Manhood and life are hard enough, then you throw Christianity on top of it and life becomes almost too much to take! There are many people who think Christianity is joyous and non-stop hilarity with Jesus. It isn’t, at least not biblical Christianity.
The Apostle Paul says those who live a godly life WILL suffer persecution. Biblical Christianity is about not esteeming yourself above others. It’s about submitting, serving and all that. When you try it, you see how much of a bummer it is. It stinks, which is why few do it.
My dad did it. I have never seen anyone who did so much for others. I remember visiting with him on several occasions. He would go visit a woman or some people he didn’t know well and he’d drag me along because with his boy there, old people were nicer to him and he could avoid any weird charges that often get pastors in trouble. I was never real thrilled with this, but I went.
I remember going visiting with him once and seeing him roped into moving a stove down basement steps. No wonder his back broke. One Saturday was ruined by him and I mowing an elderly lady’s yard and trimming her bushes. All I got was a warm can of Diet Coke. But I also got to see my dad help someone. I remember his helping. I remember the time he would take for people. Oh the time he took.
Half my life has been spent in a church. I had to go early and sit through choir practice. Then I had to endure a sermon. Then, after church, when it seemed my trials were over, he would start talking and talking and talking. What in the world did these people talk about?
Hours and hours I spent wandering around the church. I broke windows, stair railings, doors, lights, all kinds of stuff while trying to occupy myself after church. I scrounged around in the church kitchen for stale Oreo cookies to tide me over. I would go out in the car and listen to the radio.
I used to drive the car around and around the parking lot. I practiced my driving skills in the church parking lot. One Sunday night a cop pulled into the parking lot and scared me to death. He wanted to know what I was doing in a car late at night in a church parking lot. “Uh, waiting for my dad, officer.” One night, it got so late, I went in and physically picked up my mother and carried her out to the car.
But during all that time he was developing relationships, getting to know people. Some of them were people who never knew a pastor before, at least not as a real person. He had a lasting impact on those people. I had to sit and wait for him but it was part of the gig of the pastor’s family. He sacrificed and we sacrificed because there were bigger issues in life than whether I got a good night’s sleep.
A lot of people don’t understand this concept. School was never a huge deal to my dad. As long as I did well he didn’t really care. He encouraged me more in other stuff. He expected me to do well and I remember a few talks about low grades, but it was life he was concerned with. His family was always at church. We didn’t skip church to get homework done, we were expected to get it done, you knew you were going to church. I was at church at least three times a week for church services.
Lots of parents disagreed with my dad on that. To force your kids to memorize, that isn’t right. To emphasize church over school didn’t sit well with many parents. But that’s the standard he set and we never missed, except for bad illness. In all my dad’s years of pastoring he never missed a Sunday for sickness and he was often quite sick. I’m not sure that was really necessary, but you know if that’s the standard he kept, ours was quite high as well.
People saw my sister and I and commented to my parents how easy they had it. That bugged my parents who were too nice to say, “You could have done it too. It requires hard work, consistency and dedication. We trained our kids the importance of God trumping all else. This is the result.” They were too humble to say it but they did their job.
“Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.” People don’t like that verse really, but it’s true. My dad would never say it, so I am–my dad was a Christian in the true sense of the Word. He followed the dictates of Scripture and he got exactly what it said he would get.
Along with getting good kids, my dad also got that suffering bit. It shocked me as a kid to see how many people had problems with my dad. It shocked him too! He was a great guy and nice, but he also had standards. You could push him so far and then he’d stop. When he stopped, you had a choice to make–stop too or be forced to stop. He was not afraid to force people’s stopping. Sometimes I think he should have forced it sooner, but that’s just my opinion.
As I said earlier, I have never seen a better picture of Christ in my life. I’m not trying to say that my dad was perfect, perhaps it seems that my view is too angelic or something. I’m just being honest, he knew scripture and he lived it.
What was amazing about my dad is even though he made us go to church and made us memorize verses, I never felt I was being brainwashed or coerced. There was freedom to find out things for myself. Numerous times I would ask him a question that was answered, “I don’t know, you tell me.” He was trying to get me to think it through myself. He taught me to think rather than to spew intellectual information.
In college I sort of had a crisis of faith, a time where I questioned what I had been taught. I read through the New Testament and began to figure things out for me. It was amazing how right my dad was! I couldn’t get past it. No matter how I analyzed things, it turned out I agreed with him. I would come up with these brilliant biblical insights and call him up. I would excitedly tell him what I had found, “Oh yeah, I preached on that many times.” Oh, yeah, I know, I was just saying, you know. Guess I should have listened to a few of them sermons I had to endure.
My parents didn’t force me into theological indoctrination. They took me to church. That was the extent of their formal spiritual teaching.