High school football season is finally over for the year. We had a great year, too! We were the division champions and made it into two rounds of the playoff games.
But I have to confess that this was the first year in memory that I did not attend all or most of the games. In fact, I attended very few. It was too hot early on, and then the weather progressed from dreary rain to biting cold. And honestly, I really did not feel too guilty over my absences until one of our photographer friends posted a photo on Facebook.
It’s nothing out of the ordinary, really. A few of our players are standing on our sideline along with a couple of our coaches. (My son, a coach, is not in the frame.) It shows our cheerleaders, fans, and press box. Just a typical Friday night at a smalltown Mississippi high school – except for one minor detail.
A detail that I doubt seriously anyone else even noticed but me. Yet, for me, it was the most important part of the scene. Granted, most people probably noticed the players in the photo first, or maybe the cheerleaders. Or perhaps they scanned the photograph and tried to find someone they knew among the spectators in the stands.
At the uppermost portion of the picture, on top of our press box, my eye was immediately drawn to a guy in jeans and a grey pullover standing behind a camera and tripod. And as soon as I spotted him, I was in tears. And even now, as I pull this picture up from my social media account, I can’t help but cry.
Why do you ask?
Because it’s a picture of what a real daddy looks like.
Rain or shine, hot or cold, sleet or snow, for as long as our son Chris Lucius has played or coached football (22 years, I think), his dad – the man on top of the press box – has lugged that big ol’ camera and all the equipment that goes with it to football fields across our state to film our baby boy’s games. And Randy Lucius usually did so after working a full day – sometimes after working a 12-hour shift with little or no sleep.
So, when I look at this photograph, I don’t see a sports scene at all. What I see is a picture of fatherhood. And no matter how many times I see this image, I will forever thank God for the gift of a good, good father for my sons.
Honestly, he has done everything to make their life better. First of all, he loved and respected their momma. I never had to wonder where he was or what he would contribute to their upbringing.
He always helped take care of them, played with them, disciplined them, helped with homework, talked with them man-to-man, hugged them, and told them daily how much he loved them.
And it would be especially hard to calculate the hours he and the boys spent together in the woods hunting or on a creek bank fishing. But most of all, for most of their lives, we prayed together and went together to church, where we sat together as a family – with many of their friends in tow or sitting beside us.
For our boys, that was the blessed reality of life as the son of Randy Lucius.
But as a veteran schoolteacher, I am fully aware that many kids in our world (the majority of them, actually) never had the gift of a full-time father in their homes. Some of my students never even knew their dads at all. And others suffered the death of their daddy or the heart-wrenching loss of him to divorce or selfish outside pursuits.
To be honest, that absence or loss had a very marked impact on my students in countless ways. Poverty and physical hardships, behavior problems, lack of confidence, anger, and depression are only a few of the lasting results of missing fathers that I witnessed firsthand in my classrooms. Don’t even get me started on the constant aching need for love that many of these kids exhibited daily, especially adolescent girls without dads.
Add to that the spiritual implications of fatherlessness. Think about it!
Initially, most people relate to God the Father in the same manner that they related to their own dad. It’s hard enough to trust the words of an absentee dad, much less the Words of an unseen God.
Thankfully, God the Father knows us better than we know ourselves, so He pursues us with a never-ending, unchanging, totally selfless love. And when we finally turn and run to Him, His arms are open wide with the very love we had always longed for.
I say all that to say remind all men (fathers, stepfathers, grandfathers, or foster fathers) who are currently raising children: Yours is a holy assignment.
Never take it for granted, and never set it aside for worldly pursuits and pleasures. Don’t give up on your kids when things get difficult or if the relationship looks impossible. Hold on to your children with prayerful purpose. Pursue them consistently with the same undying tenacity and faithful love as our Heavenly Father.
Do whatever it takes to minister to them in practical, everyday ways.
Climb up on that press box, week after week. Lug that equipment up that ladder in every kind of weather. And never, ever complain. Film every game as if it were the NFL playoffs. Do it for free, even if they offer to pay you. Do it with little sleep or no sleep at all. Just smile and do it.
Go to the swim meets, attend those school plays, and buy a ticket to every single event your child has. Help with their fundraisers and volunteer for every event you can. Meet their teachers, their coaches, and especially their friends.
Take them fishing and hunting and shopping and anywhere and everywhere you can. Make them a part and a priority of your everyday life.
Hug them, praise them, teach them, reprimand them, and punish them with mercy and justice. Be consistent, be firm, be fair, but be there – no matter what.
And most of all, pray with them, sing with them, read the Bible with them, and go with them to church. Put God first in your heart, your home, and every part of your life.
For I promise that your children are watching and listening. And every action and word, every little effort is a precious seed that you are sowing into their hearts, minds, and souls. The harvest is coming! It will be here way before you can dream or imagine.
So, plant well, Daddies. Plant well. Harvest is coming.
And Mommas, when that precious harvest of saved souls and Christ-centered adult children does come in, make sure to recognize and see it. Make sure to give thanks unto God – and give thanks to those daddies, too.
For the truth is, very few women in today’s troubled world ever receive the lifelong blessing of a godly man perched behind a camera atop a press box, silently and faithfully loving her children in the exact same way that God the Father loves us all.