Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Like Jay Z: The Importance of Being There

3217 Creekwood Drive.

That was my first address that I can remember. That’s the address where I learned how to play sports. It’s where I was introduced to the Atari 2600. It’s where I got into my first fight. It’s where I was gripped by the gospel and repented of my sins. Most of my childhood memories took place at 3217 Creekwood Drive.

But I hated the house that sat at 3217 Creekwood Drive.

I would sit at school all day and draw pictures of my dream house. One where my mom wouldn’t have to work so hard and one where my room was big enough for a giant TV to hook up my Atari 2600 and my own personal swimming pool. When my bus dropped me off right in front of my house I was brought back down to reality.

At one point it was a weird puple-ish color. For a few years the panels on the garage door were knocked out because I ran into them with my big wheel so much. On the inside, the brown carpet was stained with gum, pet deposits and Captain Crunch.

But the house at 3217 Creekwood Drive wasn’t really that bad. The only bad part was that I, along with far too many other kids on my street, would get off the bus at the end of the day, reach into our pockets for a key and unlock the door to an empty house.

Our street was nicknamed Divorce Court.

What I wanted more than new carpet and a coat of paint that wasn’t purple was a complete family. I wanted my mom not to have to work so hard to make ends meet. I wanted my dad to come home at the end of the day, kiss my mom and tell me he loved me. I wanted presence.

I was a lot like Jay Z.

Before Jay Z was a mega-rapper and part owner of the New Jersey Nets[1] he was an 11-year-old kid who was devastated by his father’s absence. When Jay’s dad left, it impacted Jay enough to stick with him almost 30 years later when he would write a rap to his unborn son on the Watch the Throne album.

Promise to never leave him, even if his mama tweakin'

'Cause my dad left me and I promise to never repeat him

Never repeat him

Never repeat him

Jay Z is the furthest thing from a Christian and he seems to have sampled every pleasure this world has to offer but he still knows the importance of a father being present for his kid. Here’s an excerpt from a recent article by Alex Pappademas at gq.com.

“He was rich enough to provide, years ago. But he wanted to be rich enough to be present—to leave rap alone for a while, if necessary, and not in a trumped-up pseudoretirement kind of way.”

‘Providing—that's not love,’ he says. ‘Being there—that's more important. I mean, we see that. We see that with all these rich socialites. They're crying out for attention; they're hurting for love. I'm not being judgmental—I'm just making an observation. They're crying out for the love that maybe they didn't get at home, and they got everything. All the material things that they need and want. So we know that's not the key.’”

Could it be that Jay Z, the guy who drives a car worth more than the Pittsburgh Pirates, gets fatherhood better than a lot of dads who claim to be Christians?

Could it be that our attempts to say I love you by providing cars and phones are actually saying the exact opposite to our kids? Could it be that even though they say what they want with their mouths their hearts and actions are saying something completely different? Could it be that our kids could live without a car if it meant dad being around more? Could it be that having parents who are intimately and romantically in love with each other is much better than simply having a joint business venture of two wage earners who share the same roof?

Eventually we would move from 3217 Creekwood Drive into an apartment where the carpet was clean, every unit looked the same from the outside and where I have forgotten the address. Before we moved in my mom was showing me around the place. As we moved from room to room I was making negative comments about our future living quarters. Finally, we walked out of the front door and I noticed that the lock was a little loose.

“Oh, that’s real safe.”

My mom looked at me on the verge of tears.

“You know Jay, I’m trying the best I can here.”

I was crushed.

Looking back, I wish that I wasn’t such a jerk.

Looking back, I wish that my mom didn’t have to try her best just to keep our heads above water.

Men, maybe you haven’t abandoned your wife and kids like Jay Z’s dad did. But maybe your abandonment is more covert. Sure you still live under the same roof and you provide. Oh but when deer season comes around or the fellas want to hang out or the gym is calling your name are your wife and kids left feeling just like the ones who saw their God-ordained leader walk out on them?

Men, providing for your wife and kids is important but it’s not enough. Take it from a 42-year-old rapper from New York who’s all too familiar with what it feels like to be abandoned.

“Being there. That’s most important.”

Men, being physically present is very important but it’s not the same as emotional presence. The gospel calls you to both. Take it from a withered old pastor/missionary.

Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them. Colossians 3:19

Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged. Colossians 3:21

Many of us know the pain of abandonment but through faith and repentance we can also know the joy of presence. Take it from an apostle.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14

[1] There once was a professional basketball league known as the NBA. In that league there was a team from New Jersey called the Nets.


  1. AMEN! You hit it on the head again, Jay. I'm so proud of the way you are leading your family. What an example you are!