Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: fathers (06/06/05)
TITLE: Fathers in Training
By Beth Muehlhausen
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It was November, just before Thanksgiving, and our respective families lived halfway across the North American continent. As I prepared to tackle my first stuffed turkey and pumpkin pie, I wanted more than anything to succeed in my new role as a wife. I lived with my new husband, Fritz, in a tiny apartment showcasing an old couch, two chairs, a bed and dresser, a small kitchen table, and…a piano. Christmas seemed close. A sense of anticipation filled our humble little home.
The air felt chilly outside, matchiing the season, and on this particular day Fritz arrived home first. Even before opening the front door, I heard piano rumblings inside. Rubber-kneed and a bit starry-eyed, I walked into the living room where Fritz pounded out the classic tune, “Deep Purple”. What would he say? Clueless, I hoped to appear normal.
“Hey, I had that appointment with the doctor today.”
Still playing, he nodded. “Yeah.”
Baffled by this seemingly minimal interest, I casually slipped off my jacket and paused to listen to a few bars, then tried again.
“Stop playing that thing for a minute – please – I’ve got to tell you something.”
He turned towards me on the piano bench with that silly characteristic boyish grin on his face. “Sure. What’s up?”
An internal drum roll pounded inside my heart while I waited for five long seconds to gain courage. The words finally tumbled out, not unlike hot towels that had been churning in an overstuffed dryer too long, parched and eager to escape: “I’m pregnant. We’re having a baby next July!”
A momentary look of disbelief crossed his face before he turned back to the keyboard. “Cool!” And the melodic strains rippled again from his fingers.
Even though I had not been able to anticipate his response, I knew this: I didn’t expect “Cool!” Surely something a little more melodramatic was in order. Perhaps a hug, a few tears? A sigh, a soft touch? Something like, “Oh honey, how wonderful! Are you okay? Do you feel okay? What do we need to do to get ready? Hey, let’s start a list!”
But no. “Cool” was it.
Looking back over 30 years later, “Cool” said it all. Our four kids would come to know their Dad as a lighthearted jokester, one who prioritized play at all cost. “Cool” as in not too serious or intellectual. “Cool” as in spontaneous and go-with-the-flow. “Cool” as in “what’s the next wild hair going to be?”
And yet little did he know that his own definition of fathering would evolve; that his own heart and soul would enlarge over the years because his heavenly Father would not leave him in a narrow “cool” spot indefinitely without fluffing him out a bit.
It seems to me that fathers come in all shapes and sizes, as do mothers, brothers, sisters, grandmothers, grandfathers, aunts and uncles. But like Fritz, fathers often become fathers before they truly know themselves, let alone their unborn children. Their aptitudes and abilities, as diverse and specialized as the stars in the sky, may initially remain veiled by wounds and misconceptions, expectations and cultural norms.
Fortunately the Lord knows how best to teach them, open them up, reach the deep recesses of their hearts, and mold them into His unique vessels. Men who become fathers are given children who become their teachers and tutors, demonstrating what it means to be children of God. Jesus told his disciples that childlikeness is a serious goal, one descriptive of those who are greatest in the kingdom: “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:1-5 NIV) Over time, a man who submits himself in this way also learns what it means to be a father who represents the Heavenly Father to his family. There is no higher calling.
Fritz and I now have three precious grandsons who continue to teach both of us the meaning of innocence, trust, curiosity, honesty, candor, dependence, and many other childlike attributes. Fritz has developed eyes to recognize the Holy Spirit guiding their tender hearts and simultaneously remodeling his own. The result? Faith like a child.
A father who is a child of the Father can’t help but be warmed and enlarged by His love. What can I say about the miracle of such growth? Simply this: “Cool!”
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