I wrote this piece several years back, and the lessons ring truer today than they ever have before…
1) Fathers are leaders, whether they accept it or not.
The natural inclination for men is to protect and guide. When men become fathers, it thrusts them into a role bigger than anything they’ve ever had or ever will have. It requires leading. But not leading just for a week or a month or a season: fatherhood is leadership for a lifetime. My dad is a fantastic leader, and through his leadership at home he proved to be successful as a leader in other areas of his life.
2) People don’t remember your car, they remember your integrity.
Growing up, we were never fortunate enough to have the nicest car or clothes. We weren’t in poverty by any means, but we lived according to our means. Through watching my dad, I realized material things mean nothing. It’s the impact we leave on others. To this day, my dad gets phone calls and letters from those in his past that he had a profound impact on. That’s a legacy that extends far beyond any vehicle.
3) It’s okay to bend the rules now and then.
One of the fondest memories I have as a child was on a night while getting ready for bed. I must have been 7 or 8, facing the rigors of an 8:30 bedtime, just long enough for me to get to watch Alf. One night, out of the blue, dad came and got me and told me to get dressed. Little did I know he was taking me out to see the He-Man movie (my super hero at the time). It was such a huge thrill to not only be up past my normal bed time, but to actually be out in a movie theater with my dad watching a movie! It’s often joked that moms play the role of every aspect of a parent, then dad gets to come home and be the fun one. Dad showed me there are times where the best memories are made by bending the routines of life.
4) Helping a stranger never hurt anyone.
Growing up in a pastor’s house, you see things that are different than a typical kid sees. I saw my dad help countless numbers of people, be it strangers needing to make a phone call at 3:00 in the morning, or a horrific wreck on the highway. Some may say that he had to help people; that was his job. But those people don’t know my dad. The compassion he has for people is overflowing, and I saw examples of it everywhere. He genuinely cares for people.
5) You have to shuck the corn before you can eat it.
I say shuck the corn, because as kids, we literally had to shuck corn. Or take peas out of the pod. Or pick okra and blueberries. We didn’t do it all the time, but when it was time to do so, we pitched in. Not always voluntarily, mind you, but through those moments and other chores, I learned a strong work ethic. My dad worked hard at his job, but also when he was at home. He helped mom around the house, and did much of the work outside. The value of manual labor was not lost on me. My dad’s work ethic wasn’t either.
6) Make your children’s interests your own.
My dad grew up as a FFA kid near Clemson, SC. I don’t know how much interest he really had in sports before I came along. What I do know is that when I got to the right age, my dad was out every day with me in the spring and summer either shooting hoops or playing catch. I remember finding a field somewhere and me hitting balls to him and he back to me so I could practice fielding grounders. He saw the passion I had for sports and got involved, and helped me in every way possible. He was at nearly every single one of my games and practices. He was also my troop leader when I first began boy scouts. He took me camping, fishing, and to sporting events. I was one of the few kids that didn’t just grow up with a dad. I grew up with a buddy to hang around with and have fun.
7) Your spouse is always first.
As much as my dad loves us kids (and his grandkids), that love still doesn’t match the love he has for my mom. 40+ years of marriage, and they still act like teenagers in love. She’s still the first one he greets when he gets home from work. She’s the one he protects and looks out for. Many of the times I got punished growing up, it was because I had disrespected my mom. Dad would put up with a lot, but one of his own children disrespecting his wife was not something he tolerated. After seeing how many of my friends from college grew up with divorced parents, I gained a better respect for the love my parents share.
8) A strong man doesn’t need to be loud.
No question my dad went through his fair share of adversity. Various issues in churches that he went through would cause most people to boil over in anger and frustration. Not my dad. He always maintained his composure through any trials he went through. His faith and confidence was in Christ, not in a church body or in other things. Dad never needed to be the loudest man in the room to be one of the strongest. If there’s a trait of great men that we should follow, it’s that of being quietly strong. Dad is just that.
9) Physical touch isn’t just a mom thing.
My dad is a rare man. Not a day went by when he didn’t tell me he loved me and that he was proud of me. My dad hugged me. He’d put his arm around me when he saw I was down. When I was younger, we spent lots of time wrestling around, him letting me act as if I was the stronger of the two of us. Too many times, too many dads think hugging their kids is something that only moms do. My dad showed his affection for us kids by physical interaction.
10) How deep the love of Christ is.
Dad was a Southern Baptist pastor for well over 30 years. That’s not what made him a Christian. His faith in Christ was personal, and one he shared with us regularly. We’d have devotions sometimes before school. We’d have them sometimes in the evenings. We’d pray before every meal. We’d pray during times of trouble. We’d pray to give God praise for blessings He’d given us. My dad exerts his inward faith in an outward way. He loves people. He goes out of his way to help others, be they strangers, neighbors, customers, old friends, or extended family. It’s the most important lesson my dad has taught me: the boundless love of Christ.