As we head into Father’s Day weekend, I’d submit that the best gift isn’t what us fathers or father figures receive … a tie, round of golf or BBQ set. The best gift is what we give our daughters, sons, wives and loved ones. Specifically, a blessing.
Here’s the backstory on how I’ve recently come to discover this:
That Was Then
I attended my Crucible Project weekend in March, 2008. At the time, I was an expectant father. My wife and I were pursuing an adoption in China. We didn’t know many details, but we believed that we’d likely be matched with a girl. We didn’t know the date, but we had a clue that by Christmas of that same year, we’d be flying 7,000+ miles across the world to meet our daughter and bring her home.
I was excited about becoming a father. But, I wasn’t ready — spiritually, emotionally or even physically — to give her what she would need from me. Fortunately, God understood that long before I did. I believe that’s one reason He led me to the Crucible Project. Like any of the 3,000+ men across the world who have completed an initial Crucible weekend will tell you, that experience rocked my world and changed my life.
I learned a lot that weekend about integrity, courage and grace. I learned to take off the mask I had been wearing most of my life and be authentic about who I really was. I learned to take responsibility for the choices I was making, instead of blaming others or being a victim. I learned some things I didn’t realize about my relationship with God. I learned about giving and receiving grace. And I learned some things about fatherhood:
- First, I learned that I didn’t view God — my heavenly father — with much affection. Going into that weekend, God and I had a long distance, lukewarm relationship. I believed in God to be sure. But, I’d only reach out to Him when I absolutely needed Him. Most of the time, I viewed God as distant, silent, passive and unapproachable.
- Second, I discovered that my view of my earthly dad closely mirrored the one I had of God. Don’t get me wrong. I loved my Dad (he passed away in 2010). And I knew that he loved me. But, his way of expressing love for me was different than what I needed as a young boy. John Eldredge writes about this in his best-selling book: Wild at Heart: “A man has to know where he comes from, and what he’s made of.” My dad wasn’t the type who would put his arm around me and breathe wisdom, affirmation and encouragement into me. That’s not because he was a bad dad. Considering the hand he was dealt as a boy, he was a great dad. But, a healthy, God-honoring model of fatherhood was not modeled for my Dad. And he didn’t know how to give it to me.
- Third, I learned about the power of blessing. We all crave blessing and affirmation. Hebrews 3 says: “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” Giving a blessing is just as special as receiving one. I didn’t know much about either. But, that weekend, my band of brothers in The Crucible Project allowed me to experience the power of a blessing. They affirmed me with my “gold” — the aspects of my character that glorify God.
- Fourth, I was invited to break patterns of generational brokenness and operate differently as a father. The Crucible Project gave me the model for fatherhood that I didn’t have. One of the many things I became convicted of that weekend was that I would regularly give my daughter what I so longed for as a boy. Blessing.
That October, I became a father to a beautiful, four-year-old Chinese girl. On our first night together as a family, I started my bedtime blessing tradition. It goes like this: Before she drifts off to sleep, I crawl next to her and whisper:
- Do you know that you are my favorite girl in the whole, wide galaxy?
- Do you know that I love you very much?
- Do you know that you have a special collection of gift and talents that God gave just to you? (here, I provide examples)
- Do you know that you’re beautiful — on the inside and the outside? (examples here, too).
She’s 13 now and I’ve only missed a handful times. I’ll bet we’ve been through the bedtime blessing more than 3,000 nights. Another tradition I learned from my Crucible brothers that I’ve extended to my daughter, my wife, and others. From time to time (like on a birthday) I shower them with words of affirmation. I say “The gold I see in you is … ,” and then I share a truth about how their character glorifies God.
All of us have gold. The way life works though, we rarely see it. That’s because the junk of everyday life clouds our vision and many times, our self-worth. We need others to show us our gold. Especially fathers.
This Is Now
To be honest, sometimes I’ve wondered if all of this blessing stuff actually “sticks” with my daughter. Does it become like wallpaper or the teacher’s voice on Charlie Brown? Does the “gold I see in you” exercise really sink in for her? What would change if I stopped?
And then, two weeks ago, I got an early and unexpected Father’s Day gift. My daughter (her name is Claire) was about to wrap up 7th grade and decided that she wanted to give a gift to each of her classmates. She took her request to the school office and asked for a list of names and corresponding locker numbers. The school obliged. She came home and got to work. She pondered over every classmate’s name and wrote a personal card. The next day, she taped each card to their locker. Each card started with these words: “The gold I see in you is …”
Wow … I understand now that the power of a blessing does stick. So, I don’t plan on stopping or slowing down. As she grows older, I can’t wait to discover how the legacy of this blessing influences and continues to shape Claire. My prayer is that her relationship with God is more intimate and special because, in part, of the relationship she has with me.
On this Father’s Day, I wonder who in your life needs YOU to show them their gold?
I encourage you to give them one and watch what God does with it.
People are waiting.
By Jeff Madsen
Jeff completed his initial Crucible weekend in 2008 and graduated from our two-year transformational program. His mission is to build a legacy of surrender, simplicity and significance. Jeff is the owner of Legacy Nation LLC, an independent corporate communications practice based in suburban Chicago. He is passionate about equipping men with a LifePlan so they can discover their God-given legacies.
Photo Credit: Photo provided by Jeff Madsen