My Dad Called Me
He paced back and forth rapidly, his palms were sweaty, and his gut was wrenching as he heard the distant cries of labor pains hitting his beloved. The words the midwife had spoken to him just moments earlier raced through his mind: “Your wife is in hard labor, and all we can promise you is the baby will be born, but your wife may not survive.” The other family members with him there struggled not knowing how to comfort him. Finally, after some time had passed, a newborn baby could be heard uttering the first sounds of life. The midwife called for the dad to come, and he raced like lightning to where his dear wife lay. As was the accepted custom of the day, he had two wives and even had children by others, but this woman was the one he loved the most.
The pains of hard labor had taken their toll on this mother as life was slowly leaving her. As this dad held his newborn son, torn between the joy of this new birth and the agony of knowing his wife was dying, the mother spoke what would be her last words: “Call him ‘Ben-Oni” because his birth had caused her great affliction and sorrow. The dad, not usually one to argue, said “No, we will call him ‘Benjamin,’” which means “son of my right hand.” He had not changed the name of his other eleven sons, but this time he did because he somehow knew this boy was special.
This story from Genesis 35 is the story of Rachel giving birth to Benjamin. I find it interesting that this account is the only record of Jacob changing a name. Jacob in this story represents our heavenly Father. Rachel represents the voices of negative influence in our lives, and we can identify ourselves with Benjamin. As summer draws to a close and the school year begins, I find this story applicable to all of us.
You may be a student going back to secular school and will be spending more time around secular mindsets than you may have in the past couple of months. You may be a student who lives in a home where negative influences exist and growing a walk with God is a constant challenge. Negative voices in our liberal culture try to convince you that remaining a virgin until married is so nineteenth century, and since you are the only one displaying any kind of outward holiness standard, why not conform to the crowd so you can feel “normal.” Even stronger influences are pulling some students into the idea that everyone else is doing drugs and alcohol, so why not give it a try. In whatever venue you face them —at home, at school, at work or in the media—the voices are there trying to convince you that you are nothing more than a Ben-Oni.
Proverbs 18:21 states “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.…” Words are very powerful. I once met an individual whose biological father spitefully told her she would be lucky if she makes it through high school without getting pregnant. He eventually removed himself from her life. Although he spoke these words when she was still a virgin, when she tearfully recounted that conversation to me years later, she added, “I don’t even remember how many guys I’ve been with since then.” She had sadly lived up to what her father had called her to be. Study after study conducted over the past sixty years confirms that the withdrawal of a father’s love plays a big role in teenage delinquency, personality development, and substance abuse. These same studies also confirm the presence of a father’s love can boost a child’s sense of well-being and improve emotional and physical health.
It’s been said if you really want to know who you are, learn to see yourself through other people’s view of you. Whether you have a healthy relationship with your dad today or not, we all have a heavenly Father who isn’t calling us “Ben-Oni” like the world. As we grow and mature in our walk with God, it’s healthy to pull back from life’s routines every once in a while and strive to see ourselves through God’s eyes. He is calling us “Benjamin” because he has other plans for us. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans of peace and not of evil, plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
Your relationship with your heavenly Dad will help you grow leaps and bounds over what the voices of this world are trying to make you become!
Chad Flowers is married to his best friend and teammate, Mendy. He’s a daddy to two incredible little girls, Jadyn and Keira, and one son, Chandler. He lives in Mesquite, Texas where he has a private practice as a licensed professional counselor and serves as pastor of Emmanuel Pentecostal Church.