On Fathers Day, we asked John Robertson to share a testimony of God’s work in his life as a father over the past year. It was a moving recollection worth reliving, and John agreed to share it in writing below.
My name is John Robertson and my wife September and I have been attending Kingsway since 1989. In these years, we have had 4 children. Josiah who is now home from the Marines, Jacob 17, Autumn 14 and Julia, tween.
There are few things that you seem to remember all your life, glimpses of something that you have seen, usually remembered out of context, but something about that memory stands out. One little thing that you remember that serves as a life lesson.
One such memory for me was a scene from a 1982 sort of true life story about a singer, Tom Sullivan, in a movie called “If you could see what I hear” – Tom Sullivan was a blind college student who wanted to live his life as if he were not blind. When not in class, Tom hangs out with his friend, Sly, who does not treat him at all like a blind person. The movie was mostly a comical look at the antics of these two men.
I recall only part of the movie, in particular, a scene at the end where the reality of Tom’s limitations hit him while he is home alone with his daughter, 3 year old Blythe. Blythe falls into the backyard pool. After a minute, Tom Sullivan realizes what has happened and as the music intensifies, he spends several minutes blindly and frantically searching in the pool for his daughter who is face down in the water.
After all is said and done, his wife arrives home to find out about the events that had just occurred and sits to talk with him at the edge of the pool. She asks if he is OK and he responds by saying “What was I doing, for the first time, I finally found …..I’m blind. That’s how you see me, ….. that’s how everyone sees me.” That is how I would summarize my years parenting. As you all can understand, there is not enough time to review all our years, so I will stay with this past year.
One year ago, last Father’s Day, we baptized our youngest daughter, my dad and mom were visiting from out of town and my oldest brother and I sang a song about the valley’s and mountaintops of this great adventure.
Since then, the Robertson’s have experienced both crushing valley lows and mountain top highs though somehow the valleys seem more frequent (even if not so). As a family we have had sad “goodbyes” as well as joyous reunions. With different ones of our children we have had many “why did you do that?” conversations that can go late into the nights, and we have had the “oh my” memories and times where September and I felt as though we were at our end with no where to turn.
A few specific memories that stand out in my mind include conversations that highlighted the phrase, “I don’t know what to do”, “I don’t know the answer”, and “I am scared too.” Other conversations included “we are not going to give up on you”, “you did a great job”, “We’re proud of you”, “you have to make your own decisions”, “I love you no matter what” and “you are always welcome home.” Probably one of the most difficult experiences for me this past year was after going to the beach as a family for 18 years, this past summer, my boys were not there. I did not handle that experience well.
Now, I look back over the years as well as just this past year, and somehow so many of the things that seemed so big and so important, I don’t even remember. I recall specific times and ways that I had the wrong response and regret the things I said and did. I also recall the laughter and craziness of the moments where I loved my responses (even when no one else did, usually because my wit and humor was over their heads).
However, through each moment, each decision, each season, God is faithful. He has been very faithful. And only now do I see some of the parallels between my relationship this past year with my children and God’s relationship this past year with me. Specifically, through the very experiences I have shared with my kids, God has allowed me to see not only the hurt he feels as a dad when I reject him, but also the joy and laughter that fills his father’s heart when he shares a hilarious moment or a heartfelt touching time with his children.
He has been faithful to say, “I will sustain you and our family”, he has broken my heart at times, when one of my kids in the midst of explaining their wrongful actions uses the same justification, even the same phrase, that I used that very day before God to justify my own wrongful actions. God is faithful to gently remind me it’s not really about the kids, but about the work that he is doing in me through these very circumstances!”
In the movie that I described earlier, the main character came to realize that despite all his efforts and all his abilities, when it came to saving his daughter, he could not. He was blind and helpless. What God has shown me is that to the end of my efforts, as a dad I am an example to my children – faults and all – I must train my children, I must teach my children, I can even, in many ways protect my children from harm.
But ultimately, I am helpless to make my children be saved, I can’t make them turn their heart one way or another and I have zero control over the ultimate outcome of their decisions. God has shown me time, after time, after time, that training, discipline even wise parental input is of some value, but for me, it is about the relationship that I have with my family and ultimately with him.
God has grown me as a father this past year in many ways, but mostly, for me, he has opened my eyes even more so to see how precious my kids are to him. And also to help me respond to them where they are at, as He lovingly and gently responds to me where I’m at.