In my opinion, my church, The United Methodist Church has come to an unfortunate crossroads. Without going into a lot of detail, members of our denomination have a disagreement about including certain groups of individuals in the participation of church activities. As a result, the church has gone so far as to split – with many individual churches choosing to leave the legacy portion of the denomination.
While whole congregations have chosen to disaffiliate themselves, like any group decision, there are individuals among them who have a different point of view and would rather not leave. In order to give those individuals a place to “land,” some of the traditional churches have designated themselves as “lighthouse” churches. As such they have indicated they will welcome into their services and their congregations any members who are looking for that place of sanctuary and belonging. In my words, they are helping those souls navigate the challenges on the way to their envisioned promised land.
As I understand, these churches are opening their doors to all who wish to enter. While this situation may focus on a specific group of individuals, to me the response is in keeping with the philosophy of “opening the door” for all who “knock”. That is the philosophy that attracted me to the United Methodist Church years ago, shortly after we were married. Because that philosophy aligns with our broader view of life, it is the place where we have participated for decades, including where we raised our children.
Dads as Lighthouses
In our work with Be There Dad, I like to imagine that our dads are like lighthouses to the children they seek to serve – accepting all children as they are – helping them find the paths of their lives.
Lighthouses are beacons of light. They are easy to recognize. They may be landmarks guiding the way to safe harbor and “happy landings”; or, they may be sentinels forewarning of the unseen dangers that sailors may encounter as they proceed on their journeys – rocks, shallows and currents. In both cases, these pillars give perspective helping sailors who see them navigate away from disaster and safely towards their destinations.
Lighthouses stand ever ready and constant along the shoreline. Aways present – no matter the season, the weather or circumstances – doing their duty for the benefit of all who use their light. Like stars in the sky, they provide a road map to a destination in darkness or unknown waters.
A Constant Presence
And so it seems to me with dads and mentors. They can be that constant presence in the lives of children who need them. In brightly colored shirts, they are easily recognizable. Steady and enduring persons of trust. Beacons of forbidding dangers helping young folks as they navigate their personal journeys. Beams of assurance giving children confidence as they pursue their individual potential.
As safe harbors of calmness, dads and mentors can be that welcoming presence when kids feel they need a new place to “land”. For many children they can be a sanctuary from isolation, bullying, and harassment. For others, men can be an encouraging presence when kids feel like they have failed – a poor test score, a broken relationship, a poor performance on game day or during a concert. Like a lighthouse on a dark stormy night, a dad’s presence can give perspective of where they have been and where they want to go.
Finding Their Way Home
A wise friend of mine often reminds me that as they grow, we need to prepare our children for the day they will venture on their own. Like explorers they must sail away to a place where they can no longer see the shoreline. But, if dads will establish ourselves as a secure and constant presence, in good times or bad, with successes or failures, those explorers will know that we will always be there. No matter how old they become, how far they wander and what they do, a lighthouse will give them assurance that they can always find their way home.
As you walk on the beach this summer, as so many of us do, I urge you to envision how you can be the lighthouse in the life of a child. How you can be the positive beacon, always present, always welcoming, always shining to help them find their way.