By Louie Giglio
We’re all intrinsically wired to flourish under the waterfall of our father’s blessing. If something goes wrong, and that needed flow is diverted, the sting we feel is real, and the downstream consequences cannot be ignored—even if we try to push them into the distance.
For me this came into super clear focus when I was 18 years old and one of the biggest decisions of my life seemingly came out of nowhere. Like a lot of college freshman, I didn’t yet have a solid life map.
My plan was to ride the wave of tennis as far as I could. Having made that the main obsession of my life through the later years of high school, I thought I’d give it a go at Georgia State University and hope for the best. Yet, that train didn’t even get out of the station before I sustained an injury early in fall tryouts.
I soon realized this path was both unrealistic (I just wasn’t good enough) and unattainable because of the torn muscle in my side, even if I had been good enough. I could have chosen to grind away at it, but I’d be so far behind I’d never catch up.
But, God had a different plan anyway.
He hadn’t gifted me to crush one-handed backhands with pinpoint precision. No, my skill set orbited in the zone of communication. Public speaking, to be specific. Though I hadn’t fully realized it for myself, I was comfortable speaking in front of people (some researchers say this is the number one fear of most people) and had above average ability.
That led to opportunity, whether speaking to the student body at school or giving a short talk on a mission trip with the youth group from church. And that led to a path I never could have imagined back when I tore that muscle in my side.
Whenever an occasion arose where someone needed to step up and speak into the moment, people invariably looked my way. And while those early attempts at influencing and encouraging people through spoken messages were rough around the edges, people would say I did well, and then more opportunities would come my way.
Shortly after my tennis dream went down the tubes, untangling my heart from that obsession, God arrived with a startling announcement—He was calling me to preach. I’ll admit I hadn’t seen that one coming, but it made sense. All my experiences and passions, as well as my budding ability, aligned with His call.
It felt like I was suddenly zeroing in on understanding the unique way that God had gifted me, and seeing how that might lead to a life path.
Our intrinsic wiring
God has wired each of us with unique abilities, aptitudes, and desires. Somewhere in the nexus of these lies our created gifting—the pathway that we will follow on earth. The heart of our reason for being is to know and love our Maker and enjoy Him forever. Nothing is more important than that, nothing surpasses that core purpose.
Yet, within our relationship with God, He tailors us to make our unique contributions to the greater good for His glory, giving our individual lives very specific meaning and direction.
His plan for you is not mere existence. It’s way beyond mere drudgery or a job you can’t stand and aren’t good at. He has woven into your heart a gift and a dream so that you can invest your days in meaningful pursuits that make your heart come alive and help others’ hearts come alive also.
Back at Georgia State with my newfound calling, I began to understand that my purpose was to tell the story of Jesus to the world. This realization was accompanied by trepidation and excitement, but my heart was on fire with a desire to say, Yes, to God, a desire that overwhelmed my fears.
My pastor encouraged me to devote two weeks to prayer, and to immerse myself in God’s Word. He also encouraged me to read the book, So Send I You by Oswald Chambers. That book led me to a passage of Scripture that confirmed what God was saying to me and what I was saying to God.
At the end of the two weeks I had my answer and was ready to tell my church that I was “surrendering” my life to God’s call to ministry—to preach.
I was pumped, except for one thing—I needed to tell my dad.
My dad was awesome. But when it came to the most important part of my life—my relationship with Jesus—we didn’t have much common ground. Ours was a bi-denominational family from the start. Dad was a non-practicing Catholic and an on-and-off attendee of our Baptist church, but never much an adopter of the “Jesus way.”
Mom was a praying saint. She was all in for Jesus, and the church. Mom was going to be thrilled at my calling. There was no problem there. But Dad wasn’t going to know how to process my decision, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to tell him. So, I was putting off talking to him about it as long as I could.
The days kept rolling by, and here it was the Sunday afternoon before the evening service where I planned to announce my decision during the response time at church. I knew time was running out. I couldn’t make such a declaration in front of the whole church without telling my dad first.
But how could I break news like this to him? Late in the afternoon I walked into the kitchen of our modest apartment where my dad was warming some leftovers on the stove. I swallowed hard, opened my mouth, and heard words coming out.
“Dad, I have some big news. I feel like God is calling me to be a preacher. I’m going to tell the church at the service tonight, and it would be great if you could be there.”
Dad just blanked. He was shocked. Caught off guard. Granted, I’d put him in a tough spot by springing the news of my decision in such a haphazard way. Finally, he managed to get out the words, “That’s great, Ace.”
But his expression said it all.
I could sense the wheels turning in his head—my son is going to be a Baptist preacher. All of his golf and poker buddies’ sons were either playing football for Auburn, or planning to be attorneys or accountants or something respectable. One buddy’s son was going to take over the family business.
This week, while a new hand was being dealt at the Friday night card table, the question would eventually come: Lou, what’s your kid doing, again?
Um, he thinks he’s going to be a preacher.
That’s the last thing my dad wanted to say through the haze of cigarette smoke around the poker table. God had placed a captivating calling on my life, but as far as I could tell my dad was disappointed. I knew from that initial moment standing in the kitchen on that Sunday that we might never be able to fully share in the journey I was embarking on for the rest of my life.
In the days that followed I could sense a tension building in my heart. On the one hand, I was so pumped about finding my true calling in life. But on the other hand, I also really wanted my father’s approval. I wanted his blessing.
Sadly, my dad didn’t turn up at the church service that night. What at first was an awkward gap between my walk with Jesus and his was now a little gash—right in the side of my heart. I knew Dad didn’t mean any harm by not coming, but it hurt a little anyway. More than anything, I just wanted to have his approval.
Don’t we all? We want our dad to see us. To acknowledge what we can do. To value who we are. To cheer for us and tell us they love us.
I understand that for some of you, the story about my dad’s reluctance to initially celebrate my calling will resonate, while for others it produces a completely different range of emotions. You’re thinking, You’re lucky, Louie. My dad wasn’t even there to talk to about my life choices and big decisions. And if he had been, he just might have knocked me across the kitchen in anger and cursed God.
Or for some of you, the phrase you heard when you confided in your dad about your dreams was, Good luck with that. I doubt you’ll ever amount to anything.
Maybe your dad mocked your ambition. Or maybe he tried to superimpose on you his plan for your life.
We all have different experiences with our dads, but the craving for our father’s approval is the same.
Some of you possess that blessing fully and you are thinking, I love my dad! When you shared your dreams with him he gave you that assuring nod and grin, and told you he’d do everything he could to help you. That kind of father is a gift, and if you have a dad like this I hope you’ll thank him again today!
Yet, for others there’s a palpable, uneasy silence right now as you’re reading. You don’t want to peel back the layers of your heart about your relationship with your dad. It’s too painful, and the hurts are too recent, too real.
But I want to encourage you because God is offering you a promise that has the power to change your life forever.
LOUIE GIGLIO (@louiegiglio) is founding and lead pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, Georgia, as well as the founder of the Passion Conferences.
Excerpted from Not Forsaken: Finding Freedom as Sons and Daughters of a Perfect Father, Copyright © 2019 by Louie Giglio. Published by B&H Publishing Group.