There was once a little boy whose dad was very, very busy. He worked long hours and often brought work home in the evenings. He worked long weekends and did not have a lot of time that he gave to his son. He was a responsible dad in many ways, and a good provider, but he did not give his son much of personal attention.
One summer day, there was an exception. It occurred to the Dad that when he was a boy, he used to love to go fishing with his dad. And it occurred to him that he had never gone fishing with his boy. So one summer day, he said to his son, “Son, it occurs to me that we have never gone fishing together. What if we were to set a day, about three weeks out, and spend the whole day fishing together?”
“You mean it, Dad? Do you mean it?” They set the day and the boy started counting down the days. Twenty one, twenty, nineteen. . .
They went to Wal-mart and got some fishing gear and every night the boy would look through the gear and imagine how great it was going to be to spend the day fishing with his dad. Fifteen, fourteen, thirteen. . .
Eventually, the day they had set came and the dad came through. They set their alarms early in the morning, threw the fishing gear in the back of the truck and spent the whole day fishing together. It was a glorious day for the boy. Some days we really look forward to and they disappoint us. Some days exceed our expectations. This was one of the latter.
For weeks and months and years to come the boy looked back on that day with fond memories. This kid had kind of a dark childhood in that he didn’t get a lot of time and attention from his dad. But that day was like a shaft of light dropped into an otherwise dark childhood. He treasured its memory for years to come.
But he always wondered what his dad thought of that day. His dad was not particularly expressive, so he never said anything about it.
Eventually, the kid grew up and the dad grew old. Eventually, the dad died. After the dad died, the kid got to looking through the Dad’s diary. Painstakingly, day by day, month by month, page by page, he looked and looked until he found the day they spent fishing together. Here is what the dad wrote that day,
“Whole day wasted; went fishing with my boy.”
There is always a gasp from the audience when I tell that story. We gasp because we realize how deeply these words crushed the boy. We picture him collapsing to the floor in a pile of tears. We realize what he wanted was a love that was a little bit selfish.
He wanted a dad who, for his own selfish reasons, wanted to be there with his boy. He wanted to read in the diary, “Best day of the year; got to spend the whole day with my son. It was glorious.”
The people we minister to do not care about our commitment and our responsibility. They want to be loved. They want to be loved in a way that is a little bit selfish. They want to be wanted.