The wind picked up steadily while we were beach-combing at the tide pools around Haystack Rock. It was about ¾’s of a mile back to the house we were renting at Tolovana on the Oregon Coast. We were spending the weekend with two other couples and their kids (10 kids all together). By the time we decided to head back to the house the wind was howling and the rain, mixed with salt water stirred up in the wind, was hitting us head on. The faster kids went ahead with two of the dads to get a fire started and get hot chocolate going. Sue and the two other moms, carrying the littlest ones, followed them as fast as they could. I came up behind with the slower ones, holding their hands and helping them against the wind – a wind which could almost have lifted them off the ground. When we got to the house, everyone was soaked. People changed into dry clothes, grabbed blankets and got around the fire. But Sue had done a shoe count and was anxiously waiting my arrival to see if Ken was with me. When I finally arrived the look on her face was frantic.
“Is Ken with you?”
“No. He’s not here? He went ahead with the dads and the older boys.”
“He’s not here!”
“He’s not here!” she cried.
“I’m going up the beach – get the other dads to go back to Haystack and look!”
I flew out the door to find him. Visibility was so bad I couldn’t see more than a few hundred feet. Any parent who has ever feared for a missing child knows how frightening it can be. What had happened? Had someone taken him? Was he in the water? Was he, even now, with a stranger? Maybe someone just took him in from the storm until it was over. I couldn’t believe we let this happened. How could we be so careless? I was trying to avoid thinking certain horrific thoughts, but he was nowhere to be found.
It turns out that he had taken his glasses off and had his head down and wasn’t aware when the dads, who he was following, turned to go up to the house. The moms couldn’t see because of the poor visibility, so they didn’t notice when he kept going south along the beach. He just kept walking until he came to the end of the beach where a rock outcropping jutted into the ocean. He spoke to a man who was there on the beach and said he was lost and couldn’t find his dad. The man told him to turn around, stay high on the beach, go back the way he came and then said to Ken that he would find his father looking for him. I found Ken halfway between the house and the rock. I cannot put into words what it meant to me to see him walking toward me.
When he recognized me, he ran and wrapped his arms around me as tight as he could. Of course, he had a few words for me, too. “Where were you? You shouldn’t have let me get lost! You should have stayed with me! What if something happened to me?” And he was right. I asked him what happened and he told me about the man who told him to turn back.
I will never know who it was that told him that he wouldn’t be lost if he would retrace his steps, and that his father would find him. Based on Ken’s description, I looked for him later that day when the wind died down, but I never found him and was never able to thank him. I haven’t forgotten what he told Ken, “Go back the way you came and your father will find you.”
We don’t like to admit such things, but many of us get lost. Many of us make bad choices and create environments that affect our families. Some men run away from such situations only to discover that, “wherever you go, there you are.” When they come to their senses, the work to undo what was done may seem overwhelming. Being a dad and being lost is a tragedy. It is compounded when as dads we get into things that threaten our marriages and our homes.
Many men of my generation have been through divorce. Their children no longer live with them and the brokenness that can accompany divorce may have strained their relationships with their sons and daughters.
Many of us came from pretty dysfunctional homes, so we don’t even have a frame of reference for how to be good dads – it is foreign to our way of thinking.
Many men who are doing everything they can to make right choices and to responsibly lead their families will still find times when they feel isolated and wearied and under tremendous pressure.
Life is like that – especially when you bear the weight of responsibility.
“Go back the way you came and your Father will find you.” What a tremendous piece of wisdom spoken on a beach in a storm to a child who got lost. There was a place and time when the departure from the right direction took place. There was a point at which the path to the warm fireplace became the aimless wandering in the storm. I believe that most of us know where that was. It is the point that we need to return to so that we can get back on course. The path back will always lead to Jesus Christ.
There is a God in heaven and He has not left any of us alone. He is our Creator and knows how we are wired. When we seek Him, he will be found of us. His invitation is continuous, “Come to me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me for I am gently and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-32)”
I have a prayer that I pray specifically for dads. My prayer is that your life as a dad will be enriched, that your efforts to be the best dad possible to your children will be blessed by Him, and that you may truly enjoy all that it means to be dad, which in my view is really the greatest adventure of a lifetime.
“He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me. I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness.” (John 12:45-47)