Father’s Day is a relatively new event, signed into law by Richard Nixon in 1972. While there are no ‘official’ job descriptions for fathers, there is a general consensus about what they are supposed to do. Much of this is anchored in Scripture and goes back to the ultimate, perfect Father who set the bar for the rest of us.
I have been contemplating this concept since celebrating my own father’s holiday last Sunday and pulled together some reflections based upon my observations of his life with my mom.
Family First – When I think of dad I think of mom, too. I never really saw them take much “me time” with the girls or with the guys. They were all about ‘us time’. On our little farm in Plymouth, Michigan there were always chores to do, animals to care for and projects to complete. Cleaning brick for the patio, tearing down an old house, cleaning out the stalls of the horses, sweating copper pipe joints for the baseboard heating, working in the garden….most all of these tasks had one thing in common: we did them, usually, together.
Integrity – Even if there was a cost involved, doing the right thing was always the right thing to do. Sure, there were agonizing moments but, in the end, the clarity of conviction and principle won the day, trumping short cuts and easy answers. I can remember dad having to file extensions every year for his taxes with receipts all over the dining room table because he would not take a deduction unless he could verify it with a receipt. It used to drive all of us crazy!
Industrious – Need something done? Sure, we can try. Where are the manuals. So many things I learned about cars and home maintenance and construction came from working alongside my father as we learned, together, how to lay brick, how to build a sauna, how to sweat pipe, and so much more. The spirit of “I can do it” helped me venture into packing the bearings on my bike’s wheels, design a diving bell for exploring the local pond (it didn’t work, by the way!) and, now, to rebuild an old car from the ground up, build a garage and take on projects for the first time.
Creative – Out of the box thinking, willing to go against convention and try new things, innovate, change, forge ahead. Taking advantage of a neglected forrest area behind Gallimore School he pushed forward and transformed it into a nature trail with an amphitheater, walking trail and nature experiments. Just getting the Road Runner as mascot for the school required contacting Warner Brother’s for copyright permission. As a kid I can remember the excitement I felt when dad received the letter granting permission, coming from Warner Brother’s studios itself!
Faithful – On the farm there will be accidents, bumps and bruises, cuts and scrapes and blood spilled. This is not a place for the squeemish, the faint or the timid. On the farm, you see it all, smell it all, and experience life, front and center. Truly, the farm is a great place to raise a family to prepare them for the world. Great place to learn that if you don’t feed the animals, the animals don’t get fed. If you don’t clean out the stalls, the animals have to…well, you get the picture. So much of the farm’s functioning depends upon it’s owners being regular, predictable…faithful. Never had a question about whether or not he was devoted to be faithful to his marriage or his family because he was there all of the time when not at work, helping us do what had to be done.
Spiritual – The underpinnings of my faith have undergone significant transformation over the years but it began by watching my dad faithfully, dutifully, make sure that our family attended church every Sunday. Even when we were on the road on vacation, our priority was to find a church on Sundays and Wednesdays where we could meet with the saints. Serving each other communion in the woods while hunting in northern Michigan or dressing for Sunday service in the pop-up camper before going to church…these memories
are embedded in my consciousness. But it was more than that. My dad’s fastidiousness with church attendance was matched by his spiritual journey that I have watched over the years. Immersed in legalism in our early family life, we, as a family, have all grown together–at varying rates of progression–in our appreciation for God’s grace. Much of this was initiated when my father and mother made the decision to uproot our family from Michigan as the drugs began to flood the schools and move us to Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas where he would earn a reputation as a spiritual swimming coach for Arnie’s Army.
While much more can be said about fathers and the legacy they leave behind, my personal reflections serve to remind me of the things I hope to pass along to my family in the years to come. Some of our fathers never had the opportunity to learn from great examples and they had to make it up as they went along. Some fathers fail miserably, passing along their dysfunctions to generations; trouble that only the brave and resolute will correct. My hat is off to those who have chosen to be good fathers in spite of their experiences.
For most, however, we look up to fathers who did their best. In most cases, this quality rings true through all of the incredible variety of challenges and experiences we will face over the years, testing our resolve, our commitment, our principles and our values to our very core. Need a good role model in those desperate times? Look to God and seek out someone who knows Him well and you will be well on your way to being the father that your children will cherish.