My dad was born on November 9, 1937. Which (for the more arithmetically challenged or lazy) means he’s now 75 years old. And over the last thirty years, I’ve been privileged, honored, and humbled to watch and to learn from him. There really aren’t enough words to do justice to the person my dad is:
- as a father, offering wisdom, counsel, love, support, and prayer;
- as a husband, demonstrating amazing love to my mom, and the humility and sacrifice necessary to make a marriage work;
- as a scholar, in his commitment over the last forty plus years to an ethic of hard work and diligence, and faithfulness to the Scriptures and to theology–what Anselm described as “faith seeking understanding”;
- and most of all as a follower of Christ, exemplifying for me “a long obedience in the same direction,” consistency in spending time in Scripture and in prayer, in love of and humble service to others, in integrity and faithfulness over many, many years.
And to appropriate some words I wrote to Dad on the occasion of his 70th birthday, but which still hold true (with an edit and update or two):
“Participating in the work of the kingdom of God isn’t about building one’s own legacy. Being a first generation Christian, and raising three sons who all went to seminary and are now pastors, for some it might be a temptation to think in such terms. But your humility before, your obedience to and your relationship with our Lord has served as a safeguard against this. Your attitude towards us has indelibly shaped and defined how I will view my own kids (if and when, God willing, I have some!): “Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him” (Ps. 127:3). Whenever people compliment you and Mom for the way you’ve raised us—usually with words like “Great job!”—you would always direct the acclaim to the right place: “Only by the grace of God …” You taught me that there is nothing greater than our God and his kingdom; no family legacy, personal fame, global recognition—there is no higher goal than following and serving God. And in an age where the culture sorely tempts us otherwise, I thank you for the foundations you laid.
“A theme that pervades the Bible, and especially the Psalms, is that of trusting in the Lord. You and Mom have showed me what this looks like, in allowing Clem, Gabe and I to walk our paths, trusting that God was big enough to guide us, that his reach was long enough to keep us—whether we knew it or not. You never prescribed a career or vocation path for us, never pressured us into being doctors or lawyers or pastors; all you asked of us was that we follow Christ. Even when we didn’t—as each of us wrestled and struggled with Christianity, each at points not sure we would even follow in your footsteps of faith—you continued to be faithful, to hold us up in prayer, to intercede on our behalf and to lay your hopes and anxieties for us before God. And by the grace of this God, we’re all back; and you continue to trust God for us even as we’re scattered across the globe. I hope I can have the same faith—“being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1)—that you demonstrated, and be able to trust God in my own life and for the lives of those whom I love.
“There are so many things that I learned from you, Dad. Some I have learned directly—through your teaching and your words; but most I have learned indirectly—through your exemplary actions, lifestyle and attitudes, and also through the way you raised Clem and Gabe before me—I can see the same positive values and attributes in them, and I hear you in their words. I know that I can come to them for counsel and advice, and be guided by the same wisdom, clear-thinking and reason—not to mention openness to God’s leading and the movement of the Spirit—that you provide when I come to you. I look at them as parents, seeing your influence on the way they raise their kids, and I see what I want to be like as a parent: giving out as much love as is humanly possible in seeking to raise mature, responsible and God-loving kids. And as men of God, you have set the bar, and so I also seek to follow Christ and live with integrity, to love God and to love neighbor, to look out for those who are less privileged than us, to be responsible with the blessings and resources God has given us, to seek to make a difference in this world in the ways that God has called us, and to have fun and enjoy the life and breath that we have been given.
I thank God that you are my father; I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DAD.