“Daddy” (Part three of four)

Donaldmiller_1
In a previous post, I mention several books I read during the month of July.  All of these in some way related to fathers.  One of these books was To Own a Dragon by Donald Miller and John MacMurray.  (Miller is probably best known for his book Blue Like Jazz.)

 

In the book, Miller reflects on growing up without a father.  He reveals the thoughts and feelings of a young man deeply impacted by the loss of his father. 

...I began to wonder if those of us without dads aren’t making mistakes in our lives we wouldn’t make if we had a father to guide us. I wondered if there isn’t a better paradigm for our existence–a way of being men, a way each of us could truly embrace if it were instilled in us by a man who spoke with altruism and authority.  I wondered if people who grow up with great fathers don’t walk around with a subconscious sense they are wanted on this planet, that they belong and the world needs them.  And I wondered this:  Is there practical information we are supposed to know about work, women, decisions, authority, leadership, marriage and family that we would have learned if there were a guide around to help us navigate our journey? … (p. 34)

 

Much of the book discusses the relationship between Miller and the co-author John MacMurray.  For a time, Miller (as a single adult) lived with the MacMurray family.  I found the discussions between Miller and MacMurray to be very interesting.  It was interesting to see how an older, Christian man could have such a positive impact on a younger man.

 

There were two chapters I especially enjoyed.  His chapter entitled "Making Decisions" was outstanding.  (I wish I had read this when I was in college years ago.)

 

I also enjoyed the last chapter entitled "Spirituality."  Here are a few lines from that chapter:

 

  • The Scripture that states if an earthly father knows how to provide for his children, how much more God knows how to provide for His, speaks volumes in antithesis too:  If an earthly father abandons his children and wrecks their lives, how much more would an abandonment from God destroy a human being?  (p. 182-183)
  • The feeling a person who grows up without a father has is that God is disinterested.  It’s a difficult feeling to explain, because I also believe God is loving and good and involved. (p. 186)
  • (MacMurray to Miller regarding faith)   But, you know, Don, if it stays in your head it will never work.  We have to live it out.  And that, in turn, increases our faith.  It’s like any relationship, you have to dive in, you have to let the relationship change you.  We do that by obeying God.  We submit to Him like a kid does with a father.  (p. 188)

 

I enjoyed this book.  It caused me to reflect on my life as a father and father-in-law.  A good read.

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8 thoughts on ““Daddy” (Part three of four)

  1. Father figures are so important– and it’s so sad that so many children are growing without a daddy. Thanks for bringing up this important topic.

  2. I just finished “Dragon” this morning and plan to use it in my counseling and discipleship. I liked this even more than “Blue Like Jazz.”

    I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you that I deal with sons of absent or neglectful and/or abusive fathers all the time. It was interesting, too, to see the difference in effects between the absence of a father (as with Miller) and the presence of a bad father (as with me). There are probably more similarities than differences, but the differences are significant. Perhaps I’ll post on it sometime when I can afford to reflect on it more.

    There is so, so much in the book, but you have provided an accurate taste for anyone who might be wondering if they should read it or not. I would suggest all pastors read it: most of the men in your church, on your deacon board, and/or your elder board likely have issues addressed in this book.

  3. This is a powerful topic which I have been thinking about a lot these days. I have three sons whom I love and are proud of. I am often aggrivated at them too, but that goes with the territory. I have been to their games, taken them on driving vacations, have tried love their mother as best I am able, have cared for them when they were sick and was never afraid of their diapers. I have said yes about as often I have said no. They would tell you differently, but there you go. I have put one through college and will so do the same with the others.

    But in the back of your mind you wonder if it has been enough. If you read the authors on parenthood from the sources we have held as authorities the answer would be no. That there was I have been told more expected and to be honest I didn’t deliver. My elequence about my feelings for them has often fallen short. I have been angry and said things that they may remember with pain. I probably cannot tell you all the names of their friends, and I do not hand out money liberally. I have expected that they will help out around the house and that they pick up after themselves. I have never felt the need to be their very best friend. That is not my role. And to be honest I do not have guilt.

    I fear our expectations of Dad’s and Father’s have exceed what is possible. We are sinners, and we do make many many mistakes. Our models from previous generations have been flawed, and time is always short. I read through the Bible for models and I don’t find any in Abraham or Jacob or David. So I pray and I try not exasperate my sons more than necessary. Just as I have forgiven my Dad, he did the best he could, I pray my sons will forgive me. I think they will, they too will have children one day.

  4. The thing about parenting – and, in this case, fathering – is that one only has to be “good enough,” which is actually not all that difficult if the father is present, emotional available, and actively engaged in his son’s life. A father who was always there would actually being doing a disservice to his son.

    When a father is present and engaged, the son learns of the fallibility and failings of his father, but because it happens over time and in the context of overall good fathering, it is not traumatic. The son learns to love a less-than-perfect father and comes to have realistic expectations of himself and others.

    When a father is absent, negligent, or abusive, however, the ideal father figure in the boy’s brain remains. This often leads to the unrealistic expectations that sons/men have of fathers and those in positions of authority. Therein lies a part of the problem: there is either a deep resentment coupled with an unrealistic notion of what fathers are supposed to be like, or there is a deep sense of unloveability and an unrealistic idea of what fathers are supposed to be.

    Good fathers with good relationships don’t have to worry about sons growing up with a distorted view of fathers. But sons without fathers are left to guess at what a father is supposed to do or be.

  5. Mike,
    Thanks for both comments. Your words regarding the impact of an absent or poor father are very insightful.

    I especially read with interest your comments regarding the “ideal father” image. Helpful.

    Thanks also for the idea of getting guys in the churches to read this book. That is such a good idea.

  6. Kent,
    I think you are on to something very important. I do think a lot of guys have some very unreal expectations for themselves. You express it well.

    Then—on the other side are the guys who do not seem to realize that it is time to grow up and be Dads.

    I think I have seen both groups in the church.

  7. Thanks Jim.

    I wish I would have known so much when I was younger. There is so much parents need to give to their children. Not only wisdom, but as part of that wisdom the confidence to try.

    Thanks for sharing on the book. I’ll have to read it.