In Loving Memory of Duane Howard Cushman Jr….

On Saturday we held a celebration of life for my grandpa, Duane Howard Cushman Jr., who passed on April 11th of this year. In honor of him, we ate a Thanksgiving meal (turkey, ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, yams, stuffing, fruit salad, etc., etc.) and simply enjoyed each other’s company – as my grandpa had done more often than not. I had written a few words to share with the group on Saturday, but when the time came I suddenly felt they were more appropriate for a later day and in a different format. Below are those words.

To many of us, my grandpa was a brother, a friend, and a grandfather. But to at least two of us (probably more), he was a father.

In many ways he was a father figure, but I’ve had several of those. They come and go depending on where I am, when I’m there, and what I’m doing: a baseball coach, a teacher, or simply a friend’s dad. When you grow up without ever knowing your own father, you tend to borrow father figures from pretty much anyone, anywhere. What makes my grandpa more than a father figure is that I didn’t choose him; he chose me.

Father figures can be helpful, instructive, and a wise guidance. But it is never expected of any of them to stick around when things get difficult – like when you’re scared in the middle of the night because of a bad dream, sad because your best friend just moved away, feeling homesick after being away at college a few weeks, or when you aren’t sure of what you want to do after graduation. Yes, in many ways my grandpa filled the void of an actual father despite knowing just how much it would cost him financially, emotionally, and physically – and, who knows, maybe even spiritually.

It is because of my grandpa that I know how to write a check and balance my checkbook; that I know how to drive a car; that I know how to keep working until the job gets done; that I know when and how to say “I’m sorry” when I’ve done something wrong and “Thank you” when someone (anyone) has helped me; that I know how to beat just about anyone – yes, Jamie and Aunt Linda, just about anyone – at cribbage; that I know how to be friendly and kind to people I might meet despite what they look like or how they vote; that I know putting aside my own agenda to help someone else is something I should do frequently; and that I know true family means sticking together when no one else will.

Grandpa did more than I ever expected or asked of any father figure and it is because of him that I even had a fighting chance at a life well lived. Celebrating his life, to me, is celebrating the life of an adoptive father who just so happened to be my grandfather.

Thank you to everyone who could make the trip for coming to Saturday’s gathering; my Grandpa would appreciate and enjoy your presence… mostly the food’s presence, but yours as well. And to those who couldn’t make it, my Grandpa would have missed your presence… just like he missed the presence of the forgotten apple pie last Christmas Eve…

If anyone has any stories about my grandpa that they would like to share, send me a Facebook message or an email and I would be happy to read them.

Digging Up Dirt…

Finding community in the Portland area has been difficult. I have hung out with friends here and there, but I have not yet found something consistent – something week to week. I don’t think I have much of an excuse since there’s a church right across from my apartment complex, but finding community is more than simply going to church. It’s about investing in friends – both new and old – and engaging people on a relational level. And because I’m lacking genuine person to person community, I’ve gravitated toward the online communities.

As many social media users know, outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even LinkedIn allow us to present ourselves as we want to be seen. We make sure we aren’t picking our nose in our profile picture (or that we are – depending on the image you want to present), tweeting things that shouldn’t be tweeted, or listing previous jobs that didn’t work out so well (where we were either fired or laid off and we still don’t want to talk about it). It’s like social media is a paperless résumé; a small medium through which we present ourselves in the best light possible.

Problem is this isn’t reality.

Editing our profiles so people see us as we want to be seen isn’t allowing them to see us as we are. Everyone knows that you’re supposed to wash your car before you sell it. But, as I learned this past summer, what really matters is how well things work under the hood. In the same way, who we are underneath the masks of Facebook, Twitter, and even our blogs is most important.

A side effect of having online community as one’s primary source for social involvement is that one develops the habit of being someone other than who they truly are. Over time, this develops into a disability; being someone else for so long that one cannot be honest and real with one’s self. As I wrote about before, this is oftentimes why we can’t deal well with silence; because it causes us to deal with who we really are.

Joshua 7, as referenced last post, highlights a moment when someone took something he shouldn’t have and was punished for it. Moral discomforts aside, I can’t help but notice what he did with the something he stole:

“Then Joshua said to Achan, ‘My son, give glory to the Lord God of Israel and make confession to him. Tell me now what you have done; do not hide it from me.’ And Achan answered Joshua, ‘It is true; I am the one who sinned against the Lord God of Israel. This is what I did: when I saw among the spoil a beautiful mantle from Shinar, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing fifty shekels, then I coveted them and took them. They now lie hidden in the ground inside my tent, with the silver underneath.’” Joshua 7:19-21

He buried it.

Jesus tells us that a wise person is one who builds their house on the bedrock, but notice what he says in Luke 6:47-48:

“Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built.”

Years ago at a CCF (Collegiate Christian Fellowship) retreat, a pastor named Brett Gilchrist shared a message about this passage and he slowed things down. He pictured both the wise person and the unwise person building their houses next to each other. While the wise one kept digging, the unwise was already putting up walls. When the wise person had finally reached the bedrock, the unwise had finished their three-story house. As the wise one began laying the foundation, the unwise was decorating. While the wise finally began building the house, the unwise was putting in a pool. Finally, as the winds began to blow and the clouds covered the skies, the wise person finished their simple little house while the unwise was adjusting their new satellite dish. You can imagine the shock and horror of the unwise person as the water washed underneath their home and carried it away, while the wise person nervously watched, but was safe.

The wise person was safe because they had put in the work to dig up dirt and lay the foundation the right way. Christ wants to build a home for Himself within us, but He needs us to dig. Yet we don’t want to because it means we’d be unburying all the skeletons, lies, addictions, abuses, and all the other things we didn’t want people to see. We can’t hide behind our Facebook page when we’re facing God; He knows something’s wrong.

We bury things that we’ve either done wrong or hurt us in some way. For years I used to hold my emotions in when talking about my childhood. Even to this day, I still have physical reactions to the memories. For instance, in The Blindside (the movie), Michael Oher has a flashback to when he was a kid in the backseat of a police car crying out for his mom who was being restrained outside her apartment. Although my memory is slightly different, I still recall when I was in the back of a police car while my mother was outside her apartment crying. Every time I see that scene, I begin to shake uncontrollably; in most cases, I have to skip it. And I still have the teddy bear the police officer had given me.

Hiding who we are is oftentimes because we have a painful memory we’ve tried to erase. We seek all sorts of means to erase that memory, but ultimately wind up causing more bad ones – not just for ourselves, but for those who love us as well. If we devoted our time to engaging them and letting them in to see what Christ is doing within us, we may not feel anymore comfortable, but we’d be healthier.

No, I’m not saying delete any of your social media profiles; I’m saying share a meal with some of your friends or family members instead Instagramming what you cooked (or do both if you must Instagram). Instead of posting pictures and status updates about how miserable or awesome your life is, tell somebody in person or over the phone about how much they mean to you.

Practice authenticity – for your own sake and for the sake of those around you. It makes digging up your dirt much easier if you have someone to help.

God bless.

Dads, Car Troubles, and Peace…

Cars are fun.

That’s what I’ve learned over the past month or so. Especially those moments when they stall at a car dealership and you have to push them back into a parking spot while a family of four awkwardly watch only fifteen feet away while they wait for their brand new minivan. Those moments are a blast.

Or when you’re convinced to buy a car that is nearly double your price range and it only goes three weeks without a breakdown? And then, after you’ve taken it in and gotten it “repaired,” it breaks down exactly one week later? Crazy awesome.

Seriously, you should try it some time.

Bitter sarcasm aside, I’m really not as upset about my car situation (or lack thereof – you have to actually have a car to have a car situation) as I might seem – definitely not as much as I should be. And it’s really puzzling. I should be near livid that I spent more money than I’ve ever had for something that has broken down almost as many times as my old car. I should be screaming my lungs out at the dealership and throwing things. And yet – be it the jazzy music I’m listening to or the three dollar wine I’m drinking – I’m not.

I’m not happy about how things have gone, but my mind has not been lost (yet) and I haven’t kicked any kittens (…yet).

I wish I could say it’s all because I’ve become a secret Zen master meditating in the wee hours of the morning on how to become one with the butterfly, but I can’t. Well, I can say I do the meditating part; my eyes are definitely closed in the wee hours of the morning. But I can’t say that my relative calmness in the chaos of car breakdowns is due to some extra inner-peace-keeping regiment. I’ve done nothing out of the ordinary to prepare for the mess I’ve been tossed into.

What I am genuinely more surprised about is what I didn’t do (unlike the cars I drive): breakdown. A few years ago I wrote a post about how I was afraid of my car breaking down mostly because I wouldn’t know what to do. I was paranoid of failing cars not because I’d be without a car for a while and would have to figure out a way to get to and from work, but because of the scars that would be ripped open.

Like I said in that post, I kind of wish I had had a dad to show me the ropes on cars – even just the basics would have been fine. Instead, I’ve had to learn the way I’ve learned in the last 30 days; when my car stalls, sputters, and makes strange noises. In those cases I have to ask a friend or a coworker to check it out and offer what knowledge they have because any knowledge about cars would be helpful. What I didn’t notice until today, when my car wouldn’t start before work this morning, was that throughout this process of asking those closest to me in physical proximity, I’m no longer paranoid of when my car breaks down.

Again, I’m not happy, but that’s a far cry from being paranoid.

What I think is even cooler than not being paranoid, though, is discovering that I’m not alone in my lack of knowledge of cars. You see when you start to ask around to see who is and who isn’t knowledgeable about cars, you implicitly admit to those whom you’re asking that you don’t know much, which then enables them to admit it, too.

Fatherless kids – even the ones who were privileged enough to have their grandpas raise them instead – oftentimes feel alone. Donald Miller describes it best in Blue Like Jazz; it’s like there’s a secret knowledge about how to be a man that only kids with dads get to learn. If you don’t have a dad, tough luck in being a man.

And yet what Christianity says is that everyone has a Dad – the Dad. He may not teach you face to face or show you with His own hands how to do something. But if you’re patient and get quiet enough to listen, He will teach you. It might hurt the pride a bit and you might have to ask someone you’ve never really talked to before, but He will teach you.

No, God’s Fatherhood is not reserved only for men; women are as much His daughters as men are His sons. I only know what it’s like from the guys’ side and more specifically, the fatherless guys who had an odd assortment of father figures throughout their lives as replacements. But no matter how the demographics break down or where the lines of perspective are drawn, there is never anyone who is truly alone. We’ve all experienced the discomfort of not knowing something.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,”  – Philippians 4:6-7

As my previous month has shown, this passage applies to the simple things like learning about cars. When I was terrified of my car breaking down, God sent person after person after person to teach me one little thing after another about my car. And thinking back over these last couple of weeks, I could have reacted much worse than I did and not because my car broke down. Instead, I treated God as He is: my Dad. As a result, I was able to experience His peace in moments that are typically anything but peaceful.

Drive safe and God bless.

(And check your spark plugs and wires)

Liking What Someone Else Likes…

Michael, my best friend and neighbor growing up, and I spent quite a few summers hanging out. Whether with our Legos on the stairs at his house or with our baseball bats and tennis balls having a home run derby in my grandpa’s backyard, we had a lot of fun times. Yet there was something Michael did early on in our friendship, something I was reminded of while reading Sheldon Vanauken’s A Severe Mercy. I know it was something he did because I was way too selfish to even think of it: he implemented a rule that we would always trade off in our activities. We took turns in doing what the other wanted to do.

Andrea and I taking a seat with the Valentes in Florida.
Andrea and I taking a seat with the Valentes in Florida (From left to right: Margrit, Andrea, Francesca, Amy, Michael, and me).

Once Michael and his family moved away, this rule had soon been forgotten. I did try to keep it going, but be it different friends or the teenage inclination to be independent (or at least attempt to be), it simply died away. I still did things that others wanted to do, but not nearly as often and without the conscious realization that it was someone else’s idea and not my own.

What Sheldon Vanauken points out in his description of his love for his wife (or as they described their love, “The Shining Barrier”) is something behind the rule Michael had implemented: the art and discipline of liking what someone else likes. Sheldon says, “Our thesis that if one of us liked something there must be something to like about it which the other could find was proved again and again,” by their constant practice of doing things together (38).

In very few words, Sheldon describes the remedy to the selfish nature: discerning precisely why the other likes something different – maybe even contrary – to what one likes. An example might be me liking the Oregon State Beavers – or at least trying to. Honestly, it wouldn’t be so difficult… until they played the Ducks. Then I’d be really hard-pressed to see what Beaver fans see when going against the Ducks. And yet, if I somehow manage to marry a Beaver believer, this is something I know I will want to do; I know that I’ll want to see what she sees so that I may know her better.

It changes the way I see things I do like, but also the things I do not like. Instead of demonizing it or mentally writing it out as irrelevant or beneath me, I’m now compelled to attempt to see the other side – to see what’s likable about it. Even after sifting over it and trying to see what someone else sees, I still might not like it. But at the very least, I’ll have a deeper understanding of what might be likable about it.

Thinking in this way makes it much easier to hang out with other people. It makes it much easier to, as Jesus says we should, love my neighbor as myself and treat them they way I want to be treated. Spending time to invest in the things others like to do is investing in them as people. For example, if a friend really loves going to concerts, it’d be investing in them to join them in going to a concert; not only would I be spending time hanging out with them, but I’d be learning what they like on a more experiential level. I’d see first hand what it is about concerts that gets them excited. And heck, maybe I’d start to enjoy it, too?

Learning to like what someone else likes isn’t reserved for married couples or couples in general; it’s a practical means of growing closer to a friend. One of the things Michael liked to do that I didn’t was go fishing – particularly with his dad. But there was at least one day where we all went fishing together. I recall spending most of the time on the playground nearby, but what I remember most clearly is seeing Michael sitting next to his dad, Eddie, as he taught Michael how to fish. For a kid without a father, getting to see those awesome moments of another’s life is an experience you can’t buy. I wouldn’t have seen that, though, if I did what I wanted to do and stayed home.

Me, Eddie, and Michael posing for a pic in Florida.
Me, Eddie, and Michael posing for a pic in Florida (yes, I still have that hat).

Honestly, much is risked in doing something that you’ve never done before. You’re vulnerable, out of your comfort zone, and at a bit of a loss on how to do whatever it is you’re about to do (like me and fishing). It requires humility and admitting that you don’t know something. But consider the alternative: if you stick to your guns and do your own thing, you’ll wind up entirely and completely alone and not in a good way. When God looked upon Adam in Genesis 2, He said it wasn’t good that he was alone. Sure, He then created a wife for Adam, but the ultimate truth is that it isn’t good for any of us to live our lives alone. We’ll have moments to ourselves and oftentimes find ourselves alone (I’m alone in my apartment as I write this), but we’ll still have people we care about and people who care about us. We’ll have close friends and family that will make us feel as though we weren’t alone even when we actually are.

Finally, I don’t think one ought to the things that someone else likes just to receive wisdom, knowledge, and experience. One ought to do what others like because one likes them and wants to show it. I went fishing with Michael and his dad not only because of the rule, but also because I liked hanging out with Michael. Despite all that was going on in my life at the time, hanging out with Michael and his family was one of the best parts of my childhood.

Love others as you want to be loved. If you like something, chances are they like something. Find out what it is and why it is they love it. In so doing not only will you love them as you want to be loved, but as God has already loved you.

God bless.

The Importance of Family…

I miss my grandma.

Tonight I watched a movie I had never seen before: Antwone Fisher. Since I don’t appreciate movies being spoiled for me, I’m going to warn all readers that if you haven’t seen the movie yet, I suggest you do. It’s available for rent on iTunes. For those who have seen it, please continue reading.

Throughout the movie, I felt the tears welling up. At any point where Antwone was bullied and remained quiet to try and stifle the anger, any time he was asked about his father, or anytime he was made fun of for “not being with a woman,” I was clenching my fists and gritting my teeth. No, his story isn’t the same as mine. But I know what that kind of anger feels like. And even though, my anger never got me into trouble, I have often found myself ready to punch something until my hands bled.

Antwone didn’t meet his mother until much later in the movie. I’ve known my mother my whole life. Antwone never knew his father and neither have I known my father, but for him, he got to meet his father’s family. He met aunts, uncles, cousins, etc., etc., but the one person he met that really stood out to me – the one relative I broke down weeping over – was his grandma.

I miss my grandma so much. She passed when I was ten years old. At the time I didn’t know how to deal with the loss. My school gave me that whole week off and since I didn’t know what to do with myself, I spent every day in the church parking lot nearby playing roller hockey by myself. What I felt then is what I feel now. But the one difference between then and now is I know why I feel this way.

I miss my grandma because she never intimidated me. Instead, she would play cards with me. Cribbage, Go Fish, UNO, Skip Bo – whatever the game was, she’d play with me until she wanted to sleep, eat, or watch her TV shows. And sometimes, when she didn’t like what she was watching, she’d ask if I was bored with my Legos and would want to try to beat her again at cribbage. While I was in out of my mother’s custody and unsure about whether or not my grandpa loved me, my grandma taught me the most important thing I have ever learned about this world: There can be peace. Peace within yourself.

I will never meet my father. At the very least, the odds of actually meeting him are overwhelmingly not in my favor. His name isn’t on my birth certificate. He never called to check up on my mother. And, try as she might, my mother simply cannot remember his last name with much certainty. And believe me, she has tried.

It really does eat at me that I won’t be able to shake his hand or play a game of cribbage with him. When I think of why it bothers me, thousands of words come to mind and to spill them all here might take days – that’s if I can even make sentences out of them. I’ve asked God for help, too; I’ve asked Him so many times for the privilege of meeting my other half. But with whatever effort I or others have given – weak or strong – I come up with nothing but dead ends. If I only have a first name, I can’t even get started.

Instead of praying for that privilege again tonight, I prayed for something else: The privilege of meeting his family. I prayed that I might be able to shake hands with his brothers and sisters, cousins, nephews, nieces, and – most importantly – his mother. I prayed for the privilege of having her aged hands cup my face and say, “Welcome.” As I wept, I prayed.

In all honesty, it will probably never happen – at least, not in this life. In the meantime, though, I can appreciate the honor and privilege of knowing the family I have now – no matter how irregular we may be. I can appreciate my mother for never missing an opportunity to say, “I love you.” I can appreciate my grandfather for teaching me the importance of taking responsibility, even when you don’t want to. I can appreciate my brother for teaching me what it means to take pride in a family name, even if it didn’t come from our fathers. And I can appreciate the sweet, but short time I had with my grandmother for bringing peace in the hurricane that is life.

I’m glad my roommate wasn’t home tonight. I don’t like it when others see me cry – especially over my father issues, which happens nearly every time I watch a movie about a kid who never knew his father. It isn’t pretty. Trust me. I go through hundreds of tissues trying to clean up the snotty, teary mess running down my face. It’s disgusting.

But I’m glad I watched that movie. And I’m glad, above all else, to have God as my own Father.

God bless.

Perfection in Secrecy…

A few weeks ago, my church (Calvary Fellowship) began a seminar series from True North Star Ministries. This series has mostly been about child abuse (verbal, physical, sexual, etc.) and I must say the statistics we’ve heard from each of these classes have been rather mortifying. I won’t share them here, but I will say my eyes have been opened.

In the most recent class – this last Sunday – we were being instructed in two major categories; how to read the signs of abuse and how to positively influence abused children. Indicators for possible abuse are many and I don’t want to open that issue here, but what really stuck with me on Sunday afternoon was not how I’m trying to influence the kids around me, but rather how I am influencing them.

Honestly, I don’t know what kind of influence I’m really having on the high school kids I teach. And I especially don’t know about the elementary kids I used to teach. Why’s that? Because how I desire to influence kids – no matter how old or young – is hardly ever the way that I actually am influencing them. Maybe I’m wrong, but kids notice you when no one else is around. It’s like a sixth sense for them; they pick up the bad habits you don’t want them to.

Last night I went with some friends to watch the movie Courageous. I knew it had something to do with police officers, but I didn’t expect all the statistics about fatherlessness. 40% of today’s children grow up in homes without a father. Kids without dads are five or six times more likely to commit suicide. Nearly 80% of convicts are fatherless. Dave and Christi – the leaders of True North Star Ministries – have said several times that the most severe case of abuse is neglect.

For those of you who didn’t know, I grew up without my biological father around. Like Nathan Hayes from Courageous, I haven’t met him yet. When he went to his biological father’s gravesite and read him a letter he had written, I was immediately reminded of the letter I had written my father. And yet, like Nathan Hayes, I’ve come out of it all alive and out of jail – not unscathed, but alive.

I’m not trying to spoil the movie for anyone who would like to go see it, but there are five men who make a pact. What I found challenging was their reasoning: They were doing a good enough job. In our American society, good enough means sufficient; it means you don’t have to do anymore than what’s already been done. But, as they collectively pointed out, God doesn’t ask us to do a “good enough” job; He commands that we be perfect.

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” – Matthew 5:48

One question Dave asked each of us in Sunday’s seminar was, “What kind of person are you when no one else is around?” As Matthew 5:48 says, we’re supposed to be perfect, but perfection isn’t about how others perceive us. It’s about how God perceives us – especially when we’re alone.

When we’re on our own, our pretenses and facades fade away. We reveal what kind of person we really are as we’re driving behind that car that just cut us off; as we’re cussing out the TV for yet another fumble; and as we’re sitting in front of a computer with an unrestricted web browser. In all of these cases – and in many, many more – God sees our heart. He doesn’t care about the clothes we’re wearing or what kind of person we’re pretending to be; He cares about the person we are.

My fatherlessness may seem like it’s a disadvantage in this world, and to some extent it kind of is. I have to learn practically everything either on my own or from someone else’s dad; how to change a tire, how to shave, how to commit to the girl I love, etc. But as I’ve grown to notice in my walk with God, I’ve had the best replacement ever for a father: God Himself.

No, I’m still unsure about myself with a tire iron and shaving is kind of a rollercoaster experience. But I know that God has taught me about being a man of strength, integrity, and – to borrow from the movie – courage. Since my biological dad was never there, I’ve had a lot of doubts about myself and who I am. In fact, I still do. Not as many, of course, but they’re there. But with God leading the way – having the perfect Father – I know what kind of man I need to be.

In Matthew 6 there is a common theme of secrecy. No, not in the sense of keeping everything a secret; but in the sense of reflecting God’s character when no one else is around. “But when you give… when you pray… when you fast,” do so in secret. Jesus teaches us quite clearly to be the man or woman of God when no one is watching.

As I said at the beginning, kids learn your good habits as well as your bad habits. Even though you tell them never to cuss, they hear you cussing under your breath. Even though you tell them never to watch pornography, they know what you’re doing when your door’s closed. And even though you tell them never to doubt God’s sovereignty, they hear you crying out in utter despair and confusion. All of this can change if we just follow Christ’s teaching.

It demands humility, yes. It demands getting help from others, yes. But above all it demands grace; grace you must give yourself. Religious legalism has a way of infecting our walks with the Lord, but you can find it out when you look for grace. Legalism doesn’t have it. God does. And since He gives it freely to each one of us, we must receive it, give it to each other, and especially give it to ourselves.

Christ’s message in Matthew 5:48 isn’t a “good enough” message. It sets a standard for the people of His Kingdom. If grace were not there already, it’d be impossible. But God has enabled us to live as He desires us to live.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” Romans 8:1.

We can live in perfection in Christ Jesus. We can be Godly men and women when no one is around. We can break the cycles and habits our parents passed down to us. We can be men and women of integrity, humility, and courage.

God bless.

Breaking the Mold: “Like Father, Like Son”…

Last night I watched the movie Everything Must Go. On a scale of 1-10, I’d give it about a 7. It’s good if you’re bored, but if you want to see a good movie, I’d watch something else. However, there was something that stirred up a few emotions last night.

If you don’t want me to spoil the movie, browse away now.

It’s centered around a man named Nick Halsey, a prominent business man for a major corporation who has made a lot of money for himself. He has a beautiful home with a beautiful lawn and a really nice car. But, like his father, he’s an alcoholic. The story opens up with him losing his job and his wife because of his alcoholism.

At one point in the movie – near the turning point – he watches an old film strip from when he was younger. He sees himself playing as a kid, riding his bike, and enjoying life with his mother. When the camera cuts to his father, there’s a beer can in his hand and he’s flipping off his wife. Nick sees himself making that hand gesture.

I’ve often heard the phrase, “Like father, like son,” and then I’ve seen quite a few cases amongst several people I know where this is true. I think there is even scientific evidence of this trait and, if I’m not mistaken, it’s called “genetic predispositions.” The way I’ve understood this is that one is genetically inclined to be like one’s parents – i.e. Nick Halsey being the alcoholic just like his father was.

This disturbed me a little last night because when I think of what my father did – or rather, didn’t – I get scared that I might do the same. In case you don’t know my story, my biological father bailed before I was born. On my birth certificate where it says “Father,” there are only a couple asterisks. No name. If the phrase, “Like father, like son,” holds true, then it means I might bail on my son before he’s born. And that absolutely terrifies me.

Last night I thought of all the other things that my father was: promiscuous, addicted to drugs, and probably a convict. And once one factor triggered my fear, all the other factors amplified it. I suddenly found myself slightly believing that I’ll fall not far from the tree of my biological dad and probably wind up homeless with a long string of one-night stands. I know it’s stupid now, but I believed it for a moment.

Key words: for a moment.

As per usual, I immediately dove into prayer. Crying, sniffling, and stuttering, I asked God for comfort – for His comfort. I did this for about 20 minutes or so and then turned off my light to go to bed. As soon as I laid my head down, I realized something. I realized why these fears are causing a lot of emotional pain for me; because they’re being purged from me.

I don’t mean to say God’s torturing me; I mean to say He’s removing the filth from me. Part of that filth is the fear of failure passed down to me from my father. If the genetic predisposition thing is true, God is re-writing mine. Essentially, by following Christ, I’m breaking the mold – not just of my biological father, but of humanity itself. My father was driven towards sex, drugs, and alcohol to burry his pain. But I’m turning to Christ for healing from that pain.

I wrote all of these thoughts down as quickly as I could so I could write this blog today. When I was done, I started to feel a little hope. And then a Scripture came to mind:

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world,” – John 16:33

Jesus promises us this life will be excruciatingly painful and challenging (pun intended), but He also promises us that through Him, we’re freed from the sinful cycles of this world. We don’t have to turn to drugs, sex, commodities, alcohol, or money to numb the pain; it’s been crucified with Christ at His cross. We are now free – not only from hell and condemnation, but from ourselves and our genetic predispositions as humans.

Even though the movie wasn’t that great, it really brought to light things God has been teaching me all along. I, like Nick Halsey, can choose not to be like my father and to break those genetic codes. But unlike Nick Halsey, if I choose the cross of Christ every single day of my life – I will have peace within myself. It isn’t a peace that I had to fight for; it’s a peace that I simply needed to let in. God is knocking at the doors of our hearts not to place a bunch of rules and commandments over us; but to give us His peace – His peace that He knows we desperately need.

“Like Father, like Son” remains true… but becomes the greatest truth when God is our Father. In Christ, He is giving us His genetic predispositions. There is nothing greater than that.

God bless.

“The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the Lord tests the heart,” – Proverbs 17:3 (NIV)