I was lying flat on my back in the snow on the side of a Colorado mountain feeling thoroughly disoriented. I had overestimated my ability to ski down a more challenging blue slope after learning how to ski the day before.
Everything went downhill from there (literally) when I unexpectedly came around a bend and plummeted down a steep slope. The next thing I knew, I was sprawled out in the snow and my skis were scattered several feet away.
“Steve!” I yelled in desperation to my college pastor, who was about 15 yards down the slope.
Steve looked up and slowed to a halt.
“Are you all right?” he called back.
“Of course, I’m not all right, Steve. I’m not going to be able to make it down.”
“Yes, you are, but the first thing you’ve got to do is get up.”
It seemed impossible, but Steve started talking me through it. He coached me, step by step, until I was able to retrieve my skis. That alone took 20 minutes, but then he had to talk me into sliding down the slope to him. The next impossible task for Steve: teach me how to ski down the rest of the slope.
As the minutes ticked on, Steve eased down the mountain with me in wide zig-zags until my legs suddenly figured out what they were doing and I began skirting down the mountain with ease.
“I did it. I can’t believe it. I actually did it!” I yelled as I zoomed on ahead, and in that moment, Steve guaranteed my loyalty (20 years later, we’re still friends).
My friendship with Steve has endured for a reason: He wasn’t just a pastor. He was a father figure to me when I needed it. I had spent far too much time without my dad growing up, and Steve stepped in to fill those shoes the best he could. And he did it in countless ways, almost all of them outside of a church service.
I played board games with Steve, prayed with him, hung out with him and his family, studied the Bible with him, got corrected by him, and shared my weaknesses with him. His presence alone brought healing. He certainly couldn’t replace my dad, but he filled some of the void left by my dad (girls need dads in their own ways as well, but the effects of an absent father are different, so I focus on boys here).
To wounded sons of absent dads, the phrase “Father God” can evoke feelings of insecurity and defensiveness. So many of these young men need a “Steve,” a man who will come in and show them what Father God really looks like: faithful, patient, and strong. They need a man who will teach them what it means to be a man. Think about it: If having a dad didn’t make a difference, Jesus wouldn’t have told us to address God as “our Father, who art in heaven” (Matthew 6:9-13). I mean, even Jesus needed a strong, protective, earthly father.
We’re in desperate need of men like Steve who are willing to be a dad to a son in need, and you don’t have to be Superman to step into those shoes. You just need to be available—to do the simple things, to show them how to get down the ski slopes of life. And if you’ll do it, you’ll can move them forward and cheer them on as they zoom past you and yell, “I did it. I can’t believe it. I actually did it!”
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