My wife Missy had uttered the life-changing words "it's time" a grueling seven hours earlier. It felt like more than seven years.
Against her fear of me passing or grossing out, I curiously stood eagle-eyed with wonder behind the doctor as our firstborn entered the world. It was the most beautiful, holy, sacred scene I had ever witnessed. Had I not already believed in God, I would have started to do so at that exact moment. When the doctor put him in my arms I had a hard time breathing, because my heart was pounding like a kick drum.
On knees as weak as spaghetti I gently grabbed a chair and adored him, worshipped him and, unable to control my crock-pot of emotions, I just cried. I had never experienced love in the way I felt it that day. It was a different kind of love—the kind that not only saturates you but also steals your heart, your soul and forever changes every facet of life. Hours later, doting at the nursery window, this "macho man" turned "marshmallow man" cried even more.
Over the next 10 years the experience was repeated with the exact same elation two more times with his brother and sister. The three of them gifted me with the greatest and most rewarding role I have ever been assigned ... the role of being a Dad. No one stirs, moves, motivates or inspires me in the way they do and nobody could have ever brought the tears of joy, pride and sorrow as they have.
Let me explain ...
I cried the night I came home from a 12-hour shift at Fed Ex. I had been praying that since I was missing all of my son's "firsts" that God would make a way for me to be home when he took his first footsteps. With exact precision I can recall every detail of how he pulled himself up, let go of the table, and turned to face me on those wobbly legs. He grinned at me as he took the very first three steps of his life into my awaiting arms. I swung him in the air with tears racing down my cheeks while asking his Mom over and over if she saw the miracle. I told everyone I knew. No one can ever take that night away from me. I still think of it often, because it brings happiness and peace.
I cried at his graduation. That's an understatement ... I sobbed. That's correct, right there in the coliseum, with thousands attending, nobody, not even his Mom, cried and certainly not any of the other dads. Oh, I fought the tears all right, with all I had but the more I fought them the worse they got. By the time he walked across the stage my eyes were so swollen I could barely see him. They were tears of both joy and sadness as I watched with pride my boy becoming a man. It was a new chapter for us both and all the while I kept wondering where the time had gone.
I cried the first time he left home to go on his own. I wanted to be strong for his mother, hide the pain, but I failed miserably because I felt like I had been gutted. It seemed like I was losing him. Standing there watching his car pull away was one of the hardest days of my life. Why did I always want him to grow up, and when he did I stood there wishing he never had?
Even now, years after he left my home, I still get choked up after each visit when I have to say goodbye to him.
My firstborn son's birth changed my entire perspective about who God was. I grew up in a very legalistic background where most of my views about God were tied to a list of do's and don't's. I thought knowing and pleasing God was all based on performance; if I walked the imaginary line, kept the rules, then God would be pleased and I could avoid His desire to punish.
Yet, as my child grew, I, as his father, took no delight in punishment. My joy was most complete simply by being in his presence. Having a son confirmed that regardless of what he did, right or wrong, my love for him was unwavering and his actions could not increase or diminish my love one iota.
These facts, feelings and emotions enabled me to correlate the Father's love to my own and enabled me to understand how God's feelings toward me had some similarity to the ones for my son. I loved him before he loved me. I knew him before he knew me. Most importantly, I would give my life for his.
These truths were reflections of passages I had read in the Bible and continue to give me hope and peace when I often stumble, fall or feel unworthy before my heavenly Father.
Being a father will always be my greatest achievement. Crowds, money, accolades, books, TV appearances nor anything else could ever mean more than being their father. I hope I make them proud and whenever my life comes to an end, I pray they can say with complete honesty that I was a faithful, loyal father who never waivered in my love or support.