One of my favorite movies is Rob Reiner’s 1987 cult classic, The Princess Bride. If you’re like me, you know every line, especially the well-repeated lines of Inigo Montoya, portrayed by Mandy Patinkin: “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” A young Inigo takes up fencing, with the hopes of one day vindicating his father’s death. The thought of it consumes him. I thought about Patinkin’s lines when I read a recent article.
Last week, I read that a group of Internet cyber-bullies posted atrocious comments on Twitter about the retired Boston Red Sox Pitcher Curt Schilling’s daughter.
I was beside myself. This kind of stuff ignites my flesh. It gets me going. I know, as a dad, when I hear stories like this, my countenance changes. I begin to think of David before he fought Goliath:
“David said to Saul, ‘…when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him’” (1 Sam 17:34-35).
My daughters are my little lambs.
Last Saturday morning, the men’s group that I belong to was discussing this passage. We looked at how David was a “man’s man,” a real bravado, a full-on courageous bro. We thought about the idea of grabbing the goatee of a lion. Well, that sort of trumps how I dislocated my shoulder on my daughter’s skateboard.
Anyway, we began to imagine the scene and say, “Really. What did he do? Did he jump on the lion’s back?”
One guy said, “I can’t even imagine,” and I agreed.
Then another guy chimed in, “Well, maybe, you never know what you’d would do.”
And it hit me. I said, “Yea, if anyone harmed my daughter, or had her in their clutches then lion or no lion, I’m going to die trying.”
And now, I put the two together: “My name is Matt Fretwell. You bullied my daughter. Prepare to die.” However, in a world where people can hide behind computer screens and bully others, there are no lions, only weasels safely hidden from the light of day. There is no face-to-face, no dark alley meeting, and more than likely, no police report in the world can prevent it or solve it. Maybe? What can a dad do during these times? Especially when young girls, and boys, are bullied into suicide (God forbid). If vindication were the key then an eye for an eye thinking would leave the world blind. There must be something more.
I like Curt’s response. He wrote an open letter on his website 38 Pitches, calling out the guys who did it. There is such a thing as peaceful absolution. In our technological world, anybody can be tracked down. Anybody. But more than vindication, I think the moral of the story here is Curt. While he did go on Twitter initially, that was Curt facing his lions. But in the aftermath, it was what was said in his letter that laid an example to us all (by the way, I’m a Yankee fan).
Mr. Schilling wrote:
“My daughter, my one and only daughter, has worked her a** off playing sports the past 9-10 years. She’s loved it, and I’ve loved being able to both watch, and coach along the way.
Last week we were told she’d been accepted to college and will begin playing softball there next year.
Clearly an incredibly proud day.”
Curt shows that he has been a supporting and loving dad throughout his daughter’s life. He’s coached her. He recognizes her hard work. He has been part of her journey. He’s proud of her. He finds joy in her joys. He’s protecting her. He’s a dad.
I wish more dads were like this. Not in the Twitter volley of emotions, or finding retribution—that comes naturally when facing lions. But that more dads would understand that life is not all about work, promotions, or status symbols. I wish more dads would pour into their children’s lives—and it’s not about sports, it’s about being a parent—a mentor in life. It’s about making time for your children. At the cold and rainy practices. At the crowded ballet recitals. At each dinner table discussion about boyfriends and girlfriends. It’s about encouraging them and walking with them through life.
God has gifted me with the ability to raise three daughters: each is so unique and so beautiful to me. Dads have some of the greatest calling on earth; we’re called by God to lead, to guide, to mentor, to love, and to protect these children until they are old enough to go out on their own—and even then, it never ends. When my youngest was born, I will never forget my father wrapping his arm around me as we shared stogies. Puffing away in bliss, my dad looks at me and says, “Congratulations, son. You’re going to be a dad for the rest of your life.” That took a moment to sink in.
From a Yankee fan to Curt Schilling, “Good job, Curt.” (I never thought I’d say that.)
As a pastor to a all dads: walk with your children through life, teach them about God, love them, guide them, support them, and protect them—remember there are lions out there. (1 Peter 5:8)
Matthew Fretwell is married, has three daughters, loves Jesus, being a dad, people, and coffee. Besides being an author (Denied Desires; Identity Theft, Sanctificagious, 30:1 Manhood), he’s pastor of a 112 year old revitalized church planting church (Oak Hall Baptist) in Sandston, Virginia, and is the founder of Job 31 Ministries. Matt’s an advocate board member of Living Bread Ministries, a global comprehensive Church Planting organization. He also writes for Church Planter Magazine.