He was honest inside and out, a man of his word, who was totally devoted to God.—Job 1:1-2
My father didn’t quite have the patience of Job, but he was a God-fearing man who persevered.
Daddy wore many hats: son, brother, husband, friend, soldier, farmer, cattleman, fisherman, salesman, deacon, elder, and more. Most importantly to me, he wore a father hat, and he wore it well.
He had the wisdom of Atticus Finch, the work ethic of Charles Ingalls, and the devotion of Bob Cratchit. He was also funny and folksy like Andy Taylor.
Before I was born, my father served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. He received an honorable discharge so that he could return home to help care for his invalid father, disabled brother, and their family farm.
Not once through all this did he blame God.*
I’m sure he and my mother struggled to make ends meet in the early years of their marriage, but he persevered. They lived in an upstairs apartment over a garage; and during those lean years he worked in a factory on weekdays, pumped gas on weekends, and sold Bibles door-to-door on weeknights.
When [he] walked downtown and sat with [his] friends in the public square, young and old greeted [him] with respect. [He] was honored by everyone in town. All [his] dealings with people were good. [He] was known for being fair to everyone [he] met.
My father didn’t have any formal education beyond high school, but he was an avid fan of Dale Carnegie. He did enroll in several Carnegie courses, and he learned well how to make friends and influence people. He never met a stranger. He eventually used his “Carnegie” skills to become a Nabisco salesman and later sell insurance.
Daddy was an active member of the Masonic Lodge and was honored to receive the 33rd degree. He always tried to live by the Masons’ “square and compass” philosophy of placing God first (as Solomon did when he built his temple). He believed in the edification of others, and he often quoted these lines from a poem by Carmelo Benvenga:
Am I a builder who works with care,
Measuring life by the rule and square?
Am I shaping my deeds to a well-made plan,
Patiently doing the best I can?
Or am I a wrecker who walks the town
Content with the labor of tearing down?
I believe it would behoove us all to “chew upon” these words.
[He] was known for helping people in trouble and standing up for those who were down on their luck. The dying blessed [him], and the bereaved were cheered by [his] visits.
Like Jan Karon’s Father Tim, Daddy was a friend to the waitress at the local diner, the mechanic at the gas station, and the guys down at the lodge. When our neighbor across the street lost her husband, he helped mow her yard and discipline her five children. I remember several occasions when our family piled in the car and traveled across town or drove to “the country” to help a friend or relative in need. As a deacon, elder, and lay speaker in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, Daddy believed in sharing the gospel and serving others.
I am thankful for my father. He wasn’t perfect, but he was a hero to me. Like the daddy in Amy Parker’s picture book, he taught me, took care of me, and tried to be a good, good father.
One of my earliest memories of Daddy reminds me of the trust I had in him and also the trust he taught me to have in God the Father.
Marthe Jocelyn’s description of young Aggie Morton speaks to me of this memory.
The bicycle wobbled along, meeting each pebble as if it were a boulder. I concentrated on balance, and also on steering. The pale, holy glow of the moon transformed familiar hedges into monstrous tree spirits.
“Thank you, Papa,” I said out loud, my voice a funny quack next to the clickety-clank of the bicycle and the silence beyond. Papa had spent many hours holding the seat of my child-sized bicycle while I learned to pedal up and down the drive. He’d tricked me in the end, trotting alongside in a pretense of holding me up, but having let go many minutes before.
I don’t have many pictures of my father because he was always the photographer. However, this shot shows him in the shadows as he is urging me to ride my bicycle, to do what I thought I could not do.
My father died over thirty-five years ago, but I can still see him in the shadows. I can still hear him encouraging me and giving me advice. Like my Heavenly Father whom I also cannot see, I know He’s there when I need Him.
If you’ve never known your own father, or if you’ve not have the blessings of a good relationship with a father figure, know that you have a Heavenly Father who holds you in the palm of His hand. He hurts when you hurt, he smiles when you smile, he rejoices when you rejoice. He’s always there for you, even in the shadows.
If you can, spend some quality time with your father, your grandfather, an uncle, a brother, a mentor, a righteous man, the Heavenly Father. Honor him, and show him your appreciation.
“Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.”–Dale Carnegie
“She did not stand alone, but what stood behind her, the most potent moral force in her life, was the love of her father.” –Harper Lee
James 1:19-20; Genesis 6:9; Psalm 15