Saturday, August 4, 2012

Belated Father's Day reflections

My Father's Day weekend was awesome.  On Saturday, I started by playing my nephew racquetball for one and a half hours.  Then we lifted weights for an hour – after which I was thoroughly exhausted.  Matt is a first-class guy and I am proud to have them as both my nephew and my personal trainer.  Saturday marked the first time in his three weeks of racquetball experience that he was able to beat me at the game.  Because he is in the best of shape, I knew my racquetball victories would soon come to an end.  I have never seen anyone learn the game more quickly, and therefore I was not surprised to lose to him after only three weeks of play.  In terms of a racquetball handicap, I am a week C level player but hope to get better.  Matt started as my racquetball student, but he will now be giving me instruction.  After a tiring racquetball game and weightlifting workout, Matt warned me that my arms may not hold a shotgun as steadily as they normally would.

I returned home and took my two sons, Richard and Arthur, to the gun range for trapshooting.  We shot four rounds of trap.  Matt's predictions turned out to be true.  Richard handily won every round.  And Arthur, my ten-year-old, even tied me on one round.  Once again I found myself being trounced by young men that I had taught to shoot.

Then on Sunday morning, I had the opportunity to hear my son Richard teach Sunday school at our church.  For the last year he has been teaching a series on the Divided Kingdom -- the history of the nations of Israel and Judah.  God has given him unique insights with profound practical applications.  Richard does not have a seminary degree.  And while it would be wonderful for him to have a greater knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, he really does not need a seminary degree to be an effective teacher or pastor.  God has given him all the gifts he needs.  Richard has had keen insights that I have never seen in Scripture.  I remember teaching him the basics of preaching and often hear him teaching concepts that I taught him he was still young boy.  Now he is a man with his own family – a wife and daughter – and has a successful information technology career of his own.  In many ways, he has already surpassed my accomplishments.  I often find myself being the student with Richard teaching me things that I did not know.

Fortunately for me, there are still young children at home that have much to learn that I can teach them.  And I hope that I will have the opportunity to teach character and my life lessons to my grandchildren as well.  But I realized on this Father's Day that I have reached something of an apex in my life.  Those whom God entrusted me to teach are now teaching me and others.  I see others having developed superior skill in the things in which I encouraged them.  Up until now, I regarded middle-age as the time when your broad mind and your narrow waist exchanged places.  I realize now, however, that it is also a period of time in which you gradually release control and authority and watch others as they bloom and grow and prosper in their own lives.  I have always said that my job as a father was to raise children who would be better Christians than I am.  I have always hoped that my children would exceed the skills, the accomplishments, and the sphere of influence that I had during my lifetime.  From all that I see, I am now seeing the realization of that goal.

I really cannot take credit for anything that has happened.  Nevertheless, I thank God that He has allowed me to be a part of the lives not only of my own children, but several other young people as well.  I am an imperfect messenger with countless flaws and character deficiencies of my own.  Only by the grace of God can I now see greater hope for effective godliness in the next generation of family and friends.

I gave some thought this weekend to what I would do differently if I could do it all over again.  Here is my short list:
  • I would not sell my 1969 fastback Mustang with the Cleveland 351 racing engine, the Cragar mag wheels, the Hurst transmission, and the 850 Holly-4 barrel carburetor. I do not know that keeping the car would have had any profound effect on my life, but I really did like that car.
  •  I would have been more faithful and diligent in Scripture memory.  Few things have benefited my life so much as the Scriptures that I memorized as a young man and even during my parenting years.  Joshua 1:8 promises success to those who diligently meditate upon Scripture.
  • I would have spent less time in entertainment and more time in prayer.
  • As a young man, I would have spent less time striving to achieve success.  Instead I would have focused on those things that are eternally significant.  By striving for fulfillment instead of success, I have no doubt that I might have achieved both.
  • I would have begun each day by reading a written reminder to choose to respond people in a kind, patient, and gracious way.  In so doing, I could have avoided using so many verbal 2x4s to solve problems.
  • My wife and I would not have tried to prevent pregnancy during the first 3 to 4 years of our marriage.  After stopping birth control, it took several years before God blessed us with a child.  I often wonder whether we missed other blessings.  The eight children born to our marriage have blessed us beyond our ability to describe.  They motivate and encourage us to be better people.  They bless not only our lives, but also the lives of others.  Children take a lot of energy.  For that reason, it is better to grow up with your children rather than to wait until you are older to have them.  You do need, however, to make glorifying Christ the goal for your family.  That focus is essential to raising children who will be a blessing rather than a curse.
I received wonderful gifts of written encouragement from several of my children this Father's Day.  God gives us all together too short a time to love, nurture, and train children before they grow up to surpass us and have families of their own.  If you are a father, may I encourage you to make the most of every moment with your family?  I can promise you that in your old age you will not wish that you had spent more hours of work, more hours watching television, or more hours surfing the Internet.  However, you may well wish that you had spent more hours investing your life in the lives of others to produce a lasting and living legacy.  I only pray that I will have the wisdom to make the most of the time I have left with my children and grandchildren – who are such an incredible blessing to me.