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Men to Fathers: Cleaning Up the Mess

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“The notes are there right under your fingers.  You need to take the time to learn them,” Ray Charles told Jamie Foxx, when Foxx hit the wrong key.  Foxx won an Oscar playing the icon Charles.  All we have to do is learn the music God has waiting for us under our fingers.  And once we learn them, dads, we can teach them to our kids as we listen to their heartbeats, and let them hear ours, and encourage them to make their own!

That’s such a valuable truth.  Sometimes we just don’t see the truth, even when it’s staring us in the face, especially in the eyes of our children.  My brother, who is older than me, sent me the following story I’d like to share with you.  It’s about pancakes.

“Six-year-old Brandon decided one Saturday morning to fix his parents pancakes. He found a big bowl and spoon, pulled a chair to the counter, opened the cupboard and pulled out the heavy flour canister, spilling it on the floor.  He scooped some of the flour into the bowl with his hands, mixed in most of a cup of milk and added some sugar, leaving a floury trail on the floor which by now had a few tracks left by his kitten. Brandon was covered with flour and getting frustrated. He wanted this to be something very good for Mom and Dad, but it was getting very bad.  He didn’t know what to do next, whether to put it all into the oven or on the stove and he didn’t know how the stove worked.

“Suddenly he saw his kitten licking from the bowl of mix and reached to push her away, knocking the egg carton to the floor. Frantically he tried to clean up this monumental mess but slipped on the eggs, getting his pajamas white and sticky.  And just then he saw Dad standing at the door. Big crocodile tears welled up in Brandon’s eyes. All he’d wanted to do was something good, but he’d made a terrible mess. He was sure a scolding was coming, maybe even a spanking. But his father just watched him.  Then, walking through the mess, he picked up his crying son, hugged him and loved him, getting his own pajamas white and sticky in the process!

“That’s how God deals with us. We try to do something good in life, but it turns into a mess. Our marriage gets all sticky or we insult a friend, or we can’t stand our job, or our health goes sour.  Sometimes we just stand there in tears because we can’t think of anything else to do. That’s when God picks us up and loves us and forgives us, even though some of our mess gets all over Him. “

It really hurts when the truth is in front of us and we ignore it.  It really hurts even more when those we love see the truth, try to tell us this truth, and we refuse to listen.  Sometimes in the process of trying to make pancakes we get lost in the ingredients rather than what we need to do, or why we are trying to do it. I don’t know about you, but I can see that pancake picture as vividly as I have two boys who test me constantly, even after one has moved out.  I can see that father standing there near tears, both of joy and pain.  Joy that his little one is trying to do something that will be appreciated accepted and enjoyed.  Pain of knowing our children will make messes, and sometimes their pain cannot compare to the pain we feel because sometimes we are not willing to get sticky in the process. Pain of knowing their mess is their mess and we have to let them sort it out. Sometime a man just forgets what it takes to be a dad.

I see myself reflecting as God must reflect as I try to think what I should do.  Lately, I’m come to understand a bit of what that dad will see later.  I’ve learned to wait to be asked, and then reserve the right to say no.  I think if many of us, especially with children who have left home remember that, our nation might be better; our neighborhoods might be better; and our families might be better.  I think this applies also to teachers as we try to remember it is our job to teach and empower our students.  Some time that means we can’t be intimidated by people outside the classroom who tell us that by discriminating success from failure we are doing irreparable damage to children, as some would have us to believe by ‘patting them on the head for achieving a level of success on tests.’  We can’t always succeed by not failing. We only fail if we quit.  If we don’t have standards, don’t have notes, then how are we going to know what’s right, or if the music we play is the right song?  You’re right.  We don’t know.

If we could remember our time here is measured in ways we can’t imagine.  If we could remember that, we could live life better.  If we could remember that no matter what we are loved by a father whose depth we can’t understand, our lives could be better.  If we can teach our kids to know they are gifts from God, and that God knew that no one could parent them better than we can, then I think our families could be better.

And one other thing, as you search for the notes in your life, remember the present we have is because of the past our parents gave us.  Keep that close to us as we try to plan what we are leaving for our children.  As we prepare them, caution ourselves to not do too much, because then we won’t leave them anything they can claim as their own.  That’s the key to a good musician, teacher, parent, and child.  When we understand what we have built, what we are leaving, we then know who we are.  That’s the most momentous truth to life…grasping and holding onto something that is really ours!

We need to remember these truths, share them, and make pancakes.  My brother sent this story to me.  If you like it, send it to someone you know.  Maybe it will make someone else’s life better.  It did for me.  Thanks big brother.

It’s so hard to deny yourself a part of yourself because you’ve grown to believe it’s wrong.” from “Murder on the Pier,” by Jere Myles, [p. 141]

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