The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly (John10:10, NASB).
“I should be dead, paralyzed, or locked up in prison.”
These are the words I use on a regular basis when sharing my testimony with others. I tell them of how although I grew up in affluence and had advantages many others my age did not, the lack of a full-time or strong father figure in my life left a hole that would eventually become filled through other worldly pursuits. Beginning in my teen years and lasting the next decade+, I engaged in countless self-destructive behaviors such as alcohol and drug addiction, sexual immorality, and the mentality that although I didn’t have much to live for, I thought I was invincible. I have seen the pits of hell here on earth and it is only through my hope and faith in Jesus Christ that I am now experiencing that “life abundantly” he so graciously promises.
This is not just another testimony story; it is me sharing what God has done in my life to give anyone out there, especially single dads or those of you who may know a single father, a glimpse of the grace and salvation that is offered to each one of us every single day.
Never Knew What Hit Me
I was born into a family that ran rampant with sin on both sides. Greed, addiction, and adultery topped the list, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. My parents were never married, but my dad did provide for us extremely well financially. I was given a lot of “stuff,” but never the love, security, and foundation every child needs. Thus, when I hit high school and the world came a knockin’, I fell right into the traps that lay ahead. My addiction eventually got to the point where I began to both use and sell narcotics; and nearly self-destructed on several occasions after a couple overdoses and a horrendous car accident. I recall a few times when the shame and self-hatred was so overbearing that I would literally punch myself over and over again in the face, one time even knocking myself out. I remember laying on the sofa in the fetal position, bawling my eyes out, because I saw no way out of my life. Not growing up in a Christian home, I had no personal relationship with God, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t ever so close as he was then.
A New Lineage
…for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God (1 Peter 1:23).
I didn’t really begin to attend church regularly until 2001; and even then, I continued on a rollercoaster of commitment, obedience, and knowledge of God for the next six years. It wasn’t until January of 2007 when my daughter was about eight months old that I finally made the greatest decision any of us could ever make. As the pastor spoke, I felt a burning in my heart similar to that of the disciples’ in Luke 24. I couldn’t wait for the altar call and I responded with an excitement and hope like I had never experienced before. I once and for all fully surrendered my life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, was baptized four months later and founded A Father’s Walk the following year. Since then I have seen generational curses drop like chains over me and my daughter and I now have a foundation to stand on that cannot be shaken. I am already seeing the way God changes family lineages too, as back in December of 2012 at the precious age of six, my daughter responded to her own altar call at church and gave her life to Christ! Best of all, I got to be the one to lead her in prayer that day.
In less than a six year period, God took me from being a potential deadbeat dad, to a ministry leader, to a father who is leading his daughter in Christ every single day. That is why I hold so fast to John 10:10─ because I have gone from a lifestyle that was filled with the stealing and killing of my soul, and ultimately almost led to my eternal destruction; to a life so abundant in God’s grace and mercy that I can hardly contain it sometimes!
Walking the Walk
So where do we go from here dads? Single parenthood is filled with brokenness, and a lot of times that brokenness began far before we became parents ourselves. Many of us have an unfulfilled “daddy gap” of our own that has yet to be addressed. Do you need to go back and reconcile with a parent, even if it means bringing up the past? Are there empty holes in your own life that will never be quenched apart from Jesus? Or maybe there is the fear or lack of understanding of how to be a great father because you don’t have a solid example to go off of. Look, I get it. I have been there and I will tell you right now that if the Lord can pull me out of the mess I was in, clean me up and turn me around, and make me into the man and father I am today…he can do it for anyone! But it doesn’t always come easy. So I am going to give you three quick points to get you started:
I played the church game for six years and never really progressed forward. It is only when we’re able to give everything we are to Jesus that he can begin to do his good work within us (John 15:5).
2. Mentors and Accountability
In my book A Father’s Walk: A Christian-Based Resource for Single Fathers, I purposely dedicated an entire chapter to the importance of having a mentor and/or an accountability partner. I have both now, and I cannot ever envision going without one or the other. Strong Christian men need other strong Christian men around them.
3. The Father Factor
In order to be great dads ourselves, our Heavenly Father must take precedence in our own life first. Seeking God today through the Word and prayer will continue to build a foundation for you and your children that can change family lineages for eternity─ just like he did for mine (Deuteronomy 7:9).
Dads, this is just a small look at the bigger picture of how every one of us fathers: married or single, full or partial custody, in the battle or in between battles, have the potential to rise up as our children’s spiritual leaders and give them the father they were always meant to have. With that, I pray the words of Jesus over your home when he said, “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:9).
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).
Matt Haviland is the founder of A Father’s Walk single dad ministry and the author of the book, A Father’s Walk: A Christian-Based Resources for Single Fathers. He currently lives in his hometown of Grand Rapids, MI, is the co-founder of the Grand Rapids Single Parenting Expo, and is a single dad to a beautiful little girl himself. For more information on the ministry and how to form a single dad small group in your own church, please visit www.afatherswalk.org.
Publication date: May 15, 2014