I am not so naïve to ignore how lucky I am to have a dad who took me fishing, who actually pulled over the car when I pulled my brother’s hair again, and who to this day snuggles with me on the couch.
I know that not everyone in the world is as fortunate as I was. So I want to share some of the lessons that my dad taught me with the rest of the world.
Although my dad is a master carpenter and can take a block of wood and turn it into just about anything, I have no ounce of such talent. And to tell you the truth, if you were to hand me a screwdriver, I would not only have to chant, “Left Loosey, Righty Tighty” but check the soles of my shoes for the L and the R to determine which way is Right.
But even with my lack of handyman skills, all those hours helping Dad taught me a life skill. Work Hard. Do everything as though God was your boss. Whether your work is mental or physical, do it with everything you have. It’s a good thing to feel tired at the end of a long day of hard work. Not much is more satisfying then sitting down on the couch with a mildly aching back, after completing a satisfying day of work, knowing that you did your best.
[ANYTHING YOU WANT TO KNOW, YOU CAN LEARN IN A BOOK]
My dad was never so proud to say that he didn’t know the answer to my probing kid questions. But even if he didn’t know the answer, he taught me the value of three words: Look it up. It was not an uncommon event to see my dad borrowing a book to determine how to lay out stairs or plow a garden.
Now that we’ve entered the modern age, we’ve both learned how to scour the billions of gigabytes of information available on the net in minutes.
It’s tough for a man to admit he doesn’t know something. If knowledge is power, than our male nature says that to admit a lack of knowledge is to become weak. Dad got around the masculine pride, but still remained powerful, with the simple statement: I don’t know, but I can find out.
[RESPECT YOUR MOTHER]
I used to think it was gross. All the kissing and touching and mushy talk. Now that I have my own family, I understand the lessons my father was teaching me. I learned how to treat my wife from the way my dad treated Mom. Not only was he treating her with respect, but he was treating my future wife with respect.
When my preteen mouth would spout off like a geyser full of steamy angry sentiments, with no regard for the words they taught me in Sunday school about honor, Dad corrected me, swiftly, firmly and rightly. But I think the real lesson was learned by watching my father model the behavior that a family should follow.
In the same way that abuse often carries on to the next generations, my dad took the time to love my mother, and to make sure that I did. Now it’s my turn to love my wife, and teach my kids to do the same.
[PICK YOUR FIGHTS]
My dad is not a wimp. He is not a doormat. For 24 years I have watched people walk all over him, push him around, and treat him like feces. I never understood it. The same guy who used to box with me in the backyard? The same guy who taught me how to end a fight in one punch? He could have creamed them.
Pedro the Lion has a song called “Big Trucks.” (It’s available for download at Pastemusic.com.) Basically, a young man is asking his dad why he lets people push him around. His answer, albeit a cryptic statement about big trucks and a Trans-Am is simply that you can’t expect the rest of the world to act like they know Christ. You can’t expect the people around you, with their heavy burdens to treat you the way you would treat them, since your load has been taken off of you.
At the same time, Dad taught me that contrast brings balance. Sometimes, there are things worth fighting for. Sometimes, people are being oppressed. Sometimes, bullies need to be taken down. In our culture today, violence is considered pure evil. But in reality, there are times when a blackened eye is required. It is possible to love peace, and still beat the tar out of an aggressor. The key is to pick your fights. Make sure you are not the aggressor, but the defender. By the way, the best way to win a fight is to walk away. The second best is a right hook to the nose.
[NOT EVERYONE IS SO LUCKY]
One day, I was playing in the yard with Dad when some kids came by. Four of them. I knew them well. They used to call me names at school and trip me on the school bus. When I would ride my bike they would chase me and swear at me. I hated them.
On this particular day, they were inquiring about the particulars of the rabbit they had caught in a trap in their backyard, and how to take care if it. They knew our family raised rabbits, and were looking for advice.
Within a few hours, Dad had not only taught them all he knew about taking care of rabbits, but gave them a couple old cages and even one of my favorite bunnies.
I was fuming when they left. “Dad! Those boys are always mean to me, and they pick on me, and I just really don’t like that. Why did you do that?”
Seeing a moment when he could teach me a hugely important lesson, he explained that their mother had left when the youngest of the three was a baby. Their father was a drunk, who didn’t work, and often beat them when he was sober enough to stand. He told me that basically, those boys raised themselves, taught themselves right and wrong, and that they had a father, but they didn’t have a dad.
It sunk in that my dad loved me. He worked hard to provide for me, and to teach me right from wrong. I had to learn that some kids didn’t have it so lucky. I figured I could share him with kids like that from time to time. And from that day on, those three boys never picked on me again.
[REAL MEN CRY]
My dad is a tender guy. He should be hard. The things he’s seen would callous most men so hard that they would never cry again. Not Dad.
We used to watch “Little House on the Prairie” every week. He would bawl his eyes out. In fact, if he’s reading this right now, he’s probably crying now too.
He cries when he’s happy. He cries when he’s sad. Sometimes, he just cries because it feels good to cry. It doesn’t make him weak. It doesn’t make him a baby. It makes him a real man.
Our emotions keep our body in check sometimes. If we bury it deep down under layers and layers of toughness, we still cry on the inside, only now the hurt lasts longer and does more damage.
Our culture, especially our churches, expects us to be normal. When someone utters “Howya doin’?” our response is always, “Fine.” Sometimes we’re not fine, sometimes we hurt. Sometimes we need a good sob. Sometimes we need someone to sob with us. As long as we cover up what is inside, we will remain at the comfortable howstheweather distance from everyone around us. How can that be a good thing?
God didn’t give me a dad just so that I could be fed, or taught, or clothed. People all over the world get their basic needs met without a dad every day. God gave me a dad to teach me about Himself. The way He loves me. The way He lets me fall on my face every now and then so that I can learn how to get back up. The way I look in the mirror and see myself turning into my father’s image. The way He treats people who reject Him. The way He gave everything He had just to make sure I would be okay.
Dad, thanks. Thanks for teaching me who God is. Thanks for living out what you believe. Thanks for spanking me on my but when I deserved it. Thanks for loving the kids in town that no one else would love. Thanks for sticking with Mom. Thanks for sticking with me.
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