Recently, while living in confinement like the rest of America, I took a little time to watch 2 fascinating and compelling documentaries. One was called “The Good Son” on the life of lightweight boxing champion Ray Boom Boom Mancini. The other was “Jens Pulver: Driven” about the man who was the first UFC lightweight champion. I grew up in a family that loved boxing as my father had been a very successful amateur golden gloves welterweight fighter, and all 4 of my kids did martial arts for years. Both of these stories were of great interest to me. I had no idea what I was about to see.
I was riveted by both films, but for very different reasons. In the Ray Mancini film, “The Good Son,” I was deeply moved by Ray’s tremendous love for his father and how much he looked up to him as his hero even as a young boy. I was stirred by his passion to win a boxing championship for his father because he loved him so much. I was reminded once again of the powerful, profound, and lasting impact a father has on his son.
In the Jens Pulver story “Driven,” it was heartbreaking to hear him talk about the severe physical abuse, the beatings, the verbal abuse, and emotional pain inflicted on him by his father. I have never heard anyone speak so honestly, from the heart, about something like this. At one point in the film, Jens makes a statement, ” My broken nose healed, my broken arm healed, my broken leg healed, but the broken heart that my father inflicted on me, the emptiness I feel forever inside of me, has never healed. I hate that man for what he did. I hate him.” This father also had a profound, lasting impact on his son, but in an extremely devastating and detrimental way. The entire documentary you watch as he struggles to overcome the dysfunction of his youth.
What a stark contrast between these two very successful athletes. While both their fathers were very imperfect men, one father was a hero to his son while the other father was a villain in the life story of his son. Both stories moved me deeply, each for different reasons. Each spoke to my heart. I was reminded how one father’s life story can inspire and uplift his son, while another father’s life story and terrible choices can bring great harm and lasting trauma to his son.
Over the years I have spent a great deal of time, and thought, and prayer on fathers and fathering. When I began my journey as a father, I was 23 years old. I burned with a passion deep inside of me to be a good, godly, and heroic father to my children. I did not want to repeat the mistakes I saw my father make. I knew I had my own demons to fight with. I knew that if I did not intentionally determine to faithfully seek the Lord, ask for and rely on God’s help, and overcome those demons, I would greatly harm my children and leave a lasting, negative, hurtful impact on their lives. How we treat our children has a tremendous, life long impact on them. Every son longs to have a father he can look up to, a father he can have a close relationship with.
There is nothing I have worked harder at in my life than being the kind of father I wanted to be to my children and the kind of man I wanted to be to my wife. I’ve included what kind of man I wanted to be to my wife because one of the greatest impacts of being a father is how your kids see you with their mom, how you treat their mom, love their mom, and devote yourself to their mom. This is a vital part of what it means to be a great father to your kids.
Men, each of us must decide in our own heart that being a good, godly, heroic father and man, is the most important thing to us. Each of us must keep our own heart inspired, motivated, vigilant, encouraged, envisioned, and determined in this pursuit. It will not happen by accident. It will not happen by a stroke of good luck. There will be many obstacles to overcome, many discouraging emotions to deal with, many life trials and very difficult circumstances to walk through. Most of all, we will need to overcome our tendency to prioritize other things, to get distracted, to take the easy road, to be lazy, to give in to the many other temptations in our lives. Be it pleasures, making money, or our own complacency.
Today, determine that you will put your whole heart into this, that you will not slack off, that you will not give up, that you will not be satisfied until you have finished the work God gave you to accomplish in your son’s lives. The responsibility to mentor and train them to be good, godly men, was given to you by God.
My sons, listen to me. Listen to your father’s instruction. Pay attention and grow wise for I am giving you good guidance. Don’t turn away from my teaching.
Proverbs 4:1-2 NLT
Follow my advice, my son; always treasure my commands. Obey them and live! Guard my teachings as your most precious possession. Tie them on your fingers as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart.
Proverbs 7:1-3 NLT
I am not writing these things to shame you, but to warn you as my beloved children. For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the good news to you. So I ask you to follow my example and do as I do.
I Cor. 7:14-16 NLT
Please listen to this message series. It will inspire you, envision you, and help you fully grasp the great difference a father’s life makes!
*Note: If you decide to watch the documentaries I refer to, realize their stories are raw and at times contain very coarse language.