I am the daughter of a Baptist preacher. I grew up sitting on church pews, doing my homework at church during deacons meetings, and going on vacation wherever the Southern Baptist Convention convened that particular summer. I sang my first solo from the hymnal when the soloist got sick, knew and loved more senior adults than most kids, and have always felt like church (the building and the people) is my safe place. Maybe that all hits home to you, maybe you’re skeptical and you thumb your nose at it, or it makes no sense at all. Whatever your perception, it was how I grew up and I have to add, I couldn’t be more grateful to be my father’s daughter.
At our house, there was never a question of priorities. The question was never “Can we make church fit into the activities in our life?” But rather “Can other activities fit into our church life?” It was an unsaid, unwritten mindset that the flock of people under my Father’s pastoral care came first to our family’s agenda. It was God’s calling on his life, and therefore, ours, as his family. He missed family dinners because a widow in our church broke her hip unexpectedly. Everyone wanted to talk to him and seek his counsel everywhere we went so we always had to take 2 cars and leave him. He might’ve been late or absent for ballgames because a deacon’s house unexpectedly flooded. He cut vacations short because that dear family in our church tragically lost their son to a car accident. Later, Mom would explain to us, “Someone really needed Daddy.” You might say, “He’s the pastor and that’s his job.” And I would say RIGHT! I agree. But keep in mind the little eyes watching and the tired wife holding down the fort while he ministers. Moments matter. And when your people hurt, struggle, or walk through the shadow of death, YOU GO TO THEM. And he went. And we watched.
My Daddy preaches loud. However, the lessons I learned from him were rarely from his rhyming, start with the same letter, 3 point sermons. Although it must be noted that after sitting under a ballpark of nearly 2,000 sermons in my growing up years, he is the person who has taught me more about Jesus than anyone. He can quote scripture and tell stories like nobody’s business and much of what I know about scripture, I hear it in my head in his “King James version” voice. It might bear repeating, my Daddy preaches LOUD. And yet, while his booming voice echoed from the pulpit, the volumes I’ve learned from him were much quieter. It was how I watched him preach. How I watched him serve. And my brother, sister, and I, watched a lot.
I’m certain my daddy spent, (spends) more time in hospitals, funeral homes, at bedsides, wedding altars, and family living rooms than he has ever spent at the actual church. He spent more time writing personal letters to people who made the choice to follow Christ than he ever spent on mission trips. That’s just how he rolled and we rolled with him. By adolescence, I had probably been to more hospitals, sat in the back row of more funerals and wedding rehearsals than most people do in a lifetime. I waited in the car, doing my homework while he stopped by and prayed with people who had been diagnosed with cancer that day. Nothing out of the ordinary. But making time for people in their moments. Life on life, moments matter, kind of ministry. I got to not just tag along, but participate. And oddly enough, those “moments” were never about me. In fact, daddy’s focus wasn’t on me at all in those situations. It was about other people’s moments. Growing up like that molds you. It trains you. Certainly, at times I was there begrudgingly, wishing I was somewhere else. But, it shows you that life isn’t all about you and your moments….it’s about the kingdom of God on this earth. It’s about living with eyes wide open looking for other people’s moments above your own.
Our culture places a great deal of emphasis on being present. We’ve heard it said that we are a very “child-centered” generation. We put the guilt on dads for missing a ballgame, a reading group, a field trip. We allow ourselves to believe that we have to be present for every class party, every EVERYTHING our kids are a part of…and if we are late, or heaven forbid absent for a “moment”, then, well, they will live a lifetime of feeling neglect and low self-esteem. I hear wives guilting their husbands on a daily basis for not being present. We’ve even heard it at church that dads need to back off from anything that interferes with their family time, even work. Step it up Dads! It’s your number one priority! Many dads even look for new jobs that allow for more family time, allow them to be more “present” for those “moments.” I totally understand that and certainly applaud dads who are involved and engaged in their kids lives!! Certainly there are more than too many who shirk their responsibilities and create a life of workaholism to escape their family life. Oh, how our world is starved for involved, caring dads!! That is something we all can agree on!
BUT…..can I flip the coin for just a moment? What if you are a dad who burns the candle at both ends just to provide for your family, and that means you miss lots of “moments.” What if your calling requires that your time with your family is limited. What if your life is being poured out for your family in other ways besides one on one face to face time? What if your children do feel a tad slighted in their younger years and what you sacrifice for them can only be seen when they are adults? Are you less of a dad? Are you not a good dad? Is your impact and contribution on making them healthy, whole people any less than those whose dads are physically present. I tell you from my own fathers life, I believe that’s a lie.
I can’t speak for all, but I can speak for myself. My father loved us to the moon and not one day have I ever wondered about that certainty. He was physically present for most of my important moments. But he was also absent or late for a lot of my moments, too. And can I just shock you and say that neither his presence or his absence in my own moments have defined me as a person?! What has defined me is this: My father’s life hasn’t only been spent being present in his own family’s lives but in the lives of countless others. Those countless others may have never known what moments he was missing at home by being with them in their moments, but I understood and so does the Lord. And I am not scarred by it. In fact, I am more for it! It was the unspoken priority and not a day went by that my mother didn’t reiterate with her actions that Daddy’s job is Daddy’s calling and it is the way God, himself, uses Daddy and our family. It is how God provides for us. Sometimes, other people need Daddy even more than we do. And anytime Daddy missed something here, there is someone else that he is showing Jesus to. The end. Amen.
We were and are my Daddy’s heart. I have NEVER questioned that. But so is Jesus Christ and his church. And while sometimes one took him physically away from the other, his allegiance and devotion to both were interchangeable. Both make up his ministry, not either/or.
I always thought I would grow up to be a pastors wife. Isn’t that weird? I thought it from a young age. It was a life I knew and loved and never desired to rebel against. I certainly had my moments growing up when “life in the fishbowl” was annoying but I always believed so deeply in the call God placed on our family. I knew God expected much from us and I didn’t want to do anything to thwart others from seeing the grace of God in us, even in our imperfections which were, and are, MANY. So, it seemed right that God would continue to lead me down that path as a pastors wife. Except……..that’s not what God did. He placed in my life and my heart, a godly, full of integrity, aspiring medical student who I fell in love with and never looked back. I occasionally wondered why God led me a different path until one night, with my husband gone on a long week of hospital call, I sat at the bedside of my then toddler son trying to explain to him that “Daddy won’t be home. He’s at the hospital, baby. God’s given Daddy a special mind and mission to take care of people who are sick and hurting. No one wants to be home more than Daddy wants to be home but sometimes other people need Daddy even more than we do. We have to let him do the job God gave him! And we will do ours well too, while he’s gone.”
Needless to say, it all began to click.
My whole life I had watched my Daddy sacrifice for his ministry and now the father of my children was doing the same. I had married a minister. And God had prepared me my whole life by watching my father sacrificially give and my mother back him up. They are farrrrrr from perfect but looking at the fruit of their lives, they are a pretty amazing team that I had learned from every day of my life. I automatically knew what to say to my own children when Daddy’s job requires his absence in service to others.
My daddy’s life makes me proud. I know his faults but I also know God’s grace in them. And nothing brings me more joy than hearing of the ways he ministers to people and boldly, loudly proclaims the Word of God. However, that pride is only rivaled by hearing of the ways my babies Daddy is ministering to people when he’s away from us now! Even this Father’s Day weekend as we celebrate him, he will not be with us physically as he will be working to provide for us and care for others who need him. In the moments I lose perspective, I’m reminded that few people have opportunity to speak truth every day to people in their most desperate and joyful circumstances. My father and my children’s father both get to do that. It’s amazing what lemonade you can make from lemons when you know that your labor is not in vain. Their lives are bearing fruit in the world when they are away from their families. These men are strong, giving, sacrificial fathers.
I can’t read Galatians 6:7-10 without thinking of my Daddy, (and Mama) and my husband. It says this,
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”
Moments really matter. And I thank my Heavenly Father for an earthly father who loved me enough to model that my moments really only matter if they are being poured out in service to others. PRAISE GOD FOR A DADDY LIKE THAT.