Father to the Fatherless
(This is a transcript of Zach’s story.)
I had grown up in church, I’d, you know, done the whole church thing my whole life. But I always just felt like it was just rules, rules, rules, and I didn’t have the right tools to do whatever the people at church wanted me to do.
So I believe the Lord is all about family, and I think if you go back to the very beginning of the Bible, you see that whenever the Lord created the earth, Adam and Eve, and they were in relationship with him, right? That was the most important thing. God’s all about family. God’s all about relationship in family, specifically Him as Father. Whenever the enemy came, he broke up that family, sin entered into the picture, fear hit. And there was a disconnect between God the Father and His people.
I grew up in a family that was broken. My dad wasn’t able to be there for us starting at about the age of 13. And that just left me feeling very alone, feeling very isolated, feeling very broken. As I started to grow up, you know, I just can look back now and I can just see that the enemy really took that opportunity to speak lies over me–lies that I’m not worthy, lies that I’m unlovable, lies that I don’t have what it takes, right? There’s no self confidence, no self esteem, I didn’t feel like I belonged, right. I felt like I was unworthy, and I didn’t have an identity as a son. Right. And I don’t have an identity as a son, that I’m an orphan.
An orphan walks around and he’s scared, and he’s insecure. And he doesn’t know what’s going to happen next, doesn’t know how to accept love. He doesn’t know how to accept help. And the only thing that they’re concerned with is themselves–how to survive, right?
There was this void in my life, right? This void of love, this void of acceptance, void of attention, void of affirmation, and I tried my hardest to find those things. I believe that those are basic needs in the heart of every single human being. They have this innate desire to be loved, right, to be accepted. And whenever a person doesn’t have that they’re going to do whatever they have to do to to get those things, right? And so for me from about the ages of 13, honestly, until my mid twenties, I did whatever I had to do to fill those voids, whether it be finding attention in sports right, finding attention in trying to be the cool guy or the funny guy, being affirmed in trying to strive and work and do everything right so that people see me and they say, Hey, man, awesome job. I accept you because of what you’re doing.
Well, there was this girl that I started to date. I dated her for a few years, and I put everything into her, right? I didn’t have any friends. She was my only focus, and I did whatever I could to make her happy, not because I loved her, but because I was so scared of losing her, right? Well, she ended up breaking up with me. At the time, I thought that it was the worst thing that could have happened to me. I look back now, and it might have been the best thing that ever happened to me because it showed that I was trying to find life in her–trying to find life in a person. Right?
Whenever she broke up with me, I was devastated. And I was depressed. And I was alone. I didn’t have any friends. I didn’t have anyone there to support me because I put everything into her. And I was sitting at home one day and my roommate’s friend walked past me. And he said, “Dude, you look really sad. Why don’t you come to this Thanksgiving potluck party with me?” And I was like, “Nah, man. No, I don’t feel like going.” And he said, “Dude, come on, man. Just go.” For some reason. I went and I walked into this party and I was in a bad mood. I crossed my arms. I made sure that everyone knew that I, you know, didn’t feel like talking.
But this one guy came up to me. And he started to talk. And I was giving him these short answers, you know, yes, no. And he said, “Hey, look, man, we got this men’s Bible study on Tuesday nights. I think that you should come.” In my head. I was like, there’s no way that I’m going to this men’s Bible study. And he said, “Hey, give me your number, and I will text you on Tuesday.” I said, “Okay, fine.” And in my head, I said, if you text me, I’ll go.
Sure enough. On Tuesday, he texts me. And I went, because I didn’t have anything else, right?
And I walked into the door of this apartment. And as soon as I walked in, I could tangibly feel that there was something different, and I felt like it was a safe place. And I felt freedom. I saw these men who were praising the Lord with all their heart, and they were supporting each other and they were crying and they were expressing their emotions and they were doing everything that I believed a man shouldn’t do, right? And it was the weirdest thing that I’d ever experienced. But something about it was extremely attractive. And I went and I experienced it.
And I kept on coming. I went every single Tuesday. Anytime that they had an event I went. And for the next six months, I just poured everything that I had into this group. Because although I couldn’t identify it, these, these people had something that I wanted. They had something that was extremely attractive. They had the love of God. They had the freedom of God. They had this intimate relationship with God. They didn’t see him as this father who is angry and who is controlling, but they saw him as a friend, as a safe place. And I had never experienced that before, and I wanted it. I can look back in my life and the Lord had actually been wooing me for almost a decade, and he had been wooing me through relationships with men starting at about the age of 21, the Lord put men in my life to show me different aspects of God the Father. I truly felt like I was finally building a relationship with the Lord. All of these things that I felt–what I would call an orphan spirit, this unworthiness, this inability to receive love, this fear-based mentality was slowly starting to erode and in its place came sonship–this feeling that, oh, oh, man, I might be lovable. I might belong. It’s not about what I do, but it’s about who he is and what he’s done and that I have an opportunity to become a part of the family. That I might actually start to change the way that I think and change my mindset and get to see myself how the Lord sees me, right. as a son.
On a whim, one of my best friends from college calls me up. I’m a teacher, it’s about to be the summertime, and he says, “Hey, I’ve got this discipleship training school that I’m going to in Nashville, Tennessee this summer. Would you like to go?” I said, “Hey man, I don’t have anything else. Yeah sure.”
An orphan walks around and he’s scared, and he’s insecure. And he doesn’t know what’s going to happen next, doesn’t know how to accept love. He doesn’t know how to accept help.
But I go to this discipleship training school and I’m experiencing the Lord in a whole new way, right? I’m introduced to the power of the Holy Spirit. And at first I felt like because I wasn’t experiencing the gifts of the Holy Spirit like some of these other people in the program that I was like a junior varsity Christian, right? But I had this mentor. This one guy named Steve said, “Hey Zach, just ask. Just pray and ask the Lord.” So I started to do that and I did that for about two weeks do that.for about three weeks, and finally this guy comes to our discipleship training school and I find out that he is extremely prophetic. Now the prophetic always scared me. I always felt that it wasn’t of God, right? But everyone who was a part of this discipleship training school, people who I looked up to, they, they told me that it was actually a very encouraging thing. So although I was very scared of it, I was also intrigued. And I just kept on praying, “Okay, Lord, I’ll take whatever you give me. I just want more of you.” So I walk in, and I’m like, man, this is my chance, right? I might actually get to experience this prophetic thing the first time. And so this guy sits down. And he starts to teach. And he teaches about something in the Old Testament for about two hours. And I’m like, well, this isn’t going how I thought it would go. So he finishes his teaching, and I’m bored to death. And at the end of the teaching, he says, “Okay, guys, we’re done. Why don’t we pray?”
And then he said, “Hey, I want someone to pray. What about this guy right here in the red shirt?” And he pointed his finger at me and I said, “Oh, okay.”
So I wasn’t very engaged. And I just said, you know, this very simple prayer: “Dear God, thank you so much for this time. In Jesus name, Amen.” And as I finished this guy said, “Hey, hey wait, I think I’ve got something for you.” And he said to me, he said, “I feel like you have your button stuck, and I want you to know that the Lord is unsticking your button. That this is going to be the year of reset for you. That this is going to be a year where the Lord retools you.” And then he starts to pray. And I’m thinking to myself, what is this guy talking about, right?
So he starts to pray. He asks for the Holy Spirit to come. And he continues, he says, “I feel like you have the heart of David. I feel like you delight in the Lord with all of your heart.” And then he starts to pray again. And by this time, I’m pretty confused and all the other guys in the program are just staring at me.
After he gets done praying. He says, “I feel like there’s something extremely traumatic that happened to you around the ages of 12 or 13. And what happened to you is generational. There’s this long line of sin that goes back generations. And what the Lord is doing is he is cutting the umbilical cord of that generational sin, Zach, with you. It’s almost like you’ve been in prison. And now you are receiving freedom.”
He said, “This might be a few years down the road. But I feel like there’s an anointing on your life. This care anointing, this anointing to nurture. That while you’re not supposed to be a pastor, you have a pastor’s heart for people. You care for people deeply,” he said. “And this anointing is specifically in the realm of fatherhood. People are going to look back whenever you’re older and say ‘He really fathered us well. He was the most incredible father.’ I see, Zach, like David, you’re a shepherd, you are a creator. And I just want you to know, Zach, that the Lord finds his delight in you, that you’re a good man, Zach, in that he has a plan for you.”
And as he said that, I just broke. And I felt, for the first time, the love of a father. I felt for the first time that this wasn’t just some far-off God. But this was a God who intimately knows me, who intimately loves me, who wants to be with me, who cares. Who cares! That was the day that changed my life. That was the day that although I had heard about the love of God for my entire life, I felt the love of God, I experienced the love of God. And once you experience the love of God, there’s nothing like it. There’s no way that I could go back. That was the day that transformed my life.
I felt like there was this call. right. to become what I did never have as a father. And I took that. And I started to bring that before all of my mentors. And okay, now that I have this call, now that I have this vision, tell me how I can do this.
Well, I go back to my profession as a teacher and a coach and I’m coaching my eighth grade football team. And one day after practice, I just said, “Hey, guys, who in here is raised in a home where there’s no father figure present?” There’s about 60 guys on my football team. And as I asked that question, about 45 of those kids hands shot straight up. And it was at that moment that I looked out and I knew that that was my life’s mission–that I was supposed to become what I did never have and help father these kids and to help give other men the heart of God, the heart that the Lord has for us to help father these kids who don’t have dads as well. And so that’s my story.
We started a nonprofit in 2011, “Fathering the Fatherless.” We’ve been doing it ever since. And I believe that that is my life’s purpose is to become a father and to stir up in other men the father heart of God. And once we understand the father heart of God, once we come into relationship with him, once that fear and that shame and that guilt and that doubt that started in the garden is done, and once we stop seeing ourselves as orphans and start seeing ourselves as as sons, as a part of a family in relationship with this perfect Father who wants to bless us, who loves being with us–once we understand that, we can’t help but fall in love with Him, and when we fall in love with Him, we can’t help but to do the works that we see our Father do.
So we father to the fatherless by first us, as men, falling in love with the Lord and coming into relationship with Him. And once that happens, fathering the fatherless takes care of itself.
So, that’s my story.