Life Seeds on Fathers Day 2013 (video)

LifeSeeds

 

 

Like many, I’m an avid movie buff. But not just any movie. My favorites cause me to think about things I might otherwise overlook and/or give meaning to things I’ve not sufficiently understood.

Also like many, I enjoy good reading. The Scriptures, for instance, contain an endless supply of insights and explorations of the human condition. Shakespeare requires us to confront human nature, even the darkest sides as brought to light in Hamlet and The Tempest.

On this Fathers Day, one particular movie and one particular book come to mind.  Andy Wachowskis’ The Matrix and Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People capture the essence of fatherhood from both perspectives of father and child. 

The Matrix presents to us the famous Red Pill verses Blue Pill choice. The Blue Pill symbolizes a life where ignorance is bliss. A laissez faire existence where one is neither engaged in nor disturbed by one’s surroundings. Through this lens, all is good in the world. Hunky-dory, so to speak. Ire Ire, as my Jamaican brothers and sisters would say. Conversely, the Red Pill represents a deliberate choice to see the world as it is. Its magnificent wonders and blessings, yes. But also its profound struggles. Tensions. Disappointments. And sorrows. The Red Pill gives clarity. Opens our eyes to both opportunities and dangers. Pulls back the facade and enables us to venture into “the real”, as painful as that might be.

When considered in this context, Fathers Day is our annual offering of the Red Pill. Our society bombards men with Blue Pill offerings that leave us chasing insatiable appetites for wealth, fame, and status. But on Fathers Day, we as a nation, challenge ourselves to take the Red Pill. Pursue that which God ordains as the high calling. And to elevate that which children yearn for in their deepest thoughts; to be loved by dad. Choosing the Red Pill recognizes that one’s dream home, private school, and comfortable lifestyle do not make for rich father-child relationships. Choosing the Red Pill means that even in broken families, and yes, even when hostile father-mother relationships exist, God desires that the heart of a man be turned towards prayers that relationships with children are restored to healthy conditions.

Fathers Day offers to men who have lost children an opportunity to confront the painful realities of these losses and decide, “I will not die on the vine. I will pursue ways to turn the pain of my loss into a sacrificial mission to help someone else — a struggling child or another grieving dad.” Cincinnatian Carlos Jeff lost two sons (Bryce and Cameron) in a 2011 drowning while the two were at the home of a neighbor, where sadly the adults did not know how to swim. Mr. Jeff was just blocks away when, unbeknownst to him, the tragedy was unfolding. 

A devastating separation from not one child, but two. And yet, Mr. Jeff is making sense out of this tragedy by raising money through to Bryce and Cameron Jeff Memorial Foundation to pay for inner-city adults and children to receive swimming lessons.

I am reminded of my cousin, Ehling Burroughs, whose son was shot in the head and killed a few years ago by some sick individual who has to-date escaped prosecution. Ehling’s voice to curtail violence and support to other grieving families of murdered children will not return Dexter to this world. But these actions find victory in the ashes of a tremendous loss.

These are Red Pill choices that embody Kipling’s insights to “Meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.”

Fathers Day also gives those of us who have lost our earthly fathers an opportunity to accept the Red Pill. When one experiences the spiritual covering and blessings of a father, the loss of that individual leaves an emptiness that many take into their own mortality. The Blue Pill leaves some angry at God that dad is no longer here. To others, the Blue Pill says, “Don’t spend too much time considering that loss. Get over it and move on.” And still to others, the Blue Pill blissfully marginalizes fathers and counts the loss as non-consequential. Irrelevant to one’s own existence.

Fathers Day places fathers and the loss of fathers in the proper context. Fathers are people as are mothers. Fathers suffer from the same frailties and imperfections as do mothers. Fathers don’t get it right sometimes. Indeed, in some instances, fathers stink up the joint with error and miscalculations. Fathers are understood on some days and grossly misunderstood on others. Fathers experience seasons of great blessings and promotions, while also experiencing seasons of tremendous brokenness. Disappointments that they bare quietly. One day, fathers reach the door of mortality. And are committed to our memory. The Red Pill appreciates the humanity of fathers even as it appreciates the humanity in imperfect mothers.

Our Fathers Day celebrations need not cast humans with a kind of flawless divinity only possessed by God. We can witness to the men we have lost as fathers in both the acknowledgment of their shortcomings and the grandeur of their unquenchable love. The Red Pill affirms, “We honor not mythical images of absolute virtues, but real men. Cracked vessels. Imperfect individuals who in their imperfections, found the grace of God to love us unconditionally.” In this honest appreciation of the men was called dad, we allow them to be what I as a dad appreciate being — human. Not superhuman. Just human. So, we thank God for giving us the persons who, while sometimes wrestling with the contradictions of humanity, were our fathers nonetheless.

On this Fathers Day, I close by reflecting on that book — Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Several years ago, I was introduced to Covey’s work in a corporate setting and specifically, a leadership class designed around this book. In one exercise, managers were instructed to write a eulogy. But this eulogy had to be written for ourselves, as given through the eyes of someone we loved. We were then asked to read the eulogy to the others managers in the class. I witnessed these bright, energetic, and driven individuals one-by-one crumbling in tears before their corporate colleagues.

Covey’s work had reached into areas of our lives and our souls that are seldom revealed in meetings, business deals, and the corporate grind. But Covey had exposed us.

I wrote my eulogy through the prisms of my children’s voices. More specifically, through what I would hope they could say about their dad in my passing. For those few minutes, nothing else mattered. Reading those words placed all accomplishments, ambitions, and concerns in the most remote reaches of how I defined myself and my life. And as the tears flowed down my face, the only thing that really mattered was the hope of leaving my daughters with something that gave purpose to their lives. Years later, I would have the opportunity to deliver my dad’s eulogy. And it is an honor I will cherish for the rest of my life.

I reflect on Covey’s book here because it does reveal what men are feeling across this nation. Sometimes men are maligned by politicians, the media, churches, and even family members. And the broad strokes these messages apply also paint men who would die for their children without a moment’s hesitation.

On this Father’s Day, if you want to both give and receive a gift, here’s an idea. Give your father, the father of your children, and surrogate fathers an opportunity to eulogize themselves from the perspective of the children in their lives. It will be a Fathers Day gift that keeps giving into the day and years to come.

Happy Fathers Day and may God’s blessings be on dads all over this great country.

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