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Dad and Me

Tom Arthur

While at college, I got into some pretty big arguments with my dad. I was growing up, and becoming an adult changed the way I related to Dad. In my head, I had an image of who Dad should be; and he didn’t measure up.

Things got so bad that I decided to seek help at the student counseling center. Every week for a year, I talked to a counselor about how things were going with Dad. The counseling paid off, not because Dad changed but because I changed. I came to see that what was wrong with our relationship wasn’t Dad; the problem was my expectations about who Dad should be. I was so busy measuring Dad by my expectations that I had no time or energy for a relationship with the man Dad actually was.

As I let go of my expectations, my relationship with Dad improved significantly. I began to notice things about Dad that I liked. I noticed the ways he communicated his love to me. One example: I had wondered why Dad never called me. If I wanted to talk, I had to call him. What I hadn’t noticed was that Dad sent me cards on every holiday. He not only sent me cards, he made them personal. He crossed out words and wrote in his own. He drew pictures all over them. He highlighted words and always included a brief note. He often sent money. When I quit measuring Dad by my expectations, I noticed all kinds of things I had failed to see before.

Toward the end of the year, my counselor suggested that Dad join us a couple of times over a weekend. I wasn’t sure, but I trusted my counselor and invited Dad. I was surprised when he agreed to come. I was even more surprised by how well the weekend went.

 

Change and Transition

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Change happens all the time, but transition only happens some of the time. Transition is the process of changing our expectations to fit changing circumstances and situations. That weekend was a transition point for me. I was able to move from an old set of expectations, which were causing me a lot of trouble, to a new set of expectations that let me have a real relationship with my dad.

That weekend was also a transition in the rest of my relationships. When I became aware that my expectations of Dad were unrealistic, I realized that my expectations of other people might be unrealistic too. Learning to love my dad for who he was helped me learn to love others as well. Now that’s a big transition!

 

DIG DEEPER

The disciples’ expectations of Jesus—who he was and what he was about—were often wrong. Look up Matthew 16:13–24, Luke 18:15–17, John 4:1–42, and Acts 15:1–21. Then write about how the disciples had to take a second look at their expectations.

For whom do you hold unrealistic expectations? What steps can you take to begin to love this person for who he or she is?

Tom Arthur graduated from Duke Divinity School and is now the pastor at Sycamore Creek Church in Lansing, Michigan.

—from devozine (May/June 2010). Copyright © 2010 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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