By Ross Johnson, Lead Pastor, Gathering Pointe Church
Growing up, I idolized my dad. He was a man’s man. He was hard working, working two jobs for many years of my childhood. He is a Vietnam Vet having served two tours, awarded a Purple Heart and Uncommon Valor. His hands, scarred and calloused from years of turning wrenches as a mechanic. In fact, in my home town, he was known as one of the best engine builders in the area. At any given time, there were project cars in our garage with the front end torn apart and the motor on the engine stand. Some of the best memories of my childhood were spent in the garage working with my dad, cleaning parts, holding the backend of a pop-rivet gun, handing him a 9/16 box end wrench while listening to the DJ Wolf-man Jack. To this day when I hear certain songs, my mind races back to those days working with my dad, firing up that big block Chevy we just finished or the smell of fresh solvent in our parts cleaner.
As fond as many of my memories are, there were very difficult times as well. My dad was absent in my life until I was at about the age four. My parent’s marriage was rocky most of my years growing up, and most of those tensions were centered on my dad’s demons from Vietnam and alcohol. You see, my dad was an alcoholic. I tell people I never knew when my dad was drunk…because he was never sober. That is not much of an exaggeration. My dad’s breakfast consisted of a steady diet of whiskey and water. His lunch consisted of the same. He drank at work. He drank at home. He often joked that he couldn’t do his best work in the garage until he had a six pack in the tank. We used to laugh. But looking back on it years later, it breaks my heart.
While my dad taught me the value of hard work, integrity, how to do a brake job and change the oil in my car, my dad was never in a position to teach me about faith. He never taught or modeled for me what a relationship with a Heavenly Father looked like until much later in my life. Sure we went to church when I was a kid. Heck, my dad and I even got baptized on the same day when I was in the third grade. But it just seemed there was nothing ever really real about it and soon, we quit going.
By the time I was a sophomore in high school, I had decided that I wanted to be just like my dad. In every way. I saw my dad fight, cuss and drink and so that is what I thought a man did, who a man was. I idolized him and so I had become his carbon copy.
Around that time, my parent’s marriage hit rock bottom. There was an ultimatum given. Go back to church and try to save a marriage or part ways…so we went to church. I went begrudgingly _ to the point that I would go to church with them on Sunday while I was still drunk. Over the next several months, however, my dad made two decisions that would eventually change the course of our lives. After a weekend bender that almost led him to commit suicide, he decided to walk away from alcohol and decided to walk with Jesus. Praise God my dad has been sober for 30 years!
It wasn’t until the end of my freshman year in college that my dad’s two decisions hit home for me. I found myself in a very similar situation in my dorm. A weekend bender and thoughts of suicide. Just as my dad did a few years before in our garage, I decided to walk away from the bottle and walk with Jesus.
I have two fathers. One is perfect and one isn’t…but I love them both. I love them both for all that they have taught me. You may have an earthly father that has caused great hurt and pain and believe me, I get it. But I want to encourage you that there is a Father that will love you unconditionally and perfectly. A perfect Father who is ready to adopt each of us and bring us into His family…a family of faith, mercy, grace and perfect love.
If you struggle with Father’s Day and would like to share your story, I would love to listen. Feel free to reach out to me at any time.
May you have a blessed Father’s Day.
Gathering Pointe Church
Meets Sundays at Imagine School
2940 Sunlake Blvd
Land O Lakes, FL 34638
Sundays at 10:30 AM