26 September 2012

My Best Friend(s): Daddy

Daddy officiating my wedding.
This was the moment when my husband placed my wedding ring on my hand. This was the moment when my daddy willingly surrendered my care and keeping to someone else. This was a moment for which I'd been waiting a long time. It was the culmination of a lot of things in my life, and the first stone laid on a foundation that my parents started more than 31 years before.

(Random side note: I just realized how the not-quite-profile in this picture makes my nose look HUGE. Weird. Anyhoo...)

Dad on DJ
My parents raised us in a Christian home. Mom and Dad each came from a different brand of dysfunction in their homes of origin. Mom grew up in a Southern Baptist home. Dad had been given a Bible at the age of 6, and had learned a lot about who he wanted to be from it, but as I understand the history, it wasn't until they were married that they truly began their relationships with the Lord. When they married at the tender ages of 17 & 18, they moved across the country, then across an ocean from those homes, and they started a new life together. In many ways, they grew up together, and learned as they went. In the course of some desperate days, they turned to the Lord for help, and God brought an Army Chaplain into their lives, who pastored them and helped them to grow in understanding and pursuit of the Lord.

By the time my older brother was born, they had matured quite a lot in their faith. We were in church every time the doors were opened, and attended Christian schools from Kindergarten all the way through college. Dad was the provider for the family, sometimes working exceedingly long hours and traveling extensively during some seasons of our family life. He has always been a firm believer in working hard, with excellence, and playing just as hard, with excellence, when there was time to do so.
Daddy/Daughter ski trip to El Dora, CO

The greatest thing I ever learned from my dad was how to learn. He's a learner, a study-er. (OK, yes I know it should be "student," grammatically, but I'm trying to say something different, here.)

One of my favorite mental images of my daddy is this. In our home in St. Charles, MO, the living room and dining room flanked either side of the front door entry. Just inside the living room was a window, and just past that was the fireplace. Under that window lived my dad's recliner, with a reading lamp and small end table next to it. In my mind's eye, I can see my dad, sitting in that chair, Bible open in his lap, Matthew Henry commentary open on the arm of the chair, and a lined, yellow legal pad under the pen poised in his hand. I can clearly see this picture in my mind, because it was something he did often.

Daddy with my sister Maria
My dad taught Adult Sunday School for most of my growing up years. At that time of our lives, he was the Sunday School Superintendent at the church we attended, as well as being on the church board.

(Mom was the World Missions committee chair, so when I say we were at church every time the doors opened, I really mean it. I can't even begin to tell you the number of times my brother and I would be finding ways to keep occupied in that building late into the night during board meetings. That's how I learned how to slide down banisters.)

Dad was always studying. He was always preparing, weeks in advance, for the lessons that he would teach. He never went into a Sunday School class not knowing what the lessons were about or unprepared. He could never learn enough. He may have stuck with the denominational quarterly Sunday School curriculum, but he always learned all he could about the Scripture passage, and took it as deep as God would lead him. As a result, his classes were always PACKED. People flocked to his class, not just because he truly taught, but because he taught with energy, with excitement! For my dad, the Scriptures live and breathe, and he lives IN them and shares them every chance he gets.

Daddy with his first grandchild, Anna.
Now, before you start thinking that Daddy is some kind of spiritual oddity who knows everything and has it all figured out, here's the truth. He has had struggles. He has had things that God has had to teach him, and some of those lessons, he's had to learn many times in many ways over the years. In those days, he was learning and growing at a crazy fast rate, and still had areas where he didn't always succeed. I can tell you that we saw flaws in him, as kids growing up, but we also saw how hard he worked on those flaws. We saw the softness of his heart to the will of God. We saw him apologize and seek forgiveness when he messed up. We saw him learning and growing, studying and trying. We saw him counseling with others, either in person or through the written word. We saw him pursuing the heart of God.

If there was a time when he was frustrated or stressed out, there were a thousand times when he was on his knees, praying for guidance and wisdom. If there was a time when his temper was short with mom, there were a thousand times that he did something amazing for her. If there was a time when he was working 80 hour weeks to provide for our family, then there were hundreds of times that he would play 80 hour weeks on vacation with us, take time off to attend EVERY game, recital, play, or important event in our lives.

Daddy with the bulldog.
I can't remember a single piano recital that Daddy didn't attend. I can't remember anything that was important to me that he wasn't a part of. I can remember his presence in my life. I can remember daddy/daughter date nights, trips, and dance lessons. But most of all, I remember Daddy reading the Bible in our daily family devotions. I remember him praying over us, with us, and for us. I remember him leading us, providing for us, protecting us, and teaching us.

For these reasons, when I had pitifully navigated the time of my life that I was in total rebellion against God and His appointed authorities in my life, there was a time that came that the Wild Goose chased me in relentless pursuit of my heart. My parents were, to some degree, responsible for that via their intercessory prayers. When the time came that God was teaching me about submission to authority, He directed me back to my earthly daddy, who was His appointed authority in my life*, until my husband came along. Though I lived across the country from my parents, I began to seek the counsel of my dad, to be not quite so independent in my thinking, and to submit my will.

Daddy escorting me at my
sister's wedding.
When my parents came to visit me over Mother's Day 2010, they brought with them a blessing. My daddy gave me his blessing, as only a father can give, and prayed that God would bring my husband to me. Daddy said that I was ready, that my heart was sure, and that I'd learned how to place myself under the protection of his authority. That was the time when he felt I could be a blessing to my husband, and God moved swiftly in answer to this prayer.

You see, God puts authorities in our lives so that we learn, in a very practical, earthly sense, how to submit to God. He gives us daddies to teach us about His Fatherhood of us. Just because some of those dads don't always show us God doesn't mean that the lessons God intends us to learn are irrelevant. He gives us authorities over us in churches, who are responsible for our spiritual well-being. He ordains positions of authority over us in government, via police or public officials, authority over us in schools, via teachers and administrators, and authorities in pretty much every area of life. Even those in authority over others are given authorities to whom they must answer. We have to learn that those authorities protect us, and they have a responsibility for us. They are the ones who have to answer for how they lead us and what they do with that authority, and we have to answer for how we submit to them, and ultimately to God. Not every individual in authority may have the quality character and spiritual development to fulfill those positions properly, but the lesson must be learned by us, nonetheless. We are God's creations, and He is ultimately the one who is responsible for our well-being. Aren't we glad that He is so good at taking care of us??
Dapper Dad, in front of our fireplace
in Raymore, MO.

So, I've watched my daddy learn and grow and be a man after God's own heart. When I married, I married a man who was learning and growing and becoming a man after God's own heart. Daddy felt comfortable handing over his authority and responsibility, because my darling husband was the man that God had appointed, ordained for the position of husband in my life.

Daddy and I have become friends. That friendship looks different than any other relationship that I have. I see him, even now, seeking God, wanting to learn more, to understand better. I see him dedicating my parents new home to God, posting the 10 commandments on the wall of their home, raising the Christian flag on the flagpole out front, staking a claim for the God who owns him. It inspires me to follow in his footsteps, to understand better what God requires of us. If he's still growing, then I must, too.

When we talk, we talk of what we're studying, what God is teaching us, where He's working in our lives. We talk as friends, as siblings in the Lord, as joint-heirs. While he'll always be my Daddy, in recent years he has become something more, and different, too. We're alike somewhere on the soul level, and the depth of understanding we have of each other is something I don't know how to explain. I'm so thankful for this man that God has put in my life as my dad, my first authority. I'm thankful for his heart, his friendship, and his example. I'm thankful that he used his influence to draw me closer to the heart of God, and I'm thankful that we'll have all of eternity to marvel over what God teaches us next.

Dad & I fishing off the dock of a lake in Canada.
Much love,

*I am very aware that not everyone has been blessed in their families of origin in the same way I have. I know there are dads out there that aren't safe to trust. I know that there are circumstances that don't allow for little girls to turn into women under the protection of a man of God, and I'm sorry for that. That we live in a broken world is readily obvious. But, God's ways are higher than man's ways, and His intent is clear in Scripture, that men will protect and provide for their wives and children. 

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