Behind the Scenes: Hoosier Dad
I had just walked into the main building at the Winfield Correctional Facility for another Brothers in Blue weekend event when I was pulled aside by an inmate named Carl.
“I just wanted to tell you how much your book, Hoosier Dad, has helped me begin the reconciliation process with my son,” Carl said. “We haven’t spoken for over ten years, and I had pretty much given up any expectation that we ever would. Then I got a copy of your book, and I began applying what you said about praying blessings over him, and how it doesn’t matter that we are many miles apart and that prayers are not limited by physical boundaries. Then I wrote him a letter telling him I was sorry for all the hurt I’d caused him and that I am a changed man since I gave my life over to God. In your book, you mentioned that during this process I should not be surprised if I don’t get any response or if I am rejected. Well, I didn’t hear back for several weeks, and when I did, his letter was full of anger. At the same time, I could see glimpses of his wanting to forgive and wanting to trust me again. I know I’m on a long journey toward reconciliation, but I’m excited to be on that road, and your book has given me hope that God can restore what I ruined.”
Although the principles throughout Hoosier Dad, apply to all dads, the goal in writing it was to provide some healing, encouragement, and hope to all the “Carls” out there who have shirked their responsibilities as fathers for most of their lives and have become awakened to their need to change. This awakening is very common among those who have turned their lives over to God while in prison. The following is the introduction to the book.
A Simple Guide to Better Fathering
I had no idea what a sensitive and volatile topic “dad” could be until a few years ago when I stumbled upon the subject. Oh, sure, I knew there were some dads out there who were not doing a very good job. And if I thought hard enough, I could think of some times that my own dad had made some goof-ups in the process of raising me and my sister. But that’s life. Goof-ups are a part of it.
It was a Tuesday evening in June, and a friend of mine and I were teaching a small group of men from our church how to facilitate a discussion group of their own in the fall. One of the subjects had to do with the relationship between dads and their sons. The best way to teach something like this is to do a pilot group with the prospective leaders themselves, as understanding their relationships with their dads can be of great benefit.
My friend opened with two anecdotes about his dad, and the room became oddly uneasy. It seemed strange to me because just before we formally started this discussion most of the men were fully engaged in conversation. This topic about dads was apparently off-limits. To relieve the tension, I decided to jump in and tell a humorous incident about my dad. I got a good laugh, but it was only a temporary delay to another uncomfortable silence.
Finally, men began to speak up.
“My dad was great,” one of them said. “We did all kinds of things together. We went camping and fishing and golfing. We laughed together, and we cried together. There wasn’t anything I couldn’t talk to him about.”
His eyes filled with tears, and his voice began to quiver. “We were best friends. Dad passed away two years ago. I sure do miss him.”
“I wish I had a story to tell,” said another, “but the truth is, I don’t remember much. Mom said he was a great guy, but he died when I was six.”
After another long pause, I noticed one of the men out of the corner of my eye. His face was red. He was staring at the floor, and he was clearly upset. “The last time I saw my dad, we were sitting at the kitchen table. He had a fifth of whiskey in one hand, and his other was a clenched fist. He cussed me out, told me how worthless I was, and threatened to hit me in the face. He was a mean, pathetic drunk. The day my dad died was the happiest day of my life.”
In some circles, this is labeled as the father wound. It is an incident or series of incidents that has been molding young men and women for centuries. Rejection, abandonment, physical or mental abuse, and indifference are among the complaints that often pop up when these five dangerous words are assembled: “Tell me about your dad.”
For many, dads are perceived as a hopeless project in dire need of being whipped into shape. In today’s world, they are often talked about and treated as if they were a misbehaving dog.
“If we could just get over Rover to stop chewing up the furniture, then everything would be fine.”
Getting Rover to behave is not the answer. Rover’s actions are only a glimpse of who he really is. If a dad can see and understand who he is and what his role as a father involves, his behavior will take care of itself.
Life should be simple. I think fathering should be simple. Yet, there is a challenge. How does a father make the transition from his past failures to his future hopes?
The task seems overwhelming, almost impossible. In reality, it’s not as difficult to be a good dad as you might think. Unfortunately, only a few figure it out in time to make a difference.
My goal is not to write an all-inclusive plan from early fatherhood to great-great-grandfatherhood. My intention is to propose some basic, yet powerful concepts that will enhance the art of fathering. For those already doing a good job, these ideas will explain and confirm why they are doing so well. For others, they will be an aid in altering their course toward a hope for a better relationship with their children. This book is for every dad who wants to become a great dad. Some of you might think it is too late. You’ve made too many mistakes, your family hates you, and your life is coming to an end.
Fixing relationships from the mistakes you made and the pain you’ve caused may not be easy, but you still have time to finish well.
A couple of years ago, a friend of mine was conducting a Christmas concert. I asked him how he thought the evening went, and he replied, “The good news is most of the audience only remembers the last piece, and we got that one right.”