We Are Our Father’s Daughters
Mom and dad took us to Ireland two Junes ago and in a week we all were smitten. We’ve since lost the lingo and forgotten what towns we toured, but Erin’s feeling lingers. Someone said, People will forget what you say, and they’ll forget what you do. But they’ll remember how you made them feel.
They gushed, I think, because it’s so easy to remember how our Dad’s love makes us feel.
Faith Working Out In Love
The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself in love. Galatians 5:6
That’s our Dad. Drop everything, drive far, go low to show his love.
Kind of like Christ.
Wise True Words, Too
Man looks at the outward appearance but the LORD looks at the heart. 1 Samuel 16:7
God’s given our Dad a well-instructed tongue to sustain the weary. When one sister’s baby died shortly before she was born at 36 weeks, Dad had healing words for her. Hope is in the best place. We can never protect our children fully. Hope is perfectly happy, perfectly safe. Hope is home.
When one sister couldn’t decide on which college and another was torn apart about leaving a career she loved and another about taking on a new job, that was dad’s advice. It didn’t always make the deciding easier, but still, Dad’s insight was freeing. Love God and do as you please.
When one sister was on the fence, conscience-stricken about whether watch a friend’s dog one week, Dad helped work that through, too. Loving that friend by loving her dog will limit the way you love your other friends who don’t like dogs. Being human means loving one will limits love for another. God knows. It’s okay.
John Calvin knew about fathers who get preeminence and then become presumptuous. This seems good to me, they say and subject their family to their own opinions. Instead, Calvin urges fathers, Let there be no teaching authority that advances what we invent, but let us learn from God so that He will dominate and alone have all preeminence. (Quoted in Sermons on Genesis, Vol.1, Banner of Truth)
What does the Bible say? If it’s not plain, if it’s a non-essential, then Dad wouldn’t come down hard either. Dad’s words were not presumptuous. Dad’s opinions didn’t rule. God’s Word did.
That’s kind of like Christ, too.
Love The Body
Our Dad deeply loves the body. He doesn’t much applaud we sister’s in our fitness kicks. But how he loves Christ’s Body. And he’s taught us to love it, too.
Not that it’s limited to Sunday worship. But maybe four times in four decades have I missed a Sunday service. Not because of guilt. I want to be there. I love a worship service and for that, along with the Spirit, I credit Dad.
There was that one Sunday when Dad interrupted his sermon. He stopped mid-stream and craned his neck up to address the kids up in the balcony in back of the church. That’s where I sat sans parent beside Mike and Trish and Scott and Stacey.
Would the youth in the balcony please stop talking? Your voices are disrupting the service.
So I learned a meaning for mortified. But I also kept learning to love this sacred coming together time. Gathering on Sundays was no penalty but joy to our young spirits.
And still is. The sisters invest themselves in the church’s children’s ministries and worship teams and life groups. Because the three see that building the Body of Christ is a treat. Our Dad showed us how. He made is easy.
Kind of like Christ.
Like Father, Like Daughter (And Grandson)
Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery that mediocrity can pay to greatness. Oscar Wilde
Not that I’ve already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Philippians 3:12
That’s the Grandpa way.
As if that’s the final word on etiquette.
I talk with zeal and interrupt. I’m not naturally slow to listen. Sometimes Dad talks with passion too. But I’ve also learned from him how to slow down and apologize.
Sowing Gospel Seeds
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. 3 John 4
He planted. And watered. And sprayed and weeded too. Dad’s a faithful hard-working farmer. He knows that when the Word goes out, it doesn’t return empty. He did his job even though he didn’t know which seeds would grow.
Dad knows how rain waters the earth, and makes it bring forth and sprout. How many times he prayed the ancient prayer with us, Blessed are you O Lord our God the King of the universe who brings forth bread from the ground and fruit from the vine? Dad knows who brings forth.
Dad would be first to say- and his daughters would be fast to agree- that it was God who made the seeds of faith that he and mom planted grow.
Dad’s taught me to embrace this divine paradox. God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility are not incompatible.
Christ Jesus taught that, too.
Words fail and wounds still heal, so I’ll hold some details back. But I’d like to paint one more picture.
When I was thirteen, Dad was offered the pastorate in a small church in a smaller place called Lyons, Wisconsin. I was in my last year at a little K-8 school across the border in Illinois. You’d think Dad would have jumped at it. By then, he’d been mopping floors and driving a school bus for five years.
But Dad didn’t jump. He weighed it with mom and prayed. Then he weighed it with his children, too-including an insecure, adolescent me.
What do you think, Ab? I know you’d have to leave your friends and you like our little farm here? Would you be okay if we moved? If I took the job in Wisconsin?
I was okay. We did move. I met my husband there. Eight years later, when Dad gave this bride away, he said, He must increase, I must decrease, and did.
Things at church got rocky and dad resigned just shy of two decades at that little church. He left graciously and meekly, and- as I’m coming to see- partly he left for me. The peace of Christ must rule.
But God is ever on the move and works in mysterious ways his wonders to perform. And discretely and gently, considerate of his wife’s wish to worship with the kids and grandkids, after a decade in a church two towns away, Dad decided to come back.
Which is a story in itself, but not where this one’s heading. Because this one ends in the basement, in the church nursery. That’s where Dad, with Mom, heads. To basement depths, and nursery deeps, Dad goes low. To dwell with babies and toddlers who barely talk and cannot grasp his great wisdom.
Which is a lot like Christ.
Dad Made It Easy
But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them.” Matthew 19:14
[B]ut we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ. 1 Corinthians 9:12
Dad made it easy for his kids to come to Jesus. Some of you don’t have a dad like that. Some fathers make it hard. They lay stumbling blocks instead of sowing gospel seeds.
A good father lays down his life for his kids. He goes low to love his own. Dad feeds his kids what his sweat has grown, potatoes and berries and beans. He watches grandkids, unlocks cars, and, for love, drives his John Deere miles to uproot a single bush. Where once he preached in the pulpit, now he plays in the nursery. That’s Dad.
He’s probably blushing at this. Not because nursery is beneath him. Not at all. He’s the one who taught us to walk humbly with our God. So it’s not because of spit-up and runny noses and diapers. No. Dad doesn’t mind his big farmer hands getting dirty.
If he’s sheepish at all, it’s because of this semi-public sort of praise. He prefers his praise come later, from his heavenly Father. Which is where I’ll leave off.
The first church Dad pastored had Swedish roots. They sang a song that Dad still sings. Maybe you know it. It’s called Children of the Heavenly Father.*
It goes like this.
Our dad made that easy.
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called the children of God.