Today’s guest letter comes from Mark Briggs. Mark has a family he “doesn’t deserve,” and has been able to do work that “has meaning beyond the work hours.” For the last 13 years, Mark has had the pleasure of helping churches finance their facility needs at Church Development Fund. He’s also enjoyed working and serving at his local church, and speaking for them on occasion. Mark lives in Elk Grove, CA with his wife Winnie, and their kids Paige, Jack, and Nora. He spends his free time trying to not take any of this for granted and cheering for the Arizona Cardinals.
When I fell in love with your mom, I already knew that it was a package deal. Usually when someone grows up thinking about their future wife, “the instant family” is never part of the plan.
As I hope you know, my experience was different. When you came into my life, you were four years old, and I actually couldn’t wait to have you as part of my family. I never faked my enthusiasm. I meant every word when I gave you your own little ring at the wedding–and I was as proud as any real dad could be.
But if I’m really honest, I initially would have preferred to not have “every other weekend” as part of my vocabulary. To not make the holidays even more complicated by figuring out when we have you and when we don’t. To not have to hear your baby brother and sister wonder why you are with “Todd” so much (and why you get twice the haul at Christmas!) And I selfishly would have preferred to be known as “Daddy”, and not “Marky” (however cute you can make it sound).
Heading into Mommy and my marriage, I tended to think more about these kinds of things. But as I started to think about you more than myself (which was an adjustment), I was impressed by God about what was truly best for you. I realized that I didn’t want to take your dad’s place, but I wanted you to feel the joy of having a second dad who loved you like crazy and was always there for you (too). Your mom and I have been committed to making sure that we celebrated your dad’s place in your life, never saying a negative word about him because he’s such a big part of you. The divorce and your circumstances were not your fault, but you have paid the steepest price. As I’ve stepped into this reality, I’m sickened by how so many parents use words like weapons when talking about their exes, but never realize they are actually brutalizing the true victims (kids like you) over and over again.
God has given me the honor and the sacred responsibility to be a key player in your life. While my ego or my insecurity may desire credit or glory, my heart will not be satisfied unless I seek out your best. As your volunteer/no blood relation/late-to-the-party dad, I’ve honestly struggled wanting affirmation for sacrifices made for you, dollars spent on you, and time invested in you. But all of that is empty, and a little embarrassing to mention.
Ultimately, Paige, there are several things you can know for sure. You can know:
• I would choose you any day of the week. On your worst drama-filled day, I would choose you over and over again. Even when you are crying over the paper-cut from last October.
• The world will try to sell you the lie that you are alone – but when it comes to having dad(die)s who would lay their lives down for you, you have no peers. NOTE: We will both also lay down anyone else’s life who dares to hurt you (and I’m not joking).
• That while statistics will tell you that you will “repeat the pattern” of divorce that has been the rule in your family –you can forge your own path by seeing true love as an opportunity to give, and not to fill any void. You spread love and joy so generously today, if you keep this up, you won’t have time for selfishness.
• When I push you and am hard on you, it’s because of love. I don’t push you to be THE best but to be YOUR best. Honestly, you’re probably not going to win a spelling bee anytime soon, but your intelligence and ability to influence people is at another level. Never short-change it.
Sweetheart, I will never replace your dad, and I don’t ever intend to try. Outside of my weaker moments, I’m not driven to be the “favorite” dad, being recognized for what I’ve done, or being able to one day walk you down the aisle. Success for me is that I can bring even more love and care as reinforcements to parents that are already overflowing with both for you, and somehow, some way, help leave no question in your mind that I will always be here… just in case you need me.