My father is, and was, many things, to many people. He speaks less than he listens. He learns more than he teaches. He gives more to others than he spends on himself. He worked for the same company for 50 years and he was married to my mother for more than those before her death just over a year ago. He is a free mason, a Southern Baptist Sunday School teacher, a modern day thinker and an observer of traditions. He was a Kentucky Colonel, an airplane pilot, an avid golfer, a bowler, a part time mechanic, one who tinkers, and with all of these things going on, always had time to kick a ball back and forth with me in the yard.
There are a million stories I could share about the man who raised me (and in truth, is still raising me at age 48). A million ways he has supported me, shared my visions, or counselled me on various matters involving personal gains or losses. One summer we dug a 3 foot by 10 foot hole in the ground, by hand, 18 feet deep, because I thought we might hit water. When I decided to live in Virginia for three summers or spend a month in Africa, he simply asked if I thought it was a good idea and what I would need. He listened to me ramble about my first love as if it was the only real thing in life and he listened to my stories of heartache when many loves afterward failed to last. He has pursued me when I needed to be caught and has let me go in love when I needed to be free.
I can still hear his words on an Easter Sunday in my mid twenties. He had arrived home from church to find me waiting in the driveway. It was after my divorce and there was something about church that did not appeal to me that particular day. We spoke about the service at his church and I explained, most likely more to myself than to him, the various reasons I did not attend a service that day. “Dad, it is Easter Sunday and I didn’t go to church. Should I feel bad?”. His response was simply, “It is still Easter, isn’t it?”.
Those words have guided my life, though he may not even remember the conversation. When I am tempted to worry, criticize a situation, or agonize over the past, I am reminded that no matter my involvement, God is at work. And in the same vein, if we are tempted to believe our critics when they doubt our ability or beauty, we are still crafted by the Creator, aren’t we? There have been many Sundays since that conversation that I have not attended a church service and the world did not end. What I can say about my lack of pew time is that I have learned more about life, God, and myself, not from attending a service or reading a text, but from the man who raised me.