I know we don’t know each other, but I feel this had to be written. I also don’t know how you have come to read this—perhaps it was forwarded on to you or you stumbled upon it by accident. Either way, I think you should first know a few things about me:
I grew up in a single parent home and was not raised with a strong father figure, our relationship never went much past surface level and he was more of a playmate than a father.
I was a single father for over 9 years. I share custody of my daughter with her mother, to whom I was never married.
By the time my daughter was born, I had done about everything I could to screw up my life. I suffered for over ten years from drug and alcohol addiction—I wasn’t cut out to be a dad, not in the least.
I am a Christian. Before I lose you—read on! Once my daughter was born I knew something had to change. I wanted to be a great dad, better than what I had been raised with. I also knew that was not possible if I continued down the path I was on. I had been going to church on and off for about 6 years by this point; and when my daughter was about 8 months old, I surrendered my life to Jesus.
So why am I writing this to you? I now run a ministry for single fathers and I work with some amazing dads, many of whom are being shut out of their children’s lives or struggle to make ends meet. On the flip side, I talk with countless single moms who only wish their children’s dad would be a part of the kid’s lives—men who show no intention of doing so. And for that my heart breaks. I have been given a love for my daughter that I never knew existed before she was born. Almost twelve years later, her birth continues to be one of the most significant moments in my life and I cannot imagine my life without her. I simply cannot understand why any father would deny the same in his own life.
Dad, I realize I don’t know your situation, but I will tell you that if you are not stepping up to the plate (physically, financially, emotionally) as a father, you are missing out on more than you can ever know. The Bible tells us that children are a gift from the Lord. Maybe you didn’t have the best representation of a father in your life either, I get it. But that’s no reason to back down now! Yes, it may be painful along the way, but I will assure you the pros overwhelmingly outweigh the cons. All it takes is a simple love note from your little girl or a hug and a loving word from your son to melt even the most hardened of us men. If this is reaching you, even in the least, please allow me to share a few quick tips to help you along the way:
- Come clean
You may not be a Christian, and perhaps you aren’t sold on this whole religion thing, but I will assure you there is nothing in this world that can ever compare to God’s love and mercy. If he can do a 180 with someone like me, he can with anyone! First, we need to recognize that we are sinful individuals, ask for his forgiveness, and ask Jesus to be the Lord of our lives (see John 3:16 and Romans 10:9-10).
Next, we need to ask for forgiveness to those we have hurt, specifically our children’s mother and our kids themselves. This will probably be one of the biggest ego checks you will ever face, and may not be received well, but it needs to be done nonetheless. We simply cannot move forward until we wipe the slate clean.
- Lose the friends that are bringing you down
I know all the slang: “Bros before ****”, “I got 99 problems…”, “Homeys for life”, etc… And I completely understand the weight many of these friends carry in our lives. However, once we became a father, our children superseded all other friendships. When I began to walk away from the drug scene one of my good friends at the time said, “So what? We’re not friends anymore?” My response was, “You’ll always be my boy, but if you’re going to continue doing what you’re doing, I can’t be a part of it.” The first six months of my daughter’s life I slashed over 90% of my social circle. Yes, it was extremely difficult, but these were individuals who were dragging me down. In replacement, I sought out men who would build me up. Today, I am so blessed to have mentors, a best friend, and other people who challenge me to be the man I was created to be. Good or bad, as fathers we set the tone for our kids. What can you do today to be the leader they so desperately need?
- Just Do It
The longer we wait to do something the less likely we are to do it. I challenge you to begin to make the necessary moves to begin the healing process in you and your children’s relationship. Surround yourself with a strong and healthy support system—such as a church community and a mentor. Every moment you hesitate you lose irreplaceable and invaluable moments with your son or daughter—every day you invest in them you experience the unbelievable gift we have been so graciously blessed with: Fatherhood.
I’m pulling for you, Dad!
Matt Haviland is the founder and director of A Father’s Walk single dad ministry. He is an ordinary guy who chases an extraordinary God. For more information, please visit www.afatherswalk.org.