We hear a lot of talk these days about heroes. I am thankful for the Covid-19 heroes serving us in the medical community. I praise God for the servicemen and women who defend our freedom at home and abroad. They are heroes, as well. I will never be in either of those groups, and neither will most of you. But to all the dads reading this column, let me remind you of the heroic work that you have been called to do. Every day.
John G. Paton was born in a farm cottage not far from Dumfries, Scotland, May 24,1824, the eldest of eleven children. He set out to learn the trade of his father — the manufacture of stockings. For fourteen hours a day he manipulated one of the six “stocking frames” in his father’s workshop, using for study most of the two hours allotted each day for the eating of his meals.
As a youth John heard the voice of his Lord saying, “Go across the seas as the messenger of My love; and lo, I am with you.” Christ was leading him into a wider sphere of work and training, and he was determined to follow. It was hard to leave the happy home, but at length the day of separation arrived. It was about forty miles to Kilmarnock, where he would take a train to Glasgow. The journey to Kilmarnock had to be taken on foot, because he could not afford to travel by stagecoach. All his possessions were tied up in a large handkerchief, but he did not think of himself as poverty-stricken, for he had with him his Bible and his Lord.
His father walked with him the first six miles. The old man’s “counsels and tears and heavenly conversation on that parting journey” were never forgotten by the son. At length they both lapsed into silence. The father carried his hat in his hand and his long yellow locks fell over his shoulders, while hot tears flowed freely and silent prayers ascended. Having reached the appointed parting place, they clasped hands and the father said with deep emotion, “God bless you, my son! Your father’s God prosper you and keep you from all evil!” Unable to say more, his lips kept moving in silent prayer; in tears they embraced and parted.
Continuing down the road past a curve, John climbed the dyke for a last look and saw that his father had also climbed the dyke, hoping for one more glimpse of his boy. The old patriarch looked in vain, for his eyes were dim, then climbed down and started for home, his head still bared and his heart offering up fervent supplications. “I watched through blinding tears,” says the son in his Autobiography, “till his form faded from my gaze; and then, hastening on my way, vowed deeply and oft, by the help of God, to live and act so as never to grieve or dishonor such a father and mother as He had given me.” In times of sore temptation in the years that followed, the father’s form rose before John’s eyes and served as a guardian angel. (Eugene Harrison)
It was not a minister or a missionary who led John G. Paton to surrender his life to service to Christ and go to the New Hebrides Islands, becoming a messenger of Christ to the cannibals. It was the faith of his father. His hero was his dad. You want to hear the best news? God is able to make every one of us dads a hero just like that for our own children.
Happy Father’s Day, heroes.