We're starting a series at church on the family. And the first week is on dads. I always cringe because in so many homes dads are absent...some physically and some emotionally and too often spiritually....even in so-called Christian homes. The differences between Christian homes and non-Christian homes are becoming less and less obvious. So as I think back to my imperfect...yet wonderful childhood I was thinking of my own dad and the things that he did to help influence who I am today...for better or for worse...here's some of what I know.
1. My dad went to church. And his family went too. Every Sunday. Every Wednesday. It wasn't a question of would we go to church...ever. He modeled for us even before an accountable age, that it was good to go to the house of the Lord. He modeled submitting himself to teaching and preaching and worship that filled his heart and soul and made him stronger in his walk with the Lord.
Oh...did I mention he also worked on Sundays. Most of my childhood my dad left as soon as church was over and headed to his sales job. He hated working on Sunday's....but he also needed a job....so he worked Sunday afternoons and rarely ever missed a church service. It was his priority. It was important to him. Was he ever tired? Was he ever spent? Was he ever empty? Yes....all the more reason he went to church. He modeled faithfulness. Did he have to? Would people have understood? I don't know...it just never came up. He was his own man though and I doubt what anyone would have said would have mattered much anyway, if he felt like he was doing what the Lord wanted him too. By his faithfulness I learned to be faithful, to love my church, to submit myself to sound Biblical teaching.
2. My dad was fun. He did special things that weren't costly with his kids. Bringing home a candy bar for each of us on Fridays after a good week at school, taking us to a Braves game, videoing every one of our basketball games, shooting hundreds of free throws with us, playing UNO. We just hung out. He wasn't overly involved in any personal hobbies except woodworking and even that wasn't priority.
By this, I learned that life is full of wonderful fun experiences meant to be shared with others, I learned that little things mean a lot and that sometimes just surviving the week deserves the reward of a candy bar.
3. He dated my mom. And by date I mean....like every day. You know how when you were dating and your date would leave your house and you'd walk them to the door and give them a little kiss. Well, my parents did this every single day of my childhood. Except it wasn't just a little kiss....no...cue soap opera dramatic kiss. And of course we were grossed out....but one thing we knew...our parents loved each other. And then every month they would have an evening out. Just the two of them....while me and my brother and sister stayed home and ate TV dinners (which by the way, was a little highlight for us...yes, we were weird). By dating my mom, and loving her the way he did, it made me realize that life long love in marriage doesn't just happen, it's cultivated, nurtured and even scheduled.
4. My dad said no. At a point in my teen years, a guy quite a bit older showed some interest in me. As most girls would have been, I was flattered and actually returned some of the feelings. There were some secret glances and smiles and notes passed between us.....until he approached my dad. I remember my mom and dad telling me that there would be no relationship. I remember how mad and hurt and embarrassed I was. How humiliated I felt because my dad had spoken directly with this young man. I remember the tears and the journal entries and the frustration I felt. And yet, my dad didn't change his mind or give in or even stretch the rules for me. He said no...and by saying no, he was proving his love for me. He was protecting me. He was handling my heart like someone who really cared. And well.....now as a parent...I can only hope that Bruce and I do the same thing with our own kids. By saying no....my dad was saying a better yes....a yes to my heart being protected and guarded when I was too young and immature to understand. By saying no, and sticking to it, he was showing me that he knew what was best for me, that I could not manipulate him, that my emotions would not rule him. He was saying no FOR me....no to the hurt I might have experienced, no to my sneakiness and no to the foolishness the situation would have brought into our family.
I could write so much more...but I only want to say that when my dad died when I was 18, he had already taught me so much about life, love, God and people. He chose wisely for himself. He chose to be a husband and a dad. And today....through that I see that as an adult, although he isn't here on earth, I have been over the top influenced by him.
He missed the special moments that girls dream of having their dads there for...
Meeting my future husband
My college graduation
My children's births
Major life decisions
But he, without even realizing it, prepared me for those things in his own way. His life-way.
That's what dads need to know today. So many things CAN influence your kids...but you have the choice to prioritize those things. Make the important things the main things and let the other stuff fall to the wayside. Be an over the top influencer in your kids lives. They will thank you later.