This is the part of the year where I’m supposed to tell you things like “you just have to put your mind to it, and you can achieve anything!” or “all your have to do is believe in yourself and your dreams will come true!” I hate to break it to you, but all of that is a flat out lie. Anyone who tells you those things is trying to sell you something. Sure, you can run on your own strength… for a while. You look at men in the spotlight these days, the Andy Frisellas, Elon Musks, and Mark Driscolls of the world. They’ll tell you how they’re “self made men” and how they just had pull themselves up from their bootstraps on their way to the top. Not one of them got to where they are without a team, and the very thing that topples empires is a man who thinks he’s all he needs.
Just look at the headlines of any news outlet for long enough and you’ll see a pile of bodies a mile wide and two miles deep of men who thought they could do it on their own strength. Even men who claimed to have a deep relationship with Christ! Ravi Zacharias, a minister for decades, revealed to be in deep sin with a large number of those who were under his care. Lance Armstrong, a 7 time Tour de France champion, trying to do it on his own with performance enhancing substances. The list goes on and on.
What I’m trying to reveal here is something that Morgan Snyder talks about in his book Becoming a King, that I have found to be very real in my own life. The question he poses is this: what if life wasn’t up to you? What if behind it all, was Someone who was more powerful, more caring, more interested in your good, and who wanted nothing but the best for you? What would that change in your life? What if instead of trying to lead everyone around us, we paused… and allowed ourselves to be led? What if instead of trying to be that perfect man, loving husband, and wise father, we stopped and allowed ourselves to be Fathered… by God?
This may be a foreign idea for many of you reading this, even if you’ve been in the church your whole life. Sure, you’ve heard of God the Father many times, but have you taken the time to really think about what that means for you personally? In a great post on his blog, Morgan Snyder talks about the young places in our hearts. Those places that feel like you’re still a doughy, scared 10 year old. Or a 12 year old that misses their friends after a move. Or a 16 year old that just had their first heartbreak. Allowing ourselves to be Fathered by God is inviting Him into those places to heal them. This can happen in big or small ways, over the course of years.
One moment like that for me came very unexpectedly. I was on my way to work with some clients in my hometown of Minneapolis, Minnesota. In February, this is not a place that many would enjoy traveling to. However, I was excited because I was going to go ice racing on a frozen lake with a group of amazing men, and one of my best friends in the world (who happens to be a retired Navy SEAL). On the plane ride North, I heard God clearly nudge me to ask my friend Larry about transitioning to our time together by experiencing some natural beauty first. Beauty, as John Eldredge describes in his book Get your Life Back is a healing force, that our souls need as much as our lungs need oxygen. We also need time to transition between activities instead of expecting our souls to live at a frantic pace. Wait, God you want me to ask this 6’ 3” rock of a man to go sit under a frozen waterfall for an hour before we work together? “Yes, son, that’s what I’m saying. Trust me.” So, a little nervously, I asked Larry if we might stop by Minnehaha Falls on our way out of town. To transition well from our travel, using beauty to slowly ease our souls into it instead of expecting our hearts to act like the transmission in a Formula 1 car. He actually was excited for the invitation, and said he needed to do his morning meditation anyway, so why not?
We made our way down steps frozen over in a coating of ice, past ‘No Trespassing’ signs, and helped each other ascend the slippery slope behind the frozen waterfall. What greeted us was a scene that mere words can’t describe well enough. Crystal stalactites hung from the rock, refracting the light and coloring the ice a brilliant silvery grey. We marveled at the size of the pillars of frozen water, as we ventured deeper behind the falls. We were struck dumb by the brilliant, bright blue green of the light that filtered through the walls of ice. It felt like we had been invited into a frozen castle, and that Elsa would be serving tea on an icy table just around the corner. The look on Larry’s face was priceless. Shock and awe over the majesty of simple frozen water overtook us both. We sat down on a rock, and bathed in the glory. Larry did some breath work exercises and meditation, while I prayed and did some Wim Hof breathing. For those who aren’t familiar, Wim Hof’s breathing method involves controlled hyperventilation, which increases the level of oxygen in your bloodstream. It feels about like getting 10 cups of coffee injected into your veins while someone hooks your muscles up to a car battery. Your whole body vibrates, buzzing with energy. Behind the waterfall, I was vibrating to the same frequency as the small trickle of still flowing water. I know how crazy that sounds, believe me! I was amazed at how God created my body to be able to do that!
I posted a picture of this incredible scene to my social media, and my mom commented that the last time I was at those falls was when I was 10 years old. At 10, I was still getting used to a new school from our move when I was 8. I didn’t have a ton of friends, wasn’t very confident, and was very emotionally sensitive (I still am!). This sensitive nature led me to believe that no one really liked me that much, and the bullying at school helped cement that in my young mind. That day behind the frozen waterfall, however, the Father wanted to tell me a different story. He was with me all along, back then in middle school, as well as today. He was leading me through moments that would shape my character, allow me to help others through the same moments, help parents with kids at that stage, and prepare my heart for fathering my own children through their struggles. I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t abandoned. I wasn’t a mistake, or created badly. I’m on time. He told me in this moment, “look at this! You’ve listened to my prompting today, and invited a strong, confident, older man (and a Navy SEAL at that) who loves you dearly, and who you love dearly, into this moment. You’ve helped transform his life through partnering with me. You’ve shown him the glory I put in you before the world was made. Well done, son.” Even writing this now, almost 3 years later, this still just about brings me to tears.
What would this look like in your life? Where are you trying to gut it out all on your own strength? Where do you need to surrender and be led, to be fathered?