What Every Man Wishes His Father Had Told Him (Part 1) - Byron Yawn
Every father leaves an indelible mark, an impression on the heart of his son, for good or for evil.
FamilyLife Today® Radio Transcript
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Finally, A Father
Guest: Byron Yawn
From the series: What Every Man Wishes His Father Had Told Him
Bob: Every father leaves an indelible mark, an impression on the heart of his son, for good or for evil. Here’s pastor and author Byron Yawn.
Byron: Whenever I ask some man “What was your relationship with your father like?” there’s always this moment where they’re trying to figure out how to say it without being critical or dishonoring their father. I think there are some men who have suffered greatly at the hands of their fathers, so I don’t invalidate the concept that we’ve all made a victim of someone in our life. We are wretched and sinful people, but the cross doesn’t allow us to remain victims. The cross allows us to overcome.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, May 29th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Byron Yawn joins us today to talk about some of the things that all of us wish we had heard from our fathers when we were growing up.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I was going to start today by asking you a question, and then I thought, “No, it’s probably not a good question to ask.”
Dennis: What was the question?
Bob: I was going to ask you, on a scale of 1 to 10, what kind of a score would you give your dad? How did he do? – 10 being he was great, 1 he was lousy. Then I thought, “It’s not a good question” because then you’d ask me, “Well, what score would you give your dad?” and I would go through that process of trying to evaluate the score. Then I thought, “Do we really want people starting to score their parents?” That’s probably not --
Dennis: There’s a lot of that occurring today.
Bob: There is, and I –
Dennis: It’s on the low end of the scale, too.
Bob: And I don’t think it’s healthy for us to go there and dwell there, and muse about it and gripe about it.
Dennis: No, I don’t think it is. I think what’s most important, and you’re already hinting at it – we need to be talking about what is a man, what is a dad, what does he do, and how does he function under the lordship of Jesus Christ in his life. We have a guest with us here on FamilyLife Today, Byron Yawn, who has written a brand-new book called What Every Man Wishes His Father Had Told Him. Byron, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Byron: Thank you, Dennis. It’s a privilege to be here.
Dennis: Byron is a writer, a speaker; he and his wife, Robin, live near my son in Nashville, Tennessee, and they live there along with their three children, and have years of ministry. I’m just curious, why would you tackle this subject? You have three children. Has the learning curve for you been a steep one as a dad?
Byron: I think like every dad it has been steep. The reason I tackled it on a personal level is that I was just compelled. I’ve had many good examples in my life, and many bad examples in my life. The truth is, I just love my sons desperately, and the world is a grinder and as a pastor I encounter a lot of failure on the male level, as husbands and young men.
Dennis: You see a lot of men who don’t know how to be a dad?
Byron: I do, and I see the consequence of it in young men’s lives. So I didn’t want to be the cause of two more statistics, and I just sat down and started writing essays to my sons of things that I wanted to say to them. So on the personal level it’s a father’s heart to his children. Now I don’t know that I tackled it as much as it tackled me.
Bob: You said you’ve seen good and bad examples. You had two very clear good and bad examples, because your dad, the man who gave you life, didn’t stick around very long.
Byron: He did not, and in no way was an example for me, nor had he had any major influence in my life. As I look back on it now, as I’m 40, God spared me, but because of my adoptive father, Dr. Yawn, which is where I got the worst name any preacher could want –
Dennis: Let’s spell it, so our listeners know. They may have missed it. It’s Y-A-W-N.
Byron: Thanks for being explicit.
Byron: He so exemplified what it meant to be a servant, and he embodied the unconditional love of God as it is seen in the Gospel for me. I was young enough that I didn’t have a real memory of my biological father, and I was young enough that I was forming my memories of who my father was based on the man that was in front of me. Honestly, until the age of about 10, I didn’t really realize he wasn’t my own biological father, which I think is a testimony to his love.
Dennis: You know, your story is providing hope for some listeners right now, who are in a second marriage, a blended family, and they’re wondering “Can redemption occur in the midst of a broken family” -- that took what was an ideal, something they had hoped for that would go the distance, and whether it was desertion, divorce, or a child out of wedlock or whatever it way, it’s now a blended family.
Your stepfather – his first name was Victor, right? -- stepped into your life and provided a model and an influence and an impact that only God could use to imprint your life. You had a conversation with him outside a courtroom that really impacted your life.
Byron: That’s right. I was around five years old, and we were in a courtroom. It was in Mississippi, and it was a hot summer day. I was out in the little foyer of the courtroom on a bench that looked like a pew. I can remember it like it was yesterday. He knelt down in front of me and he said, “Would you like to be my son?” to which I said, “I didn’t know I wasn’t, but of course.”
And I think whether biological or adoptive, a lot of fathers fail to make that connection clear. So it was an enormous blessing. I mean I got it; it clicked, and I always valued that relationship as a result of it.
Bob: He went from that question into the courthouse and formalized the adoption.
Byron: That was it. I mean, that was the moment, and there are so many doctrines that are present in my mind as a result of my experience – adoption and inheritance and unconditional love and fatherhood. It’s just been a great context to understand my own role as a dad.
Dennis: Give me the essence of what he was asking you at that moment. What was the essence when you became his son?
Byron: In my own mind I think that what he was asking me is, “Would you like an identity?”
Byron: It made total sense to me, because at that age it’s not complex. It was very simple for me as a kid, as it is for most sons. It’s about compassion and consistency and leadership. It was enormously formative.
Dennis: What kid doesn’t want a father? I mean, really.
Byron: No kid. Even kids who have them want them. Because there’s a difference between being present and being a participant. Being around and being engaged are two different things, you know.
Bob: Let me ask you about this, because you talk in your book What Every Man Wishes His Father Had Told Him, about the terminology of the father wound, which is something we hear kicked around. I kind of alluded to it as we were starting today’s program. There’s a real sense that you experienced a deficit, but you kind of shy away from too much dwelling on the idea of a father wound. Why is that?
Byron: Well, I think the deficits are real. I think father wounds as a label are only so helpful, but I think the reality exists. Whenever I ask some man “What was your relationship with your father like?” there’s always this moment where they’re trying to figure out how to say it without being critical or dishonoring their father.
I think there are some men who have suffered greatly at the hands of their fathers, so I don’t invalidate the concept, but the cross doesn’t allow us to remain victims, because we’ve all made a victim of someone in our life. We are wretched and sinful people. I think for some men, when they hear ‘father wound,’ or they understand the concept of the negative impact of a father, it immediately clarifies so many things in their lives, and they attach so much meaning to it, but they never get past it.
It’s undeniably true, because it’s Biblically true, that a father is supposed to have an impact on a child, and some of those impacts are bruises. So my message is I understand that. Get in line, and grow from it, and don’t make the same mistakes by grace. Don’t play the part of a victim in this role.
Dennis: I’ve seen some victims in my lifetime. You know, if it’s always somebody else’s fault, it’s never your responsibility, and a person who wallows in victimization, who has been hurt and wounded, legitimately – I’m not diminishing any of that – but really what our Heavenly Father does, is He offers us the same thing your earthly stepfather offered you.
He says, “Do you want to be My son? Would you like a new identity? Would you like to trade the word ‘victim’ “ – and I don’t want to just have a trite play on words here, but “would you really like to be a man who is a victor, who has a purpose in life, who knows where he’s going, what he’s about, and who his Heavenly Father is?”
Byron: That’s well said. I think the cross allows, as you look through the spectacles of the cross, as you look through the cross at your own victimization in your own life, it’s the only thing that will help you make sense of it, and use it for good.
Dennis: Let’s talk about that in your life. Victor, your stepfather, stepped into your life and ultimately was a part of not only introducing you to a new identity from a human perspective, but ultimately taking your hand and seeing God reach down and grab it, and you becoming a child of God.
Byron: It is fair to say, and true that my dad was my primary missionary in my life. Through my mother’s influence and the marriage itself, my dad came to Christ and was changed overnight. He immediately began to shower my life with appeals for repentance and faith and trust in Christ and to have an awareness of my need for God and the Lord.
Bob: What did that look like? Was he preaching at you at night when you’d come home?
Byron: There was much of that.
Dennis: How old were you?
Byron: I was in the rough years of 15.
Dennis: Oh, wow.
Byron: Yes, I was the biggest punk within a five-mile radius of anyplace I was standing at the time. And I remember inordinate patience and love – just kind of a bizarre understanding coming from my dad. He preached Christ to me. In compelling ways he preached Christ.
Bob: But you ignored it.
Byron: That’s what 15-year-olds do with any advice. When my parents came to Christ I thought that they had lost it, and in fact they had, and wondered what God had done with my parents, although we had a very good kind of family life. It just got taken to a whole another level at that point. They threw away my Lynyrd Skynyrd CDs and they started doing all kinds of extraordinary things in my mind. I thought they were nuts.
Dennis: Bob still hasn’t thrown away his Lynyrd Skynyrd –
Byron: Well, I went back and repurchased mine.
Byron: But compassionately and delicately and with tears, you know, my dad was beseeching his son, and I think there was no question in my mind that – The way I describe it, Dennis, is that I could look at my dad when he was talking to me about Jesus Christ, and know that he desperately wanted me to understand what he was saying.
Dennis: So it wasn’t a finger-pointing deal with him. It was an invitation. It was a pleading, a cry of the heart for his son to take a step toward God.
Byron: It was one sinner being the emissary of God for another sinner. He was a broken man, and it was not a self-righteous declaration of condemnation.
Dennis: So how long did he have to preach before –?
Byron: About six months. About six months.
Bob: And actually they were at a prayer meeting one night, right?
Byron: One Wednesday night they went to a prayer meeting at a church – at a Baptist church, which meant that there were primarily white-haired individuals in the congregation – about 20 or 25 people. It’s a prayer meeting, you know. My only understanding of church was an aisle, and at the end of the service you walk down an aisle and there’s this thing that happened.
Well I was walking around my living room on a Wednesday night, confused out of my mind, and my eyes were opened to my sins. That’s the only way I can describe it – my eyes were wide open to the truth of who I was and the mercy of God in Christ.
I got down on my knees in my living room by myself, which no 15-year-old child, son, would do unless God was interceding, and pleaded for the mercy of God and sought His forgiveness. I remember the words like it was yesterday. “I don’t want to be an object of Your wrath. I want to be forgiven. I want to live for you.”
Bob: And you think this was based on the conversations your dad had been having with you?
Byron: There’s no question that the conversations of my dad and my mom and penetrating appeals of the Gospel, and really just the change in their life.
Dennis: Yes, I was going to say you had to see your dad’s life radically changed.
Byron: Absolutely. Overwhelmed. Overwhelmed.
Dennis: Even though he was a good man before he came to Christ.
Byron: My dad was very successful as a medical practitioner, and we had a lot of material things. All of his life, I think, he had seen that as the pinnacle of success, and really the pinnacle of his role as a father to provide. And when God opened his eyes to the truth, he realized that that was not the case. And so what I observed in him was this self-sacrifice and this love for the unseen, and really a dismissal of these possessions and material things, a willingness to burn them all if he could have his children see what he saw.
Dennis: So what happened when they came back from the prayer meeting?
Byron: Well it didn’t happen that way. I had seen the invitation system all my life because of the church I grew up in, so I literally thought I had to walk an aisle in order to be converted, to be saved. So I prayed this prayer on my own, I get in a car which I’m not supposed to be driving because I’m grounded at the time – it’s true – so my entire conversion is precipitated on a sin, breaking my parents’ rules.
And I drove to the church and I sat in the back and I waited for the prayer meeting to be over. As soon as it was over I picked whatever looked like an aisle and I walked down. And my parents had been there with these saintly people at the church, very faithful people, praying for their son.
Bob: Oh, wow.
Byron: So I walked down the aisle, and I approached this pastor – his name was Tim – and I said, “I need to be saved.” And he looked right back at me and he said, “No you don’t. You were, because no 15-year-old kid drives across town to come to me and confess their sin and their need for Christ unless God has opened their eyes for it.” He helped me understand that.
I turned around, and my parents are just standing there with their mouths wide open and tears coming down. They were just like, “Hey, this prayer thing works, you know?” It was extraordinary. It was extraordinary, and there was a radical change in my life, you know, towards my parents.
I saw the legitimacy and the wisdom in submitting to their direction in my life. I wanted to obey, because I could, and asking for their forgiveness and confessing my wrongness seemed like a logical thing to do. A teenage boy admitting that he’s wrong and his dad is correct and seeking his guidance is clearly a sign of regeneration. I mean it’s a sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence.
Bob: Byron, if you were sitting down with a dad today, a father of a 15-year-old, a stiff-necked punk like you described yourself, and he said, “I don’t know what to do. We’ve tried to talk to him, we’re praying. I don’t know what to do.” What would you tell him?
Byron: I would say, “Look at your own life. Compare that obstinacy in your son to your obstinacy before God, and God’s grace and mercy and patience in your life with this child. That kid is supposed to be confused. It’s a confusing world.” To love unconditionally, as hard as it is, and to show mercy, and to not only view him as a son who’s struggling to receive guidance, but a sinner, who is struggling under the weight and the burden of their sin.
To become that young man’s pastor, and chief example of what a broken, repentant sinner looks like, and to offer hope in that. There are a lot of things that you can say, Bob, a lot of things that you can say, but the things that I remember my dad saying had more to do with how he said it than what he got right. I mean, the sincerity of a father’s love even in the hardest things that have to be said is an enormous gift.
That conversation did not become hard and difficult overnight. There is typically a string of combative moments, and so I think it’s important, very important that a father come in on his knees. And whether the son understands or not, even seeking forgiveness for not communicating his love effectively, or making the child seem like a burden more than a gift, and the rest is a matter of grace and love and prayer.
Dennis: And maybe you’re listening to Byron’s story and you’re like him as a little boy. You’re hearing God say, “Would you like to be my son?” Maybe it’s time, whether you’re 15 or 50, that you get down on your knees like Byron did and say, “Lord, be merciful to me a sinner,” and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, the one who paid the price for your sins, who died on a cross, was raised on the third day and can make the offer because He’s alive. He’s alive. He is alive and He offers eternal life to all who will call upon His name.
Bob: We have a book that we love to send out to folks that is called Pursuing God, and if you’re listening today and you have never considered what it is to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and today as we’ve talked about this you’ve thought “I need that. I need to have a real relationship with God,” which is available to us because of what Christ accomplished on our behalf on the cross. Then let us send you a copy of this book, Pursuing God.
Call 1-800-FLTODAY to request it. 1-800-358-6329, and ask for the book Pursuing God. Again, we’re happy to send it out free to anyone who wants to understand what it means to have a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Or go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com. There’s a link you can click on there called TWO WAYS TO LIVE, and it explains the same idea – what it is to have a relationship with God and how that relationship can happen. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com; click the link that says TWO WAYS TO LIVE.
And while you’re there, look for information on Byron Yawn’s book, What Every Man Wishes His Father Had Told Him. We have the book in our FamilyLifeToday Resource Center. You can order it from us online, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY when you get in touch with us.
And then keep in mind: we have an event that‘s coming up on August 4th that we want to make sure you know about – a national men’s event. It’s a simulcast, originating in Chicago and being hosted in churches all around the country. It’s the Stepping Up®National Men’s Conference. Dennis Rainey, James McDonald, Crawford Loritts, Robert Lewis are all speaking at the event.
Your church can be a host church for this event and you can find out more when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the Stepping Up link. There’s also information there about the Stepping Up video series that’s being released in August – 10 sessions that you can go through with a small group of other guys, or you can use it with your men’s group at church.
Again, get all the information you need online at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click on the link that says Stepping Up, or call for more information at 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329.
Now, we are down to the wire here at FamilyLife Today. During the month of May we had some friends of the ministry who came to us and said, “We want to encourage listeners to help support the ministry, help cover the cost of producing and syndicating this radio program, and help with the Stepping Up event and the video series that you’re putting together.” They offered to match every donation we receive this month on a dollar-for-dollar basis, up to a total of $650,000.
We are just days away from the end of May, and if we’re going to take full advantage of this matching gift opportunity, we need to hear from listeners today or tomorrow or Thursday at the latest. So would you consider today going online at FamilyLifeToday.com, click the button that says I CARE, and make an online donation?
Or call 1-800-FLTODAY and make a donation over the phone.
Again, your donation is going to be doubled, dollar for dollar, until we hit that $650,000 matching gift threshold, and even beyond that your gift is important. So thanks for whatever you can do in helping to support the ministry of FamilyLife Today. We appreciate you and look forward to hearing from you.
And we want to encourage you to join us again tomorrow. Byron Yawn is going to be here and we’re going to continue talking about dads pouring into the lives of their sons as they raise their boys to be men. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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