Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day!

The power of a father's influence is incalculable when it comes to raising a godly family.

I remember as a child that I thought my parents were strict, especially my dad. I also remember not being able to conceive of the possibility that my dad would change his mind or back down on the truth. And now, being an adult and looking back, I wonder at the strength of character and principle that my dad always showed in order to lead our family.

He had the courage to make decisions that were good for us, even when they flew in the face of popular opinion. He was the one who held up the standard and wouldn't concede one little iota to the constant encroaching of the world's influence. The boundaries were set, and they were unmovable, unchanging. There was a great deal of safety in that. I realize now how he was at helm and buffered the greatest part of the difficulty in living a principled life. I got to simply say, "My dad wouldn't stand for that," which was easy, but he had to be the one to look like the bad guy, look like the one who wouldn't listen to reason, and keep up the strength to keep hold the standard up. For me, the standard was just there. For him, there was a constant pressure against him, seeking to wear it away if he ever let down his guard. The pressure came from without and from within--yet he never wavered, never faltered, and never had to apologize for standing for the truth.

I owe to him the strength of character that I have--not that mine is anywhere close to his--but his example showed that it could be done and gave me something tangible to measure up to.

The older I got, the less strict I found him. If anything, he was better at dealing with us as adults than as children. As soon as I turned 16, he was excited to teach me to learn to drive, and he spent hours with me in the car, teaching me to parallel park until I could do it perfectly in one swipe. As soon as I got my driver's license, he allowed me to take a 13-hour drive to Virginia to visit my cousins. He trusted me, never had to set a curfew, and never acted fearful or restrictive. Once I had a driver's license, gone were my feelings of "this is a strict family to live in." I had more freedom than any of my friends. They (and their parents) were amazed at the things I was allowed to do, the trips I was allowed to take, and the opportunities that my parents weren't afraid to let me try. The boundaries and restrictions of my early years fell away, but I had been successfully trained not to want to do wrong or dabble in evil things, so they became no longer necessary. because I had the inner boundaries and inhibitions in place. He made us feel free to go, spread our wings, and try new things--but at the same time, he made it clear that we were welcome at home.

My inexpressible gratitude will also stand forever for the way my dad provided and allowed my mom to stay home from work. Raising 6 kids wasn't easy on one income, and we just got used to doing without the things we couldn't afford. My dad was never into fancy cars or boats or expensive hobbies or really anything that cost money. He drove old clunkers and fixed them over and over and over again to keep them running. He did his own home repairs. He made sure we didn't buy things we couldn't afford. And his sacrifice enabled my mom to stay home and homeschool us, allowing us to fall completely under her good influence and protecting us from influences we would otherwise have encountered in the school system. If I had not been homeschooled, I do not know where I would be today, but I almost certainly would not have the spiritual strength I now enjoy.

One of my favorite memories is hearing my dad sing. He doesn't think he can sing, but I have the fondest memories of him singing Scripture songs with my mom. Even as a little child, I could sense a heavenly sweetness about his singing, because it came from his heart and rose as a pure expression of true worship to God. There were no pretensions, no airs about his singing, but there was a spirit about it that exuded from his heart, and I could sense the presence of God come near. He would sing Psalm 84, "How amiable are thy tabernacles, O Lord of Hosts! My soul longeth, yea, even fainteth for the courts of the LORD: my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God," and it still makes me cry to remember the sound of his voice singing that song.

Speaking of crying, my dad has a tender side that most people would be surprised to see. I remember him choking up when he would read to us. In books like The Velveteen Rabbit or even Dumbo, he would be more affected at the sad parts than we were. He doesn't get much credit for being compassionate, but it's there all the time under his tough exterior.

On this occasion, I just want to publicly say Thank You to God for giving me my dad, and say Thank You to my dad for being who you are. You are a man of God and He has used you for good in the lives of your children. Thank you, dad. Happy Father's Day.

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