Fathered by God: Learning What Your Dad Could Never Teach You
by John Eldredge
Fathered by God
By John Eldredge
The Masculine Journey
Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is,
and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.
Jeremiah 6:16 NIV
All I was trying to do was fix the sprinklers.
A fairly straightforward plumbing job. The guy who came to drain our system and blow it out for the winter told me last fall that there was crack in “the main valve,” and I’d better replace the thing before I turned the water back on come next summer. For the past several days it had been hot midnineties, unusually hot for Colorado in May and I knew I’d better get the water going or my yard would soon go the way of the Gobi Desert. Honestly, I looked forward to the project. Really, I enjoy tackling outside chores for the most part, enjoy the feeling of having triumphed over some small adversity, restoring wellness to my domain. Traces of Adam, I suppose rule and subdue, be fruitful, all that.
I disengaged the large brass valve from the system on the side of the house, set off to the plumbing store to get a new one. “I need one of these,” I said to the guy behind the counter. “It’s called a reducing valve” he replied, with a touch of condescension. Okay, so I didn’t know that. I’m an amateur. Nevertheless, I’m ready to go. Valve in hand, I returned home to tackle the project. A new challenge loomed before me: soldering a piece of copper pipe to a copper fitting that carried the water from the house to the sprinklers, reduced in pressure by the valve now in my possession. It seemed simple enough. I even followed the instructions that came with the butane torch I bought. (Following instructions is usually something I do only once a project has become a NASCAR pileup, but this was new ground for me, the valve was expensive, and I didn’t want to screw the whole thing up.) Sure enough, I couldn’t do it, couldn’t get the solder to melt into the joint as needed to prevent leaks.
Suddenly, I was angry.
Now, I used to get angry at the drop of a hat, sometimes violently angry as a teen punching holes in the walls of my bedroom, kicking holes in doors. But the years have had their mellowing effect, and by the grace of God there has also been the sanctifying influence of the Spirit, and my anger surprised me. It felt disproportionate to the issue at hand. I can’t get a pip soldered together. So? I’ve never done this before. Cut yourself some slack.
But reason was not exactly ruling the moment, and in anger I stormed into the house to try to find some help.
Like so many men in our culture solitary men who have no father around to ask how to do this or that, no other men around at all, ;or too much pride to ask the men who are around I turned to the Internet, found one of those sites that explains things like how to surmount household plumbing problems, watched a little animated video on how to solder copper pipe. It felt weird. I’m trying to play the man and fix my own sprinklers but I can’t and there’s no man here to show me how and so I’m watching a cute little video for the mechanically challenged and feeling like about ten years old. A cartoon for a man who is really a boy. Armed with information and wobbling confidence, I go back out, give it another try. Another miss.
At the end of the first round I merely felt like an idiot. Now I feel like an idiot doomed to failure. And I’m seething. A counselor and author both by trade with and by intuition, I am nearly always watching my inner life with some detached part of me. Wow, that part of me says. Have a look at this. What are you so hacked off about?
I’ll tell you why I’m hacked. There are two reasons. First, I’m hacked because there’s no one here to show me how to do this. Why do I always have to figure this stuff out on my own? I’m sure if some guy who knew what he was doing were here, he’d take one look at the project and tell me right away what I’m doing wrong, and more important how to do it right. Together, we’d tackle the problem in no time and my yard would be saved and something in my soul would feel better.
I’m also hacked because I can’t do it myself, mad that Ineed help. Long ago I resolved to live without needing help, vowed to figure things out on my own. It’s a terrible and common vow to orphaned men who found ourselves alone as boys and decided that there really is no one there, that men are especially unreliable, so do it yourself. I’m also ticked at God, because by does it have to be so hard? I know this was a lot to get out of a failed attempt to fix my sprinkler, but I could have been a dozed other situations. Doing my taxes. Talking to my sixteen year old son about dating. Buying a car. Buying a house. Making a career move. Any trial where I am called upon to play the man but immediately feel that nagging sense of, I know that I am not alone in feeling alone. Most of the guys I’ve ever met feel like this at some point.
My story does not end there. I had to drop the project and get to work, leaving torch, pipe, and tools on my porch out of the merciful rain merciful because it might buy me twenty four hours to get this figured out before the death of my yard. I had to make an important phone call at 4:00 p.m., so I set my watch alarm in order not to miss it. I made the call, but failed to notice that my alarm did not go off. That took place at 4:00 a.m. the next morning. (I hadn’t noticed the little “a.m.” next to the 4:00 when I set the thing.) I’d gone to bed with no resolution inwardly