This day is always an odd day for me. The notion of father or Father or dad or Abba is confusing. I won’t use this space just now to write about my father except to say that I wish the best version of him was still in my life. Instead, I’ll write a bit about some of the fathers who have colored in some of the blank spaces…
Ray Williams – I have fond memories of our drives to wrestling matches accompanied by mostly silence but also Gordon Lightfoot. I remember punting a basketball through your garage door window. I don’t remember being shamed for it. Or having to pay for it. You were, and I’m sure you still are, safe. Without trying you made me feel like a third son.
Ed McMichael – You were the first coach to trust me. Really trust me. Yours was the first truly great team I ever played for. I felt like I was in over my head from day one. But if you knew, you never let on. If I let you down, you only used my failure to motivate me. I loved playing for you.
Steve Cole – You are a gifted man. Professionally, a master of your field. Personally, so wise and so humble. The moment you offered me, after Slam Night ’91, is tattooed on my soul. It changed me forever. So, really…when you’re ready to make your next hire, call me. You’re just about the only reason I’d move my family back east.
Mark Bondi – I became a Christian because I was afraid of going to hell. I became a follower of Christ because you showed me what grace looked like. I’m not sure I knew what confession was before I hung out with you on your back deck. You said, “It’s okay. Me too. Of course you’re not perfect.” And then I started to learn about repentance.
Bob Seale – You were expecting one thing. You got me instead. 15 years ago you started telling me things I need to hear even today. You were the first to say, “It’s time to grow up. Time to take responsibility for yourself.” 10 years ago, 5 years ago, last year…when I got in my own way again, your voice was in my head.
Dan Allender, Keith Anderson, Phil Bishop, Steve Call, Ron Carucci, Don Hudson, Jeff Lynk, Steve Merritt, Kirk Webb – I sort-of wonder what each of you will think seeing your name alongside the other names on this list. I also sort-of don’t care. What I’d want you all to know is that, in a season when I was flailing as a man, you stepped up. During a time when I felt most father-less, you put your hands on my shoulders and turned me, ever so slightly, towards Father. In this respect, I have the highest regard for each of you.
George Toles – What an incredible gift you are to me. I feel so fortunate to have met you and I am grateful that we have become friends. One of my favorite compliments is to be your “newest old friend”. You are my “oldest new friend” and I will count it an awesome privilege to walk with you in the coming years.
I’m a lucky man to have had these fathers in my life. And so many more: Otis Dowdy, a wonderful Papa, so glad you are in my life. Justin Brittle, such a great dad and I admire that in you. J.D. Barrow, I wish I’d known you better. Jack Kindregan and John Carroll, the men who molded my wife. Jonathan Bergstrom. Jason Best. John Cake. Pete Wahby. Rick Lawten. Keith Graham. Tom Jadlos. David Anderson. Kevin Garrett. Stephen James.
And my own Dad. If you’re reading this, I’d want you to know this: I want the same thing you want. I want the best version of you to be a father to the best version of me. Because as it is right now, both of us are missing out.
I have a pretty good idea of what I’m missing. But you have no idea. For a glimpse of the best version of me, get to know my daughters. They’re amazing. They’re smart, creative, compassionate, wild and beautiful. They dance, swim, play and dream with reckless abandon. They can also be selfish and exasperating and I hate them sometimes. But I love them all the time. And, they love me. They think I hung the moon.
And not just this day.