Many inspiring stories are recorded about fathers throughout history. Here is a story I’d like to relate, not because it is a great story or because I tell it extremely well; It just happens to be a contemporary account that I know to be true, and it seems like a good way to commemorate Father’s Day – especially since I am in Afghanistan, and can’t get back home to hug my own children this year.
We were living in Phoenix, Arizona around 1994, and my son Adam was playing with the neighbor kids. I, my wife Linda, and my daughter Erica were all working outside – I think I was mowing the grass in front of the house, and Linda was working around the pool out in back. As it turns out, Adam and his neighborhood friends were playing Army or something like that. Adam – being a 10-year-old boy with no significant amount of fear – had been walking around on the top edges of the cinderblock walls that separate the properties of the homes in that neighborhood. This of course provided him with an excellent vantage point for surveying “enemy” forces, and so on. And Adam, who inherited the exceptional hand-eye coordination and dexterity of his mother, had no issue at all with walking around atop the 5-foot-tall cinderblock walls for a long period of time. However, Adam made one mistake. When it came time for him to descend, he decided to do so by stepping down onto the bright blue plastic recycle bin in our next-door neighbor’s yard. As it happened, the bin was empty. The front of the bin was mounted on wheels. The combination of these two factors, when Adam’s weight came down atop the bin, resulted in the bin shooting out from under him, ejecting Adam face-down onto the concrete stoop outside the door of the neighbor’s garage.
When I arrived on the scene a few moments later, I found Adam covered in the blood gushing from his mouth, one front tooth broken off, and the other front tooth root-and- all – laying on the concrete beside him. It was a mess. I carried him inside, trailed by 12 year old Erica carrying the tooth, and got to work cleaning him up while Linda looked up the dentist’s phone number and hurriedly made the call; Then she handed me the phone, and raced from the room in order to avoid feinting at the sight. The dentist told me: “First put the tooth in a glass of milk and swish it around in there for a minute. Then you are going to have to push the tooth back into the open socket in his gum.”
“Are you kidding?” I said in incredulity, “I’m no dentist, and I have no anesthetic here.”
“I know”, he responded, “but this has to be done within 15 minutes or the socket in his gum is going to swell closed, and that tooth will be lost permanently. You don’t have time to get here, and you have no choice. It’s going to hurt like crazy, so get your wife to hold his head still while you replace the tooth. You have to push it in hard – all the way up into the socket – or it won’t work.”
Glancing furtively into the other room where my wife had fled, I realized that wasn’t an option. She cannot deal with the sight of blood. 12-year-old Erica was what I had to work with, and so Erica it was. I positioned Erica behind Adam who was seated in a kitchen chair, and had her hold her very distraught younger brother’s head clamped tightly back toward her against the back of the chair. Then I pushed the tooth back into position. That took real courage on the part of a 12-year old girl, but I never doubted for a minute that Erica had it in her. It hurt Adam so badly that he not only screamed as it was done, but basically convulsed from the pain and fell into a state of shock as soon as it was over. He was shaking like a leaf, and too weak to stand. I carried Adam out to the car, and we all headed for the dentist’s office. The dentist met us and took over from there. Adam was barely able to wobble out of the dentist’s building an hour or so later.
Pushing that tooth back into the bloody socket in Adam’s mouth, understanding the level of pain I was inflicting on the son I loved as dearly as I love anyone in this world, was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. I would have taken that pain on myself a dozen times rather than inflict it on him if I could have. It’s hard to imagine, even looking back on it now, how we got through that experience. I think we all learned some things that day. Oh, I don’t mean that Adam learned not to walk around atop 5-foot-tall cinderblock walls, although he certainly hasn’t tried that again. No, the lessons we learned that day were more profound.
There are a lot of things that we know intellectually but never REALLY know until we experience them. Adam’s trust in his dad to do the right thing – the best thing for him – in spite of the fact that it hurt like no pain he had ever experienced in his lifetime – was something I would never have believed possible. He sat there in that chair and gripped the arms and screamed – but he never fought me or tried to make me stop. He trusted me to do what was required, in spite of the pain. My ability to inflict such pain on my own son, blinking back tears as I pressed that tooth home, in order to rectify the mistake he had made and make him as whole again as possible, validated what I had known intellectually but never had to demonstrate before; that I would pay any price required for the people that I love. Especially my children, because that’s what a father does. That’s what a father is.
When I reflect on the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary, I can scarcely take in the sheer magnitude of the love displayed by God the Father for each of us. God, in order to overcome the sin of mankind, was required to inflict incredible pain – watch His own Son being beaten, stabbed, ridiculed, and essentially murdered as He was literally nailed to the cross in order to redeem all the rest of us, His adopted children. (See Matthew Chapters 26 and 27.) Like my only son Adam, the Bible makes it clear that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God. For God to allow that to happen says more about His love for us – for YOU – than any of us can begin to comprehend. At the end of the crucifixion, God the Father literally had to turn away from the scene; He could no longer stand to witness what was being done to His Son Jesus (see Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34.) The pain for both of them was simply beyond human comprehension.
So “Happy Father’s Day!” to all of you Dads out there. And especially to the heavenly Father we so often neglect to thank for the sacrifice He made on Calvary so that we could escape the everlasting punishment that we brought on ourselves.