When I was born, I met my first dad. He was my birth father and he and my mom were trying to work out their problems again. You see my parents were separated before I was even born. They were fighting and having problems and to separate for a while to have some time to think about whether they should get a divorce or get back together again.
My dad called my grandmother (my mom's mom) and asked her to talk to my mom about coming back home to work things out. He said that he was willing to make some changes and try to get along better with my mom. My grandmother talked to my mom, and she agreed to come back home.
My two older brothers were four and five years old at the time. I was not even a twinkle in my father's eye yet (ask your parents what that means). After my parents got back together again, my mom got pregnant with me. I guess you could say that if it wasn't for my grandmother's talking my parents into "one more chance," that I would not be here today.
When I turned three years old, my dad got transferred, and we moved from New Jersey to Chicago. This move was hard on my mom because she left all of her friends back in New Jersey and didn't know anybody in Chicago. It was probably a little bit hard for my dad too, but he was busy at work so he probably didn't think about it too much.
After a while, my parents started fighting and having problems again. When I was five years old, my parents got a divorce. It was not a surprise to anyone. I didn't cry or get angry or get scared or anything. My parents tried really hard to not let me feel anything uncomfortable about the divorce. They pretended that nothing bad had happened and moved ahead with their lives, denying the pain.
This is when I met my second dad. He was the neighbor who lived across the street. He was getting a divorce just like my mom was. His wife and four kids were moving to Florida. My mom and my neighbor got friendly and started dating. After they were both divorced, they decided to get married. I was the ring boy in the wedding. My neighbor then became my stepfather. My first dad moved out, and my second dad moved in. Everybody was happy and there was still no pain.
I guess my birth father was a little bit sad, but he never showed it, and he never talked to me about it. I visited my birth father every Sunday. It was fun. We watched sports on TV, played sports outside, went to professional sporting events (my dad liked sports), flew kites, went on Easter egg hunts, ate lunch outside on the picnic table, and went on vacations to upper state New York where my other grandmother owned a summer cottage.
It was fun to have a stepfather too. He joined Boy Scouts with me, became an umpire in my Little League, took us to drive-in movies and out for ice cream. Even let me cut the grass on the riding lawn mower. I felt great having two dads.
Then my dad decided to get married. I was eighteen years old, getting ready to go away for college. He found a wonderful lady at work whom he liked and wanted to spend a lot of time with. I was a bit jealous. The times that he would spend with me she would be with us. I missed the times that we would spend time together alone—just me and my dad. I liked my dad's girlfriend very much, but for the first time I started to feeling sad and angry that my parents had gotten a divorce. I even cried for the first time over the fact that I didn't have a normal two-parent family. Why did all this have to happen to me? Why did my parents make believe that there was no pain? I sure felt it now! I wasn't mad at my dad, I was just feeling everything then that I should have felt back when I was five years old. I felt lousy.
I went on a canoe trip to Canada with our high school football team the summer before my senior year. One of the requirements of the trip was to complete a 24-hour solo. This means we would spend 24 hours on part of the island camping alone. I thought that it would be easy. Early in the morning they dropped me off on the north side of the big island. They quickly found my campsite on the top of the ridge and built a fire. Then I went on a hike through the woods. I started getting hungry, so I opened a can of stew with a sharp rock down by the beach and lit my fire. After dinner, I got sort of bored and lonely. I began to think that this 24 hours was going to be a pretty long time without someone to talk to.
It was at that moment that I met my third dad—my heavenly Father. He came along just at the right time. He listened to me and gave me guidance. He seemed to know how I felt about my parents' divorce. He allowed me to feel the pain of having two dads and then gave me comfort to help ease the pain. He loved me unconditionally. It was so good to be able to talk to someone. I realized at that moment that God was with me and that He was always with me. It was exciting to finally have a dad that I could talk to all the time. I didn't have to wait until He came home from working His second job to talk to Him anytime.
God helped me by giving me strength when I was weak, by promising never to leave me when I was afraid, by forgiving my sin so I could forgive my parents' sin, and by giving me peace and love through Jesus Christ. God can comfort you too. You matter to God, and He would love to adopt you into His wonderful family. No matter how many dads you have, God would love to be your heavenly Father. Just ask Him, and He will do it!
Gary Sprague is Executive Director of Kids Hope, a ministry focused on the emotional, relational and spiritual healing for children who live in single-parent families. Gary says that more than half of the children growing up today will spend time living in a single-parent family by the time they reach the age of 18. His goal is not only to minister to children of divorce. Kids Hope wants to minister to children in all types of single-parent families. For more information on Kids Hope seminars, video or print resources, call 888.KIDS.HOPE or visit their website.