulty in expressing himself. But Esther and Robert’s story isn’t that far out when we consider the number of men who struggle to communicate with the women in their lives.
Do you choose to express you feelings by working hard, remaining faithful, and being a good father and husband? Your wife may appreciate these efforts. But remember: she still longs to hear you verbalize not only your love but also what you think about and feel.
There’s a growing tendency in our culture to minimize the importance of the father’s role in the family. In fact, there have even been studies that attempt to demonstrate the father’s place in the family is not that important to the family’s overall health and functionality. It’s just not true!
Of course, there are other ways families can rally to help offset the absence of a father. Thousands upon thousands of godly single moms labor faithfully to nurture their children toward healthy, productive adult life. But even these moms know their love and efforts aren’t enough, that their children need the balancing influence of a male presence. And thank God again for godly brothers, uncles, grandfathers, and others standing in the gap for children lacking their father’s presence. But those exceptions only help prove the rule: a father’s role isn’t optional.
Yet while a father’s role isn’t optional, it is temporary. One expert states that about 90% of a child’s personality has been set in place by age six. What that means, guys, is that every day counts. Every day that passes is a day fathers are impacting their children with some idea of what fatherhood is about’ideas that will greatly influence their understanding of what the fatherhood of God is all about. My point is this dads: be present, and live in the present.