In a couple of days we will take a day to celebrate our fathers. I sometimes find that I cannot find words which adequately express my gratitude to God, my heavenly Father, for His gift to me of my Dad. Special days like Father’s Day cause reflection. My father has and continues to provide for me a model to follow as I too desire to leave a legacy concerning what it means to be a godly father. My personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ stands alone as the source of every priority God has given unto me. I do believe the God given roles of husband, father, and Paw-Paw to be my top priority and calling from God. This I first learned from my father’s example and counsel. These priorities were then confirmed by the Holy Spirit through God’s Word. My father taught me many truths about life and following God’s will through his example and teaching. To honor him and thank God for him I offer these few examples.
Dad taught me the value of hard work. He took the time to show me how to do things and then allowed me to give it a try for myself. He lets me drive the family van home from our family reunion when it was pouring down rain and the road was narrowed due to construction. Mom wasn’t quite sure this was the best time for me to learn but Dad believed in me. Thankfully, we made it safely. I came away knowing I could drive and handle the responsibility. The only time I believe Dad may have regretted this decision to teach me was when he was teaching me how to cut the grass. My first solo flight across the yard ended abruptly as I rolled over the metal cover to the water meter. I can still hear that exploding sound. When I taught my children this warning was my first instruction.
Dad demonstrated the value of family relationships and responsibility. During his final years of active duty as a Marine Dad had to travel and would be gone for several weeks at a time. When he would return his four boys would be excited to see what prize he had brought home for us. One time as we patiently waited for him to unpack he reached the bottom of the suitcase and it was empty. He could see the disappointment on our faces and waited a few minutes to see what we would say. I know what I was thinking but cannot honestly remember if any of us voiced our sadness. Dad then said to us words I have ever since treasured. He simply said: “I am your prize”. His returning home to us safely and our relationship with him was the prize. From this I learned that it is the people we love and the joy of these relationships that really matter. Whether we have earthly treasure is not important if we truly understand that our relationship with people is our prize. Later in life God would communicate the same truth to me. God Himself, alone, is my reward. The things I am allowed to manage and enjoy in this life are not the blessings. God is the blessing! The things I will see and enjoy in the Father’s house one day in heaven are not the blessing. My heavenly Father and all of my brothers and sisters in Christ, they are the prize.
Both of my parents grew up as children with a pastor as their father. My Dad had been called by God to serve as a minister of music. As my Dad served he was always bi-vocational in terms of the level of support. Often he would give back to the church what he had received in support or would ask that the church use the funds for other ministries. He was never bi-vocational in how he served. He served fully and faithfully. From his example I learned that my serving in a position in a local church was to be done with all of my heart. My calling from God was to be my motivation. God would be in charge of the level of support. God has always provided and I have tried to honor my father’s legacy by serving everywhere God has led me with all of my heart.
My Dad demonstrated how to be faithful to your vows. I watched my Dad love my Mom faithfully for 42 years. I watched my dad take care of my mom when she became unable to care for herself in any way. Watching him care for her 24/7 for a long period of time was a beautiful picture of how Christ loves the church. This unconditional, dying to self, love is the way in which I am to love my wife. I am so thankful to God that after my mom went to be with Jesus, God in His time brought Dot into my Dad’s life. I have watched him love and care for her now for over 19 years.
Perhaps my favorite lesson taught by my Dad was how to walk with God down the road of forgiveness. My Dad served in active duty as a Marine for 22 years. He is a Marine today. He celebrates the Marine Corp birthday more than his own. He served his country in the Vietnam War. I am very proud to have a father and brother who faithfully served to protect and provide the freedom we enjoy in our country. Dad has only shared a few stories from his experience in Vietnam. I do know that his soul was wounded by many of the things which he experienced. Our church, during my teenage years, began to reach out to people in our community from Laos. As I remember it at first my Dad was hesitant to be a part. Being around the people from this part of the world I am sure brought back memories that were very painful. I watched my father trust God to give him the courage to overcome this barrier. Watching my Dad grow in faith and lead the Laotian choir was a great blessing for me as well as a model of what it meant to die to self to serve others. I would find in time that following God’s call to serve would mean I too would experience being wounded by the words and actions of people. Because my father was able to overcome his hurt and discomfort I too understood that I could walk with God and continue to love and serve even when I have been hurt. Practicing forgiveness and serving in the power of Jesus love was I believe the greatest lesson my Dad taught me.
Dad has always been there to support, to listen, to pray, to guide, and to encourage me. We begin to form our understanding of God as our heavenly father through our experiences with our fathers. No father is able to perfectly fulfill this role. I hope however that when I reach the end of my journey I too will leave a legacy of a godly father for my children and grandchildren as my father has done for me. Happy Father’s Day, Dad!