When I was growing up I never appreciated how much my dad knew. I knew he was smart and I knew people came to him with questions, but still, he can’t be that smart! I mean, he is my dad after all. I don’t think I ever understood the great example of Christ I had right in my home.
Now that I’m older and getting to know lots of people from a pastoral angle, I see how fortunate I was to have had Christ living in my house! People just don’t have that, Christ is out there, bizarre, mystical, OK for two thousand years ago but not practical now. My dad showed how practical Christ really is.
There was this guy in church who would raise his hand on Sunday or Wednesday nights when the church service was less formal and more like a discussion. He would always quote verses and sound very spiritual and informed. People respected him and looked up to him, including me.
One day I mentioned to my dad how smart the guy was and how much of the Bible he knew. My dad told me that if you listen, you will realize all he does is quote the same five verses! My mind was blown once again. My dad was even smarter than the smartest guy in church? Amazing.
But that’s the insight my dad had and he never let on what he knew. He listened to people. He remembered stuff about people. He was always there for them. When I was in my teens I was “dating” this girl I knew from church. I was rather infatuated with her but I was also quite shy. I touched her hand once and then quickly apologized for bumping into her.
One night after youth group she was crying because these guys were making fun of her for being in a musical at her school. I saw my dad go over and talk to her. Dumb little teenage girl crying and my dad took time for her. I also saw him walk her to her car with his arm around her shoulders. Good grief, my dad’s making better time with my girl than I am!
It was always stuff like that, no matter who it was, whether they were jerks or teenage girls or annoying old people, he was always there. An elderly lady had gotten mugged in her garage and was quite freaked out it would happen again. For months, my dad would follow her home from church until she felt safe enough to go by herself. How many nights did I sit in the car with my dad driving all the way across town for this woman who caused my dad nothing but trouble! On New Year’s Eve our church would do a movie night where we would watch some dumb Christian movie and then eat and then have communion as the new year came in.
One year we saw a film about a guy who went into the inner city to minister to gang members. He got shot. I don’t know what it was but the movie freaked me out. I got sick and went downstairs to the bathroom and threw up on the floor and toilet. We also happened to be getting a blizzard that night. Here I was, sick, puking, and I had to sit in the car to drive this elderly lady home because she was scared of driving in so much snow.
I had to suffer along with my dad on many occasions, but I was not nearly as willing to do so. My dad did it out of duty, duty to Christ because he knew it was the right thing to do. I did it out of duty to my dad because if I didn’t I’d have a sore butt. But he showed me through all that, what was required of someone who cared about people. Sacrifice, putting your needs aside for a time. That’s what love is all about–putting someone else’s needs above your own regardless of repayment. He was rarely repaid but he kept on loving.
I hate to admit it but I took advantage of my dad too. About five years ago at a Memorial Day picnic our family was playing softball and I just stunk. My dad was pitching and my hitting was way off. I kept blaming my dad. The pitches weren’t high enough, not close enough, too close and on and on. I really let everyone know that it was my dad’s lousy pitching that was keeping me from being the star. When I was done, I walked past my dad and said, “Sorry for blaming you but someone had to take the fall.” I couldn’t believe I said it. I felt bad, still do. I was one of the guys he worried about, one of the ones who took advantage of him.
When I got sick in his hospital room he said that he felt bad for making me come. I was one of his worries while he was dying. No dad, don’t worry about me, I’ve caused you enough worry. While my dad was in his coma before his death, I held his hand, they always say hearing is the last thing to go. I told him over and over that he didn’t have to worry anymore. I was so relieved for him because of that alone. My dad worried, but rarely about himself. He worried about other people.
I don’t think I ever understood how much he worried about me. But I was one of many people he worried about. Whenever he was troubled with someone he would put the word “dear” in front of his or her name. You could always tell the people he worried about when he used the word “dear.” There are so many names that I heard so often following the word “dear.” Including, “Dear Jeff.”
The guy who apologized to the nurses for troubling them by being in the hospital was always worried about other people. It reminds me of Christ while looking forward to his death he’s worried about his disciples, what they will do, who will take care of them and what about his mother? In the midst of suffering he cared for others, that was love. My dad knew how to love people.