PHOTO CREDITS: All photos of David with his son (except the swimming pool) Copyright © Photography by Richard Swetonic
. Used by permission. All other photos are provided by David Bravo. Used by his permission.
PUBLISHER’S NOTE: David Bravo is one of the many people who found Faith & Fitness Magazine through our Facebook page. David has been training and teaching Martial Arts since 1994. Maintaining a fit lifestyle has given him the opportunity to be a fitness model. His modeling photography reveals a physique that inspires health, wellness and vibrancy. But it doesn’t reveal everything. Often what we see in others is only a small glimpse of who they are and what God is doing in their life. David is a father – a single dad. I asked David to reveal more – a lot more than commercial photography can show. Fathers want to be fit physically and spiritually. David Bravo’s life offers an example of how God’s grace empowers men to be the fathers God has called them to be.
It could be a Sunday like any other Sunday. Church, then lunch with my son and our friends, then off to the gym, then to the swimming pool, then the grocery store and then home to prepare for the coming week. But this is Father’s Day. A day established to honor all Fathers. I can tell he’s excited.
Like me, my son Anthony, finds joy in celebrating, giving gifts and --- telling the recipient what the gift is. He likes to help unwrap the surprise. On Father’s Day, I find myself reflecting on his life as my son. How have I done so far? How will I do in the future? How much therapy will he need after I’m done raising him? Then I hear, out of the blue, with no prompting, “Daddy, I love you.” That goes deep to my heart. Does he have any idea how much I love him? Do I tell him that enough? More importantly, how am I doing at communicating his spiritual Father’s love for him?
THE ATTACK, BEFORE I WAS A DAD
Satan knows exactly how to come at me. I’m often filled with anxiety, doubt and fear; Am I spending enough time with him? Am I leading him spiritually? Is he eating right? Does he feel safe to express himself, to tell me what he’s truly feeling? Children have no idea how much they fill our thoughts. Before I’m too overwhelmed I’m reminded that I have a BIG God! He loves my son more then I can imagine. So, no matter how I fall short as a father, Christ is in control accomplishing a good work in my son. Christian parents want to protect kids from all the trials and temptations – but those are the things that often bring about growth.
Yet, I can’t help but hope and pray for an easier life for Anthony. I don’t want him to go through the things I’ve experienced. During my adolescence and teen years, I had both good and bad experiences that defined me. Success in sports and academics are highlights of my youth. However, the trauma I experienced is far more vivid. My biological father abandoned me when I was a toddler. He briefly returned to my life thirty years later only to abandon me again. A family friend molested me several times when I was ten. There was physical and emotional abuse by ones who should have loved me. I would be pinned down, slapped and beaten accompanied by screaming. An apology would come with a promise that it wouldn’t happen again…until it happened again. My experiences as a youth produced low self-image and a sense of abandonment and rejection. I developed a warped sexual perspective that was fueled in part by the Playboy and Penthouse magazines I often found in the sock drawer.
If you haven’t been raised by “Billy Graham” where do you turn for help? Who can you talk to? Who is safe? I couldn’t identify anyone. So I would lock all my needs away and hide them from the world. At the time I didn’t realize that I could turn to Jesus Christ for mercy, comfort, healing and forgiveness. Being raised as a Catholic, I was taught when to kneel, when to stand, what prayers to memorize, how to confess my sins to a priest. I had no idea what the Bible actually says or any understanding of Jesus Christ. My God was a distant spectator. I did all the religious practices but had no relationship with Christ.
As a young adult, I became the master of my life because I didn’t realize I had a choice. My family had essentially abandoned me so I was left to do life on my own. This time was filled with prodigal son-type living; drinking, partying, women, financial struggle, broken relationships, and a broad path of destruction in my wake. The rejection and abandonment from my youth were only re-enforced in my young adult life, as I made women my idols. When they would fall short of meeting my needs (the needs only God could meet) I would turn to pornography to escape. I would us control and manipulation to numb the pain and keep everyone at a distance.
Finally, in my mid-30s, after yet another failed relationship, I had reached an all-time low for me. I sensed that God held the answers to my troubles and I had reached the end of my rope. So I began to pursue Him. Not surprisingly, God was there and took the lead in my life. I found out who Jesus Christ really was and invited Him into my heart.
I was on fire for Christ. But, I didn’t fully pay attention to the pastor who led me to Him. He told me that, as a new Christian, Satan would attack me with ferociousness. Satan did attack me and I was totally unprepared. I got hammered. My Christian walk since has been full of highs and lows; intimate communion, and lonely rebellious separation. My journey with Christ has been tough so far, but it has shaped me in the image of God. My past, the good and bad, has been used by God to bring me exactly where I’m supposed to be in Christ.
These are the challenges I have faced. I share them to encourage others because all fathers have challenges. Men can work through their challenges when they rely on God. The strength we gain will give us spiritual definition and more importantly help shape others.
BE A STRONG FATHER EVERY DAY – THE TOP 6 THINGS ON THE MIND OF A SINGLE DAD
I am a single father of a beautiful young boy. As a single father, these are some of the tools God is using to strengthen me as a man and as a father:
How can I be the Dad I want to be when I only see my child half the time?
I must prioritize. I don’t have the luxury of wasting a lot of time. If I want to make a real and lasting impact in his life, I must realize that time with him is highly important. Children spell LOVE as T-I-M-E. So, on the days I don’t see him, I complete tasks that would steal time away from him. This gives us more and better time when we are together. I make phone calls now and then to Mommy’s house just to let him know I am thinking about him and miss him. I stop by his school once in a while and take him to lunch. How my son views me will be how he views God as he grows. Therefore, patience, understanding, grace, forgiveness, gentleness, mercy, love and security must be the foundation of my parenting.
How do I find the right woman in the future?
My relationships are no longer my own. Before I enter into a relationship with anyone, I must consider my son. His safety, his well-being, and most importantly his heart must receive the highest consideration. He and I are a package deal. When to introduce her, how to introduce her, how do they interact, what are her motives and what is her role are all questions that need to be answered along the way. What is most paramount? Her faith. Not that she is a “Christian”,but that there is evidence of Christ in her life, and demonstrations that she wants God’s will instead of her own, even in the most difficult of times.
How do I maintain a positive relationship with my child’s mom?
I die to myself. I constantly remind myself that it is about my son, not her or I. My child is learning how to treat women by observing me. We keep his best interests in the forefront and mutually respect one another. We never bad-mouth each other - especially in front of our son. I remind him of his mother’s love. We discuss how he should treat her when he is at her home. We compromise, support each other and encourage each other. We include each other whenever possible and are cordial and friendly at events and activities. All he ever sees is a pleasant relationship between us because that is the relationship God wants us to create.
Why should I make health and fitness a priority and how do I do that?
Commit to it. I set goals and work toward achieving them. We live in a society that promotes extremely poor diet and inactivity. The world is set against our Christian beliefs. Our health and fitness are no different. What good will you be to your childen if you can’t run and play with them? They need you to teach them to ride a bike, hit a baseball, kick a football and be active. You are the example. Where you find overweight or obese parents, you will find overweight or obese children.
There are 168 hours in a week. I would challenge any parent to log where their time is spent each day for a week. We can all find an hour a day to exercise. Do that exercise with your child. Eating clean and healthy is your responsibility as a parent. Don’t feed your child processed food or fast food regularly just because it’s convenient. You can choose. Your children can’t. Healthy physical living, (like healthy spiritual living) requires discipline and planning. Plenty of help is available. No more excuses. You can’t be the dad you want to be if you have health and medical issues created by your own neglect. Invest in your fitness. Your child deserves your best.
How do I minimize the negative effects of a broken marriage and possible blended family?
Pray. Pray without ceasing. Abide in Christ moment by moment. Don’t look back. Set your eyes and heart on God and allow Him to lead you. He will work all things together for the good of those who love Him and are called to His purpose. God goes beyond our comprehension. He loves us. So all we need to do is abide in Christ. When you do that He will guide your family.
How do I raise my child to pursue Jesus Christ?
I believe children learn far more by what they see us do, then what we say to them. So I keep it simple. My focus stays on Christ to live through me and father my son as He sees fit. I expose my son to God’s Word. We pray together. We talk about God and Jesus Christ. I remind him routinely how much God loves him. I will do my best to lead him. But ultimately, my trust and faith is in Christ. He calls me to rest and obedience. He’s got it all under control, if I will let go, abide in Him, and have faith.
FATHER’S DAY IS FOR REFLECTION AND LOOKING FORWARD
As a teenager, I had my life all planned. God had a different plan for me. While I may not see His hand in everything or understand His plan, I belong to Him and I am His responsibility. It’s His job to look out for me, to discipline me, to keep me from danger and to set the stage for His revelation. I didn’t plan to be a single Dad. It is not ideal and it is often difficult. But I have reached the place in my walk with Christ that I can count it all as blessing. As I enter the second half of my life (I presume), I am excited and anxious to see how Christ will work through me and reveal Himself to me. Let the peace of God rule in your spirit. He is a big God who adores you personally.