The move to Montreat signified a whole new level of existence for me. My adolescence had been characterized by a desire to know and to do what was right juxtaposed with a struggle to find myself. The latter proved challenging, especially when I didn’t really have a firm handle on the questions, for which there seemed no easy answers. As I entered my college years, I began to realize what many of those unanswered questions were, and was now in a position to dive in and discover them.
What I came to learn was that, in spite of the exceptional nurture and affirmation of a loving mom, there was still quite a bit missing in my “tool box” of life. I was growing into manhood, and as a man, was attempting to find my way through life without a father figure to guide me.
There were the small things I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing that many sons and daughters perhaps take for granted. I don’t remember a dad picking me up, setting me on his lap and hugging me. There was no dad to help me with algebra, to teach me how to craft something out of wood, or to take me out to a ball game. I would have loved to have had a dad to guide me in the difficult decisions of life or to just put his arm around me and let me know things would be all right. And, of course, it would have been tremendously beneficial to have him help to sort out all the burgeoning hormonal behavior that comes with being a teenage boy.
There are other issues that a fatherless son has that go even deeper. Roland Warren, former president of the National Fatherhood Initiative, wrote an article, outlining some of the needs that, often times, can only be provided by a father to his son.
- One is the need for significance…the need to feel that a son has purpose, meaning, and reason for his existence.
- Another is the need for affirmation…to know what a son is here to do and to know that he is doing it well.
- The other is the need to be loved…deep inside each one of us is an innate desire to be loved and to love.
Warren writes, “This boils down to a son’s innate need to be affirmed by his father. Your affirmation prepares your son to enter the world with the confidence and “emotional armor” that he needs in order not just to survive, but to thrive. A son needs to know that you are pleased with him, not for what he does or does not do, but because of who he is.”
“Kids have a hole in their soul in the shape of their dad. And if a father is unwilling or unable to fill that hole, it can leave a wound that is not easily healed.”
I realized that all of my struggles up to that point had to do with each of these areas and the quest to fill them with various things – some good, some bad, some legitimate and some counterfeit. Now as a young man in college, I began to think more about my dad and I became more aware of these deficiencies. And as one who was tired of trying to fill the emptiness with more of the same, I resolved not to feel sorry for myself, but to see the future as a new realm of opportunity – one where I would discover my significance in this world, as well as the one who would fulfill that innate and divine desire to love and to be loved.
As I will detail in the next several posts, my two years at Montreat were monumental in helping to resolve some of my “dad deficiencies” and to fulfill my life in ways I would have never dreamed.