In addition to being an educator at a public high school, I’m also an assistant football coach. Last weekend, we took 50 players to a Fellowship of Christian Athletes full contact football camp. The camp included spirited scrimmages, upbeat services, and plenty of team building time. On the last night the speaker gave a gospel invitation to come to Christ. Twenty four student athletes from our team alone stood up and came forward as they professed their need for Christ. Many more from the other schools came forward.
It was a time of great joy for the coaches and athletes.
Later that night we sat in a small breakout room for team time. The A/C was broke and everyone backed their chairs against the four walls so that every sweating face could be seen. The coaches shared a few personal testimonies and then opened the floor for the players to share.
Shortly after that, the floodgates burst wide open in a way I never imagined.
I can’t share with specificity everything that was shared in that room. It would be a betrayal of trust to young men who know nothing but betrayal by the men in their life.
And I say “betrayal by men” because that was the consistent theme in the heartache and tears that were expressed by these youth:
Every shame filled testimony revolved around a deep father hunger and hurt. Many shared they were abandoned at a young age by their biological dad. Some have seen drug deals run on the same kitchen table they eat their Cheerios on. Others have become the functional dad to younger siblings, and the protector of a mom who puts on makeup to cover up the bruises of her abusers. Some had dope literally forced on them by their “parent s” at elementary age to settle their ADD down. As a result, some are now dealing with a drug addiction they never chose, but was chosen for them by an authority figure.
One after the other.
Have you ever heard of a father teaching his five-year old son to snort cocaine off of a kitchen counter?
I haven’t either.
Until this weekend.
And I write this with tears of joy and heartache. Joy that my five-year old son, Josiah, will never be subjected to such abuse. Heartache that any five-year old son is subjected to such abuse.
My eyes were opened as an educator, coach, and namely, human. Because I so many times lazily accept the facade the young broken person carefully constructs. The one that doesn’t seem to care. The one that hates authority of any kind. The one that only worries about how much weed and girls they can run through on any given night.
And I know many see the same propped up facades I do:
These are all products of self preservation made to wall out the pain an unforgiving world will inflict. But in that holy vulnerable moment, I saw them as they were: Just little boys desperately in need of a father. White, black, rich or poor. All of them ached for the same thing.
The biggest and baddest dudes who peacock through the halls of my high school were broken and blubbering children before their coaches and peers this night. The weight of their broken world on their broad shoulders was being lifted for the first time by confession. Darkness coming to light, where those secrets can no longer do their quiet damage on a soul.
All of these anguished souls were embraced by their teammate and coaches.
But I hope they also felt another altogether un-worldly embrace that weekend.
I hope they realize that deep father hurt can also be healed by One greater
The One who reveals Himself as THE “Father,” The One who gave his only son so that they can be adopted sons welcomed into a huge family. The One who takes those burdens and bruises and carries them away forever. The One who never leaves or forsakes His children.
I hope they experience the great heavenly love their earthly fathers didn’t know how to give them. (1 John 3:1)
I hope we all start to see the “worst” among us as the most in need of unconditional love.
And I really wish you could have sat in that room that night.