Filling the Gaps

In many ways I’m blessed to have grown up with two dads. No, I didn’t come from a divorced family. I was raised by a Mom and Dad along with my sister and two brothers. We had a great life for the most part. We were a blue collar family with a Father who worked 60 hours a week in a trailer factory and rarely had a day off. However, even though my dad came home from work too tired to play toys, or throw a football with us boys, we didn’t know we were missing anything. Our Uncle Dave was always available to take us fishing, golfing, and even on vacations.

I know it sounds kind of non-traditional, but it worked. Us kids knew our dad was doing the best he could with what he had. Feeding a family of six on $2.00 and hour in the 1960’s and ‘70’s was a pretty tall order…but my dad filled it. He filled it well. Dad always made sure we had food, clothing, and safe shelter. And, while there wasn’t much energy left over for us kids, we knew he loved us and we were blessed to have Uncle David to fill the gap.

As I grew up and eventually had children of my own, I had two examples before me to live up to. My dad taught me to take care of my family, no matter the challenges that came my way. Scripture tells us that, … if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Tim. 5:8 NASB) And, my Uncle Dave taught me to love on my son and daughter like there was no tomorrow.

Uncle David only had one son, who was about 6 years older than me. He also had a professional job and could afford to do more leisurely things than our dad could afford. I learned two profound things from both my dad and my uncle – family is more than biology, and family must be taken care of…no matter what. My uncle took us fishing, and my dad took us to church on his only day off.

I had several friends growing up who had dads that played with them a lot, and yes I was sometimes jealous of them. But when tough times came, some of my friends’ dads were all about play and not enough about commitment. It was heartbreaking to see their families crumble apart. My dad was a rock for our family. He was strong and tough like a rock, and you could build a foundation on him. And he was wise enough to see that my brothers and sisters needed someone like my uncle to fill a gap he wasn’t able to fill. That took humility. I didn’t know it then, but I do now.

As a father, I want to meet every need for my family. Being a dad isn’t easy. Being a great dad can be even harder. But if we realize it’s not a competition, we can all give from our strengths the things God has given us, in order to care for our families. Sometimes it takes more than one father figure to fill all the gaps in our lives. Sometimes it’s a coach, or a teacher, and maybe even an uncle.

As a dad, I hope you’re encouraged to be who God has made you to be, and to give to your family what He has enabled you to give. I also hope you’re wise enough to let the gaps you can’t fill, be filled by those who can.

 

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Brad Riley

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