Sunday, June 16, 2013

A Father's Day Muse

I must admit that I am not at all sure about the genderless nature of parenting today.  Even in homes in which there is both father and mother present, the roles have diverged so that the distinctives of either parent are often lost.  Both mom and dad have become nurturers.  I learned many things from my dad but nurturing was not one of them.

My dad taught the value of work -- honest work designed not to obtain a paycheck but the labor that is both the purpose for which we were created and the burden we bear because of sin.  Even if our work is harder and less satisfying because of the Fall of Adam, it does not erase the fact that man was designed for work by God.  The nature of work has changed not but not our calling to labor.

It seems that we live in an age in which labor and work are often derided.  We expect that what we do for a living will be entertaining, exciting, and stimulating as well as profitable but even under those circumstances we expect only to work for a portion of our lives and then be financially and time free to do as we please.  It is a strange notion, modern and not ancient and more a reflection of our self-absorption than our moral progress.  My dad taught me that work is good, not as a god, but the domain in which we rightly honor the Lord who made us for labor.  I hope I have taught this to my own children.

My dad taught me the value of rest.  Above all, Sundays in my childhood home were (and still are) about rest.  Early rise for church, home for a late breakfast, time to read the paper and take a nap, and then, perhaps, a visit with family.  It is a rather typical Sabbath keeping idea that makes sense only if work is there as the thing from which we rest.  If labor has become a tool of our pleasure, so has leisure.  We play at our work and work at our play and there is no time for rest.  My dad taught me the value of rest -- rest that centers around church and family.  My brother and I knew that unless our parents found a cold blue dead body in our bed on Sunday morning we were going to church.  A church going dad makes for church going kids.  I watched each morning how my dad practiced his daily devotional routine and I saw how seriously he took worship and the church.  I hope I have taught this to my children.

My dad taught me that money is not as important as it is thought to be.  Actually he learned it from his dad.  My grandpa held about every volunteer job in my hometown as well as nominally paid jobs like postmaster and justice of the peace.  His business partner became rich while my grandpa died leaving a broken down house and a Studebaker.  But the crowd at his funeral attested to the good will he left in the wake of his long life.  I expect when that day comes, my dad will be so honored.  He gives and gives.  I did not understand it as a child and it amazes me still.  He keeps no record but if record were kept, it would show little return in comparison to his giving spirit.  He will not leave a great estate but a huge legacy of good will and love.  My brother carries on this family tradition of service in my hometown.  I hope I have taught this to my children.

My dad taught me to tell stories and laugh.  Most of the humor in our house was self-deprecating unless you took yourself too seriously and then you were the butt of the jokes.  I was pretty pompous and full of myself so a great deal of the humor ended up being directed at me.  I earned it.  Family gatherings were all about stories and those stories always seemed to include a punch line.  We laugh still around the kitchen table -- making fun of ourselves and each other.  I hope I have taught this to my children.

No, my dad is no doting, nurturing father.  My mom is but he is not.  That is not a problem.  It is a good thing.  Families do not need a mom and a dad who are the same.  We need the differences that we are designed for as well as learn.  That's okay.  I learned from my dad what I did not learn from my mom and vice versa.  My wife and I are not the same people.  Sometimes that causes friction.  That's okay.  But our children have gotten distinctly different things from each of us, just as I have from my mom and my dad.  I do not lament the person my dad wasn't but I am ever grateful for the man he was and still is.

BTW at age 86 he still goes to work at 7 am and gets home at 6 pm.  Some folks find that awful.  Part of me finds that awesome.  Go Dad!

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