Father’s Day is a wonderful day for celebrating good men who give honor to the role of father. However, there are so many people who have not experienced a father as a good leader. Perhaps they had an absent father, or one who has rarely been in the picture. Most kids long for a father figure who is there for them. Many mourn what they never had and the absence is keenly felt.
Then there are others, who by the grace of God, are provided with a substitute father to model and lead them.
This is a true story about a relationship between such a man, “the teacher”, and a boy named Mikey. This is a long story spanning over thirty years. It begins together, diverges into two, and reunites as one. I tried to shorten it, but some stories need to be told completely. When you have finished, I hope you agree.
The first of parallel stories begins in 1978 when Mikey’s mother brought him to a West Coast Christian school as a kindergartener. Mikey was adorable, handsome and gifted. He also longed for what he lacked - a typical family, with a mother and a father. He needed boundaries and discipline. He showed this by acting out in various ways. I suppose he thought that negative attention was better than none at all.
Mikey’s mother no doubt loved her son. That is why she sought out a school for him to attend where he would find better values than could be offered him at home. Mikey’s father was a dead beat dad, appearing only when he needed money for his habits. He was not positively involved in Mikey’s life, rarely attended any activity or sport and treated Mikey’s mother with disrespect. She, being a young and inexperienced mother was rendered incapable of controlling her son most of the time.
Though my father and mother forsake me, the will Lord receive me. Psalm 27:10
School was a bother for Mikey. Sure, he could learn, and knew his material, but because he was very intelligent, his childish mind rationalized that he didn’t need to turn in homework for things he all ready knew. So he fooled around in school and put his education in jeopardy.
The real problem was how Mikey interacted with the other children. He became disruptive in class. His principal, also “the teacher” (small school), tried all sorts of tactics to engage the boy in a positive way. The teacher cared deeply for this urchin who clearly needed the strong hand of a father and a family to guide him. Admirably, the teacher spent hours talking to and coaching Mikey. Sadly, he resisted the majority of the time. Or so it appeared.
School years came and went. Mikey continued in his ways. He began to alienate the other children and their parents. He became more outspoken and disrespectful. Then one day when Mikey was in 7th grade, too many offenses forced the principal/teacher to immediately expel him from school. This act of final discipline broke the teacher’s heart. He had put his career on the line in order to provide some stability for this lost boy. He fretted about turning away Mikey as nearly everyone else in his life had.
Of course, the teacher never doubted that the Lord was able and willing to take care of Mikey. So, he began to pray earnestly for Mikey. He feared the teenager was headed straight for the judicial system and incarceration if his ways were not reformed, and soon.
My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Proverbs 6:20
In January 1985, Mikey petitioned to return to school for 8th grade. The school board gave him one more chance. He made it until March that year, but there was no improvement in his behavior. Sadly, he was expelled for the second time. He missed graduation by just two months. The teacher did not hear about him again and assumed that he had succumbed to his surroundings and lack of a father figure. Within two years, the teacher moved his family 2100 miles away to the Midwest. He continued to pray, even though Mikey was to most people a loser. End of story.
But wait! This is not the end of the story, because God had a plan for Mikey!
Now we must tell the parallel story. The teacher had a younger daughter, Jana, who did not know Mikey, and had only heard of him. Like her father, she attended Martin Luther College in Minnesota to be a teacher. Ironically she received a divine call in 2002 to teach in the West Coast area where Mikey’s story took place. After two years, Jana was married and settled down to raise her family.
The year is now 2014. Jana’s sons attend a Christian school, located on the other side of the large city where Mikey’s story took place. Her boys became friends with two brothers of the same age. From two years prior, the families had been interacting regularly.
One day, after a field trip to Disneyland, Jana and the friends' mother, Colleen, made a discovery. To their great amazement, they found out that two of their favorite men were intricately entwined. Colleen was the wife of none other than Mikey, (now exclusively called Michael) and the mother of his children! Think about this: the teacher’s grandsons and Michael’s sons were the same age, attended the same school and became friends without the teacher, Jana, Michael, or anyone else recognizing the history of thirty–some years before!
It took a while to figure things out, but Jana and Colleen reconstructed the past with ever increasing delight. The conversation went something like this:
Colleen: “Michael attended a small school and he adored his teacher. He says everything he has become, he owes to his teacher.” (I don’t know about you, but I am thinking, “This is incredible! Really? The teacher who expelled him twice?”)
Jana: “Where was this school?”
Colleen: “Over across town. You probably don’t know about it. We were married by the pastor. Our boys were baptized there. It is called “X.”
Jana: “Wait a minute! My Dad taught at that school!!”
Colleen: “What? Is your dad Mr. ‘S’?”
Jana: “Yes, he is!! This can’t be! Tell me…was your husband Michael ever known as Mikey?”
Colleen: “Yes, he was, in grade school. But after a few of his high school friends started ending up in trouble, he was determined to be more like his teacher. He insisted people called him Michael. When we met he was adamant we would get married first, then have children. Michael also insisted they were baptized and would go to a Christian school. He was determined to be like his teacher.”
Jana: “So Mikey turned out to be Michael? Just wait until I tell my dad! He will be thrilled and amazed and so happy!”
Christmas 2014 will always be memorable for the teacher. After 29 years, he was reunited with Michael, and met Colleen and his sons. In true leader style, Michael insisted that the teacher come to his house for dinner. Michael himself cooked the meal, served the teacher and his family, and told about the gap in years from the time they parted ways to the present.
Michael has become a very successful businessman, husband and father who makes sure his family is grounded in Jesus. He claims that the teacher’s discipline and love made him everything he has become. He never forgot the lessons he learned.
The teacher knew it was not his doing at all, but a wise Heavenly Father’s plan to use a teacher as a father figure to a fatherless boy. Praise God, he made a way for Michael. The Lord always hears our prayers and never, ever forsakes his children!
A father to the fatherless ... is God in his holy dwelling. Psalm 68:5