Uncommon Fathers

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uncommon fathers

In the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, Derek Redmond believed he could win a silver medal for Great Britain. After five years of daily training and eight operations on his Achilles tendons, Derek had won the first two heats and was running in the semifinals of the 400 meters. Things were going as planned until, coming out of the first turn, he heard a snap and felt a sharp pain in his left leg. Derek went down in a heap on the track as he realized that his left hamstring had exploded, and with it, his dreams of an Olympic medal.

He got to his feet and began to run—hop, really—to finish the race. He later said that he was determined to finish and therefore waved off the race officials, who were running toward him with a stretcher.

And then he felt a hand on his shoulder.

Redmond began to push the hand of assistance away until he turned to find himself looking into the face of his father, Jim. When Jim Redmond had seen what had happened to his son, he pushed his way out of the crowd and onto the track and rushed to tell Derek that he didn’t have to finish. But when Derek insisted that he complete the race, Jim said they would do it together.

Derek cried into Jim’s shoulder as they walked the remainder of the course, and race officials continued to come to their side in an effort to assist the pair. Jim now was the one who waved them off, later saying he didn’t understand Spanish, and wasn’t going to be stopped from being with his son.

Our children need to know that we’re there to help them pick up the pieces of their shattered dreams, to tell them that they’re okay, to help them see that failure isn’t final, and that when they take their next steps, they will not be alone. Quality time is important. Being actively engaged with our children in their schoolwork or their activities or by simply reading a book is important. But they need quantity time, too, and lots of it. Even if there’s nothing special on the agenda, they need to know that we’ve chosen to be in the room or in the house with them, over all the other interests competing for our time.

Sacred Trusts—Sacred Memories 

Here’s something I want you to think about in the days ahead.

When was the last time you did something really silly with or in front of your children? When was the last time you did something totally unexpected and spontaneous that your children remember to this day? Like jumping in the swimming pool with your clothes on, or “accidentally” spraying whipped cream all over your face, starting a pillow fight in the bedroom, or splashing in the puddles after a summer rain?

When was the last time you set aside all the “important” things you had to do and followed your children to wherever they wanted you to go? Have they asked you to do something recently? Maybe you’ve said no so many times that they don’t bother to ask anymore. I hope that’s not the case.

Think about this: How many more of those moments will you have? How long will it be before other interests and demands on your children’s lives preempt the opportunities for you to do things together, to listen to their hearts as you spend the day together, and to talk about the things they need to know—like how wonderfully they have been created?

Since my oldest son’s death in 2005, I have talked to hundreds of parents who have lost children to accidents, illness, or violence. Every one of those parents, including me, wishes they could spend a few more minutes with their child, doing something fun together. The Bible says that tomorrow is not promised to us. We need to take advantage of the opportunities we have today. Life is what happens when we’re making other plans.

How long will it be before the playroom—and most of the other rooms in your house as well—will be neat, tidy and in perfect order, noticeably devoid of the laughing and chattering personalities of God’s little angels? Will the walls of those once sacred places be filled with regrets, or with wonderful memories? Will you see the fingerprints of God in every nook and cranny from His precious little messengers, or will you see only a memorial of might-have-been?

I don’t know what’s going on in your life right now. I don’t know what important stuff you have in front of you. I don’t know what or who is bothering you or trying to set your schedule for tomorrow or days ahead. But I wonder if we all need to do a better job of listening to that gentle whisper from a God who daily reminds us to enjoy the sacred moments with those we love—with dear friends, with those who need us, and especially with our precious children. They are moments we will look back on with either regret or a smile.

Either way, the memory will last forever.