“I miss you, son. Sadly, I too often missed ‘you’. Why couldn’t I have had eyes like your Heavenly Father.” – Braden’s dad
“Don’t be ashamed to cry, dad. God wants you to know everything will be okay. Life can be cloudy. Rainbows will come after the rain.” – Braden
“Tears mirror how God used the flood to cleanse the earth and Jesus baptized to wash away sin. Welcome the tears. They will paint your life with color again.” – Sarah Feuerbacher
I’ve had some things weighing very heavily on my heart for several weeks and known I needed to just write about them. That’s been cathartic these past months, but this time I just couldn’t seem to get the words to come together. I hate procrastination, especially when I sense urgency in a message, but have been guilty of putting this off. I promised honesty. This message is very important for parents and particularly, fathers. Here goes.
Spring Break 2019. Our family’s first without Braden. We arrived at Broken Bow, Oklahoma late last Friday night. The cabin unit was the last one available online at a property many encouraged us to visit. The cabin’s named “Seclusion”. Perfect to get away from the world. It’s the only structure within twenty acres of the others in a densely forested expanse of pines and hardwoods.
I’m not sure why, but our first night there was really rough for me, emotionally. Probably for several reasons.
First, I was thinking of how much Braden would have loved being there. Maybe we would have gone to a cafe for breakfast or gone fly fishing together. In reality, more likely he would have slept until noon and then been on social media. It was always my dream to go fishing with my boy but it didn’t happen. Maybe we’ll get to do that together when we meet again.
Second, Friday night we received a note from a local family counselor, Sarah. She has been asked to participate in a follow-up Town Hall meeting about teen suicide prevention in our community. Cathy and I may also get a chance to participate. No clue what we would say but feel certain God will let us know, if so. We’ve also had the mother of yet another young man reach out. She lost her 16 year old boy just two months ago.
Last, the school district is bringing a suicide prevention initiative to our local schools. Very encouraging. Guess that’s why it was such an emotional time. Although our son isn’t here, the Holy Spirit is moving and other teens and families might not have to go through what our family has experienced. THANK GOD!
But it’s not just Friday night. It’s been over a month now. I just can’t understand why I’m crying daily now. My wife has been crying every day as well. God, Why can’t this get better?
Isn’t crying a strange thing?
Have you ever wondered why only humans cry? I really never gave it much thought until recently when it started happening to me daily. Often without so much as a conscious thought. Tears just begin streaming from my eyes while driving to work or when I turn to enter a room, or when I smell my daughter’s hair while we hug. It can even happen when I see another kid who looks lonely or appears to be left out. Or “different”.
Why in the world would that even make sense? Crying. Isn’t that just for the weak?
Honestly, I’ve never liked it when my wife or children begin to cry during a conflict. I’ve selfishly concluded it was somehow by choice. A way to gain emotional leverage. But I don’t think that anymore. I now realize crying is a completely involuntary response to life. To hurt. Pain beyond words.
Why did God, in His infinite wisdom add crying to his human creation? I don’t have the answer but maybe part of the reason was He knew us too well. He knew we’d face pain at times more than we could handle. Pain beyond words or explanation. That certainly describes what we feel now. And I see more clearly, it was how Braden felt before he left. Pain indescribable. Even tears couldn’t heal his hurt, though.
In the Bible we are told God produced a rainbow so we would have a physical reminder of His unconditional love and assurance. It means we can know He’s here and He’s never going to hurt his children. Maybe tears are like rain. A way to make rainbows. I just don’t know. Maybe I’ll ask that when I see Him.
Our five senses are all we really have physically. Sight, Smell, Hearing, Taste, and Touch. But blind, deaf, or impaired people may not have one or more of these senses. What all people do have though are emotions. They may not be visible or apparent to others as they can be hidden by choice. I’ll admit having hidden my emotions, sometimes unhealthfully, and not expressing them openly.
Of all the organs God created, I think the eyes are perhaps the most unique and sensitive. Not only physically, but emotionally. Seeing something can instantly send messages to the brain and I submit, to the heart. Similarly, our eyes can weep. They can absorb images our brain records and can’t be forgotten. Eyes also serve to judge others, too often unjustly.
I will confess, my eyes too often led me to judge my son harshly. I saw him hurting and I couldn’t do anything to help him. I watched as the light in his own eyes went dim over the years, after being rejected and misunderstood much of his life. I didn’t understand him and could’t accept him unconditionally, which is a father’s job. Although it’s easy to place blame on the world, I was a large part of his world. And I didn’t do my job well.
The eyes of God are forgiving and non-judging. He loves his children beyond any words we can even comprehend. He even loves fathers who fail at times to be unconditional in their own love. He loves us enough to give us the unique ability to cry. He loved us enough to send His ONLY son as a self sacrifice. I think God wept when He watched His boy die on a cross. He wept from a mixture of sadness and from joy, at knowing we would be able to have hope after such a loss.
One of the best memories we have of Braden is his eyes. Although that light faded in the days and years before he left this world, I find solace knowing without doubt, his eyes are beaming right now and I long to look into those eyes again some day.
Who knows. Maybe we’ll finally go fly fishing.
I urge you to pray as I have begun doing, that we may look at our kids as God looks at each of us. Rather than pick on small things to criticize, think of them as imperfect creations our Heavenly Father has entrusted us with. Take pride in them and quash the urge to over-correct. Pray for God’s eyes and God’s arms to guide lovingly.
Dads: We have the most important job in our families. Take it more seriously than the one at the office. Don’t be ashamed to cry. Your kids need to know that its going to be okay. Although it may scare them a little, they will learn that life brings pain but rainbows always come after the rain.
I love the words to a song by Brandon Heath.
Give Me Your Eyes
Step out on the busy street.
See a girl and our eyes meet.
Does her best to smile at me.
To hide what’s underneath.
There’s a man just to her right
Black suit and a bright red tie.
Too ashamed to tell his wife he’s out of work, he’s buyin time.
All those people going somewhere, why have I never cared.
Give me your eyes for just one second. Give me your eyes so I can see, everything that I keep missing. Give your love for humanity. Give me your arms for the broken-hearted
The ones that are far beyond my reach. Give me Your heart for the ones forgotten.
Give me Your eyes so I can see.
Prayer for Readers and those forgotten
Lord, thank you for revealing some things through tragedy which have long been hidden in me. Please open the eyes of parents, teachers, and others to look beyond the surface and into the hearts of the hurting. Make us bold in lifting up the lonely and bringing hope. Help us all to lean on You and your promise. Thanks for that hope in giving us your Son.
Thank you for praying friends and our brothers and sisters in Christ. And thanks for rainbows. We give you our love and praise in Jesus Name. Amen.