(Excerpt from the book)
Looking Toward the Stands
While speaking recently to a group of football players at a local high school, I asked one of the young athletes, “When you’re on the field, do you ever look up into the stands?”
“Yes,” he responded.
I asked him, “Who are you looking for? And why?”
“I look for my dad,” he said. “I am looking for whether or not he is smiling.”
“What does that feel like to see him smiling over you?” I asked him.
“There is nothing in my life that means more to me than what my dad thinks of me,” he said. “When my dad is there watching, there is nothing I can’t do!”
When you are on the field of life, who are you looking for in the stands?
While playing in the city baseball championship, my 11-year-old son, Luke, struck out in his first at-bat of the game. He put his head down and sulked as he walked back to the dugout. Looking for my reaction, he peeked out from underneath his cap, glancing in my direction. I raised my arms in victory and shouted, “You are a champion, son! You are going to blast the next one!” His countenance changed from a frown to a smile. In his next at-bat, he smacked the first pitch against the center field fence. As he rounded second base, he raised his hands and gave me the victory sign. He caught my smile over his life, and his face reflected the love I have for him.
Oftentimes, Little League stands are full of moms but devoid of dads. Where are the fathers? That is the reality that haunts so many young people I meet. Do dads understand the power they have been given to make a difference in their kids’ lives?
What was your dad like? Did he have his head down, shaking it in disappointment whenever you couldn’t make the big play? Did you even have a dad there? Or was he the one rooting for you, no matter what you did?
If you’re a dad today, which one are you?
An involved father can make all the difference in a child’s life. His love and care can be the deciding factor in helping a young one become who he or she was created to be. When our hearts are filled with security and trust in a dad who loves us, we stop living for our father’s approval, and begin to live from his approval. Out of our assurance of his unending love and commitment, we’re enabled to become the person we were created to be and, in the process, bring pleasure to our dad.
If you are thinking, “I have no idea what that’s like” or “My father has never approved of anything I have done,” you’re not alone. And if you are thinking, “That’s not how I am with my son or daughter,” it’s not too late.
I recently received a letter from a man who attended one of my “The Difference a Father Makes” conferences. I remember him coming up to me with tears in his eyes and asking if it was too late for him to make a difference in his daughter’s life? “No,” I told him. “It is never too late on this side of heaven to make a difference.”
This young father went on. “I am going to go home and do the same thing you did with your daughter.”
“Go for it, dad!” I said.
Two weeks later he wrote me these words:
My daughter is 17 and will be attending college this fall. My heart was smitten so much when you shared the experience you had with your daughter that I did almost the exact same thing. I purchased a nice diamond ring for her and asked her to go to dinner with me the night before my next business trip. She was surprised, yet anxious, about the dinner; I believe because I had been traveling so much she thought I just wanted to spend some time with her. I took her out to her favorite restaurant. When we were seated and had ordered our meal, she asked, “So, what did I do?” I told her the reason I wanted to have this time with her was to let her know how much I love her and how proud I am of her.
She and I had to take some deep breaths at that time as we both had tears in our eyes. I then continued, struggling to get the words out about the many assets and accomplishments of hers that I was so proud of. Then I stood up and got down on one knee and pulled out the ring. When she saw it, I must say her expression was that of pure joy. As she began to cry, I looked her in the eyes and said, “I would like to ask you if you would enter into a promise covenant with me, and accept this ring as a token of our covenant. This ring will be given to the man that you and I agree before God is worthy to receive it on your wedding night. Today, I call you to be a woman, and I will treat you as one from this day forward.”
She was so excited; we both hugged and tried to hold back the tears, but I really didn’t care who was around because, at that moment, nothing else mattered. We are now reading a book together and are excited about what God has in store for us.
Understanding the goal line
One of the biggest problems children face in our culture is that they have no idea when they reach the goal line and become a man or a woman. Was that goal line ever defined for you? When is the day that a little boy arrives at manhood and stops striving to prove himself? How does a little girl cross over into the life of being a woman?
These are all questions we must answer if we are to be fathers who help our children be all they were created to be. This book is about unleashing the incredible power God puts in us, as men, to make a difference by calling out this next generation of men and women who will become our future leaders.
When a local businessman recently came by my office, he looked at me and said, “Ed, the biggest struggle in my life is learning how to deal with my teenage son. He does and says things that make me want to rip his head off. I find myself battling with a lot of anger. I blurt things out that crush him. I find myself doing the same things that my father did to me. I so much want to be a father who calls out the greatness that I know is in my son. But I don’t know how to do it.” While many men desire to be the kind of father who breathes life into their kids’ lives, they’ve never been given a road map for how to fulfill that desired role.
In the following pages, I want to take you on a journey of discovery, where we uncover the hidden treasures of what it means to be a father who makes a difference in the lives of his children. Our discussion will be frank and heartfelt, challenging you to be the dad perhaps you yourself never had. And even if you never had a father, I will show you how to connect with the greatest Father of all time and to live your life under His smile.
I was determined from the writing of the first page of this book not only to share my journey, but to answer the “Yeah, but how do I do it?” question.
I remember the first day of training camp when I was drafted by the New York Jets football team. The coaching staff handed each of us a six-inch thick playbook, filled with hundreds of football plays. When head coach Walt Michaels stood up to make his opening speech, he held up the playbook and said, “Men, it is your responsibility to learn these plays. I am not going to hold your hand and make you study this, but there is one thing that will keep you from making this team.” Then he said something I have never forgotten.
He said, “If you don’t know what you are doing when you are on the field, you will keep the rest of this team from winning, and you will never fulfill your dream of playing in the National Football League.”
Most of the young fathers I meet want to make a difference, but they don’t know how. In so many of their stories, their own father’s blessing was missing. How can a son who has never had his father bless him give a blessing to his kids? We are going to walk through that question together.
I have included a playbook at the back of this book that will teach you the impact positive affirmation, public blessing, shared rituals and values, quality time, built-in structure, and consistent celebration will have on the lives of your kids or those you are mentoring.
My hope is that this book leaves you a changed man with a changed family.