I wrote this column in 2011, and thought it was worth repeating in this space today. The kids are older now, 35 down to almost 21, and there are eight grandchildren!
I was running last Saturday, listening to a teaching for fathers as I pounded the country pavement. Todd Wilson was talking to 500 men at a recent conference about the privileges of fatherhood. He said, “Whatever your job is, whether you are a welder, an engineer, or a pastor, the truth is that if you were to die today, someone would be in your place on the job by Monday morning, most likely. How long would it take to replace you? Not very.” Then he said, “But how long would it take to replace you as a father? The fact is, you are irreplaceable. No one could replace you.” Then he laughed and said, “Actually, someone would step into your shoes as a father to your children. God. Have you ever thought about that? You are Plan A in your house. God is your backup. That’s how important the job of the father is.”
As I listened and ran, the thought occurred to me that I should give my children a gift for Father’s Day. I thought about Paul’s words of affection for his “spiritual children” at the church in Thessalonica, when he wrote to them “You are our glory and joy.” I thought about how blessed I am to have seven children who are all grown up, mostly, and who love the Lord, love their parents, and have a vision for spending their lives in the service of the One who bought them. So, when I got back to the house, I sat down to the task of writing an email to each one of them, thanking them for who they are and for the ways I see them growing in the Lord. I also asked each one to forgive me for the many times I blew it as a dad, using anger as a ‘carving tool’ to get them to do what I wanted. The last thing I want in my life is to grow old while the affection of my children grows cold. Todd said that no father he has ever heard of has said on his deathbed, “Go get my set of golf clubs and lay them next to me. I want to feel close to them one last time.” No, a blessed man will be surrounded by his wife and children and grandchildren, the ones who matter most in this life, as he walks into the next.
On Father’s Day, we enjoyed two kinds of dessert in the living room last Sunday afternoon after lunch. Between bites of blueberry cheesecake and double-chocolate cake, we talked about family, fatherhood, and childhood memories. All seven children were there, and both grandsons. Besides that, we had the added benefit of having Micah’s father-in-law, Woody, and 5 of his six children in our home. The twelve “children” are all grown up now, the youngest being almost 12 years old. One by one, they shared memories of their childhood, of the things they learned from their fathers, while Woody and I took turns weeping. They also shared funny stories about spankings, like the time that one of my kids showed up in the laundry room (where spankings were administered) with about twelve pairs of underwear on. I told him then, “Son, I was born at night, but not last night. Go to your room and come back properly dressed.” This same son said, “Dad, you always told me that you were spanking me because you loved me. I never believed you then. But I do now. I am thankful for your love.”
I am so thankful, and so blessed.