Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

June 19, 2011


Becoming a father is like getting hit in the head with a brick


          The unexpected letter puzzled me. It was from a man whose name I did not recognize. At first I thought he had written me by mistake. 

            Turns out I was wrong. His name was Andy. Fifty years ago, he said, he came to church with his friend Dan when they were in their teens. He told me that he enjoyed my sermons though they made no great impact upon his life. However, his perspective had changed and he wanted to share that with me.

            Things changed for Andy when his daughter was born. “When Kelly was born,” Andy related, “I began to understand the meaning of life. It was like God had hit me in the head with a brick!” I like that analogy. You “see stars” when that brick hits you but the stars help you to see clearly, often for the first time.

            When he held that tiny baby in his hands, and looked into her beautiful eyes, things began to fall into place for Andy. “I think for the first time, the whole idea of the grace of God, the gift of salvation, made sense. It was for me a life-changing moment.”

            Andy had to become a father before the love of God made sense to him. That is not surprising. Many fathers, and mothers, have echoed this same sentiment to me. It is a remarkable feeling to hold your firstborn in your hands for the very first time. So tiny! So beautiful! So perfectly formed! So full of life! And so helpless!  The words most of us utter at that moment are often these – “It’s a miracle!” Andy’s letter was tender and encouraging, unlike any I have ever received. I thanked him for sharing the beautiful way God had reached him in the birth of his daughter.

            God tries a thousand different ways to get our attention. We may ignore him for years, until one day, when we are least expecting it, he hits us squarely between the eyes. Suddenly, like a blind man receiving his sight, we see the truth for the first time. No longer in the dark, we begin to “see” what really matters. We are blind no longer! We cry with John Newton, “I once was blind but now I see!”

            Material things mean less to us. People become important. Relationships, friendships, become priceless. Life changes. Our perspective changes and it is never the same – after the brick in the head!  Andy’s thoughtful message stirred memories of the birth of our five sons. I remember each occasion well though obviously not as vividly as my wife remembers birthing those boys!  

            First, there was David Walter. We named him after our fathers. He was such a beautiful baby. I will admit it – I counted his fingers and his toes! He had the right number. I was nervous, afraid at first that I might hurt him or drop him. He relaxed in my arms. I looked at Dean and smiled, thinking, “You have given me a precious son!”

            Three years later David’s death became even more of a life-changing experience for me and his mother. We wanted to die ourselves. We thought life was over. We would never have another child. Our beautiful son was gone forever! We were speaking faith though our hearts were tortured with grief.

            God slowly healed our sorrow and soon gave us another son. I remember reading a book about childbirth during Dean’s second pregnancy. One night she startled me by saying, “It’s time! We have to go to the hospital now!”

            Calmly I said, “Honey, we can’t go yet. I am only into chapter seven of this book about childbirth.” She said, “Forget the book; we are going to have a baby tonight!” We did. Matt was born. Another handsome boy! We rejoiced that night in the goodness of God though nervously wondering if he would live to adulthood.  Today, by the grace of God, he is 53.

            Soon Mark arrived, then Tim, and finally, Steve. Each one was welcomed into the world with great joy. Each weighed more than nine pounds. Steve actually weighed almost eleven pounds! Each has made us proud, and each has become a wonderful father, giving us 12 precious grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

            The last child, Steve, was anxious to discover America. The doctor was at a dinner party when Dean told a nurse, “The baby is coming!” The nurse said, “No, honey, we have to take you to the delivery room first.” Dean was right. The nurse was mistaken. Before the doctor could be summoned, and before the nurse could do anything but shout for help, Steve arrived!

            Our children were born in the days when fathers were excluded from the birthing process. The nurse insisted that I step outside the room. I did. Soon I heard the nurse slap Steve’s little rear end. There was no sound for what seemed an eternity. Then I heard him cry – and vigorously so! He was alive! I leaned against the wall and gave thanks.

            Father’s Day is here again. My friend Andy and I will share the same thoughts on this day. We will give thanks to God for what he did for us in that glorious moment when we became fathers. We will praise him for the great privilege of being a father.

            Fatherhood does change your perspective. The birth of your own child opens your eyes to things you have never seen before. You understand God a lot better; you think more about God, who he is and what he does. You realize that you had better grow up and try to become the kind of father your children will admire. At 79 I am still trying.  + + +