Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Donald Miller: A defacto father to the fatherless

Donald Miller, unwittingly, has become a surrogate father-figure to me which true of many authors to many men for, well, probably since we started writing things down. This is true of Donald Miller to me, and I think he, maybe at one time in his life would have rejected this, mostly now endorses this idea or one like it. There is so much that I want to embrace in this blog post, but so much that I know I will never get to and never be able to fully grasp. The first though is this idea of surrogate fatherhood of men mostly not volunteering for this job. For me, so many men have filled the role they didn't know they were getting themselves into. The void that a father leaves after he is gone is vacuum that can destroy a person if you let it. And we have to, we strive to fill that void with voices. People speak into us whatever we will let them, and this quickly warps into whatever we want a father to say. There is the victim and the victor, the traitor and the tyrant. It is at this point, and this might have been something that Mr. Miller didn't cover in his latest installment of To Own a Dragon - revisioned as Father Fiction which I think was well worth the re-write entirely. But that the fatherless child gets to pick, almost and I will expand on that further, the voices that speak into them. The fatherless child, victim sure of a terrible circumstance and a statistic that I am included in, is given opportunities in this life to have a multiplicity of voices speak into him/her at various points in its life in all different circumstance. But the responsibility is on that child, although perhaps unaware at the time, to choose wisely the fathers he may choose. We cannot choose our fathers in this life, and whether they will stay and further on whether they will love us rightly or not, but when they leave we then may choose what books we read, what music we allow in our hearts, what older boys and younger men we allow to shape us. And a reflection on Father Fiction, the section that cut my heart to its core, is that I have made some terrible decisions. I have let some awful voices speak and inform my heart, and I have turned away - which might be the more significant and more destructive choice - some excellent voices from my life. Reading along with the slow, delicate pace of Miller's prose was like going plumbing in the basement of my soul and Miller is holding the flashlight. I would turn back, and he would gently, sometimes with humor, suggest me on. Like the irresponsible man he portrays himself to be with biting honesty, I wanted to throw the book across the room and denounce him publicly for what seemed to me at the time was humiliating me ruthlessly. I know he knows my heart, and these are the words he must say to get through to me at all.

So I have, at Miller's prompting, given my life over to the idea of living a good story. That is simply and forever will be the only reason I went to see my dad at all. This is a long story, and I don't have time to deal with it here appropriately, but I can if I choose to in smaller chunks and unravel for you the beating heart of a boy who sort of stumbled into a adulthood and made a lot of mistakes on the way. My father left when I was 3, and I saw him again when I was 6, then I saw him again when I was 24. The interim time was filled with a stretch of almost insurmountable pain and spots of staggering joy, and the time I had with him wasn't enough to share with him my story, nor am I sure he cared. But my life, though linked to his, is not his to own. It is mine, and I could have used his guidance, love, and affection, but I will be a father someday, and all the love that didn't get used with him, I will shower on my children like a hurricane.

But in the mean time, I can use that love elsewhere.

God has led some strange people into my life. I don't how it all works or how it came to be, but for one reason or another my wife and I have always had the ability to house people. When I was in college several vagabonds came to stay with us. Coming from all sorts of stories themselves, and not knowing or not loving God in any concrete way, through their time with us we were able to give them some hope and push them a little further down the road. I would really love to find someway to make this system more efficient, more productive, more real. We sort of just happened to know someone who needed a place to stay, and we gave them that. Through our time, they accepted Christ or were already a Christian that need to get back on their feet. I wish I could get into their stories more in-depth because these 4 men and their stories would break your heart. I have a similar burden for the fatherless as Miller has seem to set forth in his endeavor to change the way our society views and treats fatherless kids. I want to give the ones who have set out on their own, and didn't exactly land on their feet a second chance. They always come to me wild and wounded, and we nurse them back to health and try to tamp them down a little and straighten them out mostly because I have been mostly, not to far ahead them, where they are and can show them the way as far as I have gotten. There are several national ministries that have attempted to do similar things like To Write Love On Her Arms and HeartSupport and other national suicide ministries, but I think we have to look at this problem large-mindedly and holistically, and provide the cure for these brokenhearted ones at the same time providing for their immediate needs in some responsible and tangible way. So if I could live this story effectively, I might try to move to a place where this is a rampant problem, more so than the smaller towns I have inhabited or start it here and see it grow. But then I would need a place to facilitate this program of housing people and co-existing with these ragamuffins. I would need some staff, volunteers maybe, paid-possibly, to help with the day to day operations of feeding and cleaning these kids. All the while, possibly turning these kids around and positively impacting the community around us. We would need support to keep the operation running, providing a revenue source would be fantastic to prop up our ministry. This is all a loose knit sort of story that seems to me now hard to peg down effectively, but it is a story that lives inside me and wishes dearly to be born.

I think that attending this seminar would be a great help to me and the friend I would bring, my wife, to understand more what it takes to start a story like this one, and see how Mr. Miller was able to start something like the Mentoring Project, and have a positive impact on kid's lives. So I am excited to see what this seminar brings to those hoping to set out in this crazy, mixed up generation and restore some peace and some hope to the hopeless.

I wasn't able to embed the video clip required because I have an internet filter on my computer and vimeo and embedded video is blocked.