Four Lessons I learned from My Father

For my Dad, on Father’s Day, 2020.

Well Dad, it’s father’s day. This year I want to tell you about a few of the lessons you taught me. I’m very thankful for them, and I’m very thankful for you. Happy Father’s Day.

1. Levity is helpful, in nearly all situations.

Something I noticed about you is that you often put people around you at ease. Sometimes it was just a kind but friendly greeting. Other times it was a joke that made everyone feel comfortable. I’ve appreciated the way you “look not always to your own interests, but to the interests of others” (Phil. 2).
The classic example is a well-timed joke. Generally “well-timed” means “well, I didn’t see that coming!” The memory that comes to mind is you, turning to one of my friends who was eating dinner at our house, and saying, “thanks for coming over so Kay would make a nice meal.” The expression on mom’s face, her nearly throwing a fork in your direction, that stuff always made our guests feel at home . . . and laugh once they realized it was a joke. And mom could dish it right back, so, you generally only looked funny for a moment . . . 😂

You also were just as happy to make a joke at your own expense. But again, here you were noticing the other person and attempting to help them be comfortable. This open and charitable atmosphere led to many opportunities for good and often spiritual conversations. I’m thankful you taught me this lesson.

2. Don’t be too afraid of messing up.

When building things or working on various projects, something would invariably come up that was a question of how to do something. The choice might not be clear, and there could be some ramifications we didn’t expect. So what do we choose? Your answer was often, “Well, no one will see it and I won’t tell if you won’t.”
On the surface this may appear deceptive. But quickly I understood your intent and point. The issue was always something inconsequential to the larger project, and not worth fretting over. You knew that the task needed to keep moving forward, and so we needed to do our best to make a wise decision and just keep working. This is good life advice. The scriptures extol faithful hard work. I’m thankful you taught me this lesson.

3. Study the Word Daily

In high school I started to notice a trend. You got up early to go to McDonald’s and study the Bible. This was an almost daily activity. With a Styrofoam cup of trash coffee, and a processed biscuit providing nourishment for you recently awakened self, you’d sit down and study the Bible. You wanted to know what God’s Word said and what it meant about how to live.
Your consistency became a powerful example to me. It was a little thing that I noticed over the long haul. When I began to have many questions about what to do in life and to whom I should listen, this consistent practice on your part was what God used to get me to see that I too needed to study and follow His Word. I’m thankful you taught me this lesson.

4. Getting up early meant going to bed early.

I remember wanting to get up early myself when I noticed you getting up early. But I was a big fan of my snooze button. After many attempts I remember you remarking (probably many times more than my groggy mind could recall) “There’s a secret to getting up early . . . it’s going to bed early.”
It took years (and Star Trek the Next Generation being taken out of the 10:30pm time slot) before I learned this lesson myself! But I have finally learned it.

The broader principle is one of preparation. To decide to do something is important and good and sometimes difficult if you are resistant to the decision. But preparation to carry out that decision is very important in the long run. Your example helped me to understand this. I remember how you would flurry around at night before bed and would be getting your clothes, keys, bag, and whatever else ready to go. Again, you were preparing for the next day. Your example planted a seed in my mind. It took quite a while to sprout in my own life (and sometimes I think it needs watering), but it’s present nonetheless. I’m thankful you taught me this lesson.

Happy Father’s day, Dad.

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