On my computer I have a file folder simply titled “Funerals.” In that file there are nearly one-hundred separate funeral services I have conducted in 15 years of pastoral ministry. One is simply titled “Dad.” Dad lost his battle with Parkinson’s disease and dementia five years ago. It was a slow, sad fade away, but what he left behind was a legacy of love for God and family that encourages and instructs me to this day. He was the first to disciple me in following Christ. This Father’s Day finds me a bit nostalgic for those lessons I learned from my godly father.
One of the earliest lessons he taught me was the lesson of conscience. “If you are afraid of being caught, you probably shouldn’t do it.” It is God’s way of steering us away from sin. When I was seven years old I thought it would be “manly” to steal some cigarettes and smoke them. So, I stole, I hid, I lit up and dad showed up. I should have listened to my conscience when I decided to hide. It was not pretty after that.
Another lesson was the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” [Matthew 7:12 Bales paraphrase] He lived by the golden rule, he treated others with respect and expected that I should do the same.
He also taught me the benefit of hard work. “Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men.” [Colossians 3:23] I started work at 15 and never stopped. No matter what job I held, he expected I would give my best to my boss as well as other areas of my life: sports, school and chores around the house. Hard work has its own reward.
Dad also taught me the lesson of the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all of life. “God owns it all” he would say “and you cannot out give God.” He expected me to tithe . . . on everything: gifts, allowance, and salary. It showed my trust in the Lord and demonstrated my commitment to follow Jesus.
Finally, dad taught me hope –eternal hope. When I was eleven years old, my brother was hit by a car. I remember the day vividly. I watched as he rode our mini-bike down the driveway and crossed the busy street that dad warned we should never cross. I remember thinking, “Oh boy you will be in such trouble when dad finds out.” I turned my attention back to my chore of mowing the front yard. I heard a loud crash and turned around to see the unthinkable. My brother was rushed to the hospital and passed away a few hours later. He was 16. Dad had to find some way to wrestle his own grief under control so he could care for his other three children. The house was filled with concerned friends and family when dad came through the door from the hospital. He gathered the three of us close and with profound brevity simply said, “Danny is with our Father in heaven now.” Hope!
This Father’s Day I am not only nostalgic, but still inspired by my own father’s lessons in discipleship to be the best dad, the best follower of Christ, I can be.