In a world where fatherhood success stories seem to be all too uncommon, there have been countless times I’ve wished to share my dad with the people I’m surrounded by who haven’t expierenced what a father should be. So this is my attempt to “share” my dad, as best I can.
My dad is wise. Not just about spiritual things, although he is certainly wise in those things. A few weeks ago I watched as a group of people – adults my own age – sat at my dad’s feet and asked him questions about the Bible as if he was a rabbi. He is not thoughtless about his faith. He knows what he believes, why he believes it, and why others believe differently. I laughed to myself as I thought of what the conversation would look like if it was just our family. While these friends sat silently, respectfully listening to his answers, we would no doubt be sparring with my dad, challenging his views, asking for them to be nuanced and sharing our own views. We wouldn’t be afraid to jump into this type of familial debate because we know he loves that we can spar with him (most of the time). It’s a not-so-secret badge of honor to him to have raised us all to be able to interact in this way. His knowledge and wisdom run deep enough to be challenged and remain unthreatened, deep enough to be unruffled by questions that would cause most pastors to sweat. But he’s wise about finances, careers, conflict, friendship, love, leadership, and politics too. He’s the type of man you would trust to ask about just about anything, and so long as it doesn’t involve plumbing, you’d be right to trust him.
My dad is outrageously generous. Not just to us who are in his family. He’s generous with his encouragement of pastors and younger Christians. He’s generous in lending advice to anyone who asks. He’s generous in opening up his home (with the help and sacrifice of my mom, of course). He’s generous in his giving to the church and to missions. He’s generous with his brothers and sisters, with his nieces and nephews, and of course with my siblings and I. For him, the giving itself is a gift. I can see the look on his face now, the look he gets when he comes up with a plan to give to someone without their knowledge. He loves to be the anonymous giver. He gives in ways that no one notices, like the way him and my mom used to fill our freezer with hamburgers so we could throw a party in the backyard at a moment’s notice if any of our friends showed up. He gives without expectation of repayment, and without strings attached. We could have had a nicer house, gone on more lavish vacations, drove nicer cars, or had more stuff, but instead he viewed himself as a steward of money given to him by God and made decisions that reflected that belief. Teal carpet and Ford Tauruses allowed for more to give than white berber carpet and BMWs, so that’s what we had.
My dad is unbelievably, overwhelmingly, almost embarrassingly for me. He wants me to flourish. This is true of him in all of his close relationships, but especially for those of us who are his children. When all I wanted was my dream car in high school, he prayed with me to ask God to provide. When I would get angry if he even hinted at the word “no”, he prayed for God to give me a gentle and quiet spirit (still a work in progress). When I totaled that dream car (that God did provide) my freshman year of college, he didn’t yell or get upset at me, he just wanted to know I was okay. When I begged him to let me come home instead of going on the all expense paid trip to Israel he had given me, he told me I had to go, resulting in what I would still call 3 of the best weeks of my life. When I was heartbroken my senior year of college, he listened to my woes and assured me that he loved me, but that as much as he loved me, God loved me so much more. When I was afraid of moving out on my own after college, he promised to be a safety net to me, making sure I knew failure was an option and I would always have a soft place to fall. And when I couldn’t pay the bills, he was a safety net for me just as he promised, using my need and his provision as a small picture of our relationship to our Heavenly Father. When I was torn between choosing a church, he guided me to the church that would shepherd and care for me the best although it felt selfish to me at the time. When I moved away from my best friend four years ago, he funded the airfare for (my share of) our once-a-month visits for the first two years before we came to grips with our long distance friendship. And these are just the highlights. This result of his love for me is incredible, and is an incredible picture of God the Father because I’ve done nothing to earn it. The only thing I’ve got, that I can tell, is that I’m his daughter. If you asked him he’d tell you it’s because he loves me and he thinks I’m gifted and blah blah blah, but that’s not the cause. It’s the result of me belonging to him, being his daughter. That’s honestly the best part, because I can’t do anything to lose that.
My dad loves God. I mean really loves God. He took us to church every Sunday. He made a conscious choice to not go on vacations or let us be involved in sports that would take us away from our church family week after week. He’s always actively served in the church, even when working 50-70 hour weeks at a high pressure job with a 2-3 hour commute. He knows and loves the Bible and taught us to do the same. He is slowly but surely being changed by God, growing into Christlikeness. God’s grace in my dad’s life is unmistakable. He is a different man today than he was 10 years ago, or 20 years ago, or 30 years ago. He owns up to his sins and failures, showing us that Christ’s people, although forgiven, are not perfect.
There’s so much more I could say. But my point is this. To anyone else, my dad is a respectable, intelligent, 6’5”, successful businessman with the kind of commanding presence you just don’t really mess with. To me, he’s daddy. A source of courage and strength, a refuge when I’m weary, and a very small, very fallen picture of my Heavenly Father who is the essence of goodness, kindness, benevolence, strength, beauty, wisdom, righteousness, and love.