I don’t want to be a good dad. I want to be an exceptional dad.
But the longer I live the more I realize there are precious few examples of good dads in action.
So on this Father’s Day, I wanted to take a moment and honor my own father. Was he perfect? Nope. Did he make mistakes? Sure.
But in a land where few men finish well when it comes to the daunting task of fatherhood, my dad stands out as a giant. With a loving wife of 51 years, two sons who respect him more than any other man they know, two daughter-in-laws who adore him, and 8 grandchildren who think he hung the moon, I think it's safe to say he's running ahead of the pack.
As a father of 4 kids myself, I’ve found myself reflecting on my dad's life a lot. And marveling. He was, and is, a good man. He truly embodies the Stronger Man ethos.
He gave his life energy (and still does to this day) in the service of others. He loved Jesus, repented often, and poured his life into us boys. He tapped into our motivations. He helped us write life plans and take career tests when we were 15. He got a meaningful life and invited his two sons into that life as young men. He gave us responsibility early and let us do dangerous things. He taught us how to treat all women with honor and pursue one woman with purpose.
I mean really, how much more could a boy ask for?
Dad, I'm writing this to you. In your life I have found a road map for my own role as father. So I wanted to take a few moments and tell you thanks.
Specifically, thanks for...
...Never putting me down. Not once. You never made fun of me, mocked me, or talked about me like I wasn’t there. Never was I the butt of your jokes. In everything you built me up, encouraged me, moved me forward. You always spoke of my future with great hope. “The Lord will give you great opportunities, Josh. Jesus has great plans for you, son.” This sort of prophetic encouragement every boy needs, and I got it in bushels. Thanks dad.
...Running into my room the night I screamed in agony from growing pains. I was 8. You were half asleep. Tripping on a toy you went sprawling across the room in your underwear. We both burst out laughing. Then you rubbed my leg-cramps for an hour. I slept in the next day, you were up at 5 and out the door. You put my need to be comforted in front of your need for sleep. Thanks dad.
...Being the toughest man I know, and crying in front of me often. It’s good for a boy to see both. I’ve seen you cut down trees, fix tractors, build things, and tackle gut-wrenching church conflict with unflinching courage and razor-sharp biblical clarity. I’ve also seen you listen intently, hug often, and tear up quickly when moved by someone’s pain or God’s grace. Not the helpless, whimpering, cowardly sort of tears. The genuine, earnest, heart-felt tears of a man who feels and thinks deeply. You cry easily when talking about Jesus, the gospel, redemption, and the day God called you into ministry. I love that. Thanks dad.
...Raising your hands and singing loudly with the church. I distinctly remember as a young boy looking up and seeing tears roll down your cheek during worship. I couldn’t articulate it then, but I knew that you were singing to someone who meant everything to you, who was great and big and awesome and worthy of your allegiance, and who gave you great joy. That is a gift to a young man. You didn’t tell me to love Jesus passionately. You loved Jesus passionately and it drew me in. Thanks dad.
...Spanking us, then hugging us. That is a powerful parenting combination that no child’s heart can resist. I never felt more safe and loved than when held in your arms as the sting of the spank faded and the assurance of your unshakable love filled my little heart. Redemptive discipline is a precious thing. Thanks Dad.
...Leaving me notes on the bathroom mirror growing up. Sometimes they were a verse written out you’d read that morning, or a prayer for something big I was facing, or an apology for something said the night before. No matter the occasion, they were always encouraging, full of Scripture, and right on point. This told me you were thinking about me even when you were gone and were vested in my success. Huge. I still have most of them to this day. Thanks dad.
...Putting my friends to work every time they came over to our house. Mowing the lawn, cleaning the garage, working on a project in the shop. You worked us like dogs. And I could never figure out why all the guys always wanted to come to my house. But I figured it out later...you treated them like men. And then you’d fire up the BBQ and spend the rest of the day asking us what we wanted to do with our life that would make an eternal impact. Thanks Dad.
...Reading your Bible every morning. That is the biggest memory I have. You, at the kitchen table, worn Bible in front of you, studying away. Not checking Facebook. Not returning email. Not reading the paper. Soaking in the word. Sometimes tears were running down your face. Sometimes your eyebrows were burrowed in thought. Sometimes your head was bowed in prayer. Sometimes your pen was scratching furiously in your journal. But always you were there, Bible in hand, heart open, mind working. It left an indelible imprint on the life of a young boy about how a real man starts his day. Thanks Dad.
...Laughing loud, long, and lots. At the dinner table. On a hunting trip. Or just whenever. Some of the funnest memories I have include watching you slap your thigh, throw back your head, and roar with laughter. I loved hearing your laugh. Still do to this day. You took many things in life blood-earnest, but you laughed at yourself often. That is a gift that has served me well in ministry. Thanks Dad.
...Charging me rent the day I turned 18 and was still living in your house. All of my other friends learned to free-load. I learned to work. And it wasn’t done as a cruel punishment, but as a teaching moment for taking responsibility and growing up as a man. Thanks Dad.
...Loving me without question or hesitation. I have questioned many things in my life, doubted many things, faced many unknowns. But there is one thing of which I have never questioned. Your love for me has been unwavering and relentless, dependable and true. Teaching me a lot about how I am loved by my better Heavenly Father. Thanks Dad.
...Turning down speaking engagements so you “wouldn’t miss the important years.” I didn’t appreciate it then. I do now. Thanks Dad.
...Wrestling with us as kids every night when you came home from work. You were probably exhausted from work, but knew we were waiting behind the couch to launch a surprise attack. You could have said you were too tired. But you didn’t. You wrestled until, giggling and short of breath, we begged for mercy (and asked for more at the same time). Thanks Dad.
...Filling the dinner table with stories of gospel victories. These were the best moments ever. To hear of a broken person made whole through the redeeming work of Jesus. My big takeaway from our dinner conversations was that you are not living life unless you’re serving others and investing in the Kingdom. You whetted our appetite for gospel ministry early. Thanks Dad.
...Reading the Picture Bible every night before bed. And oh how you brought it to life! When Moses faced the Red Sea, I was overwhelmed with despair. When David stared down Goliath, I trembled with fear. When Jesus rose from the grave, we cheered and clapped for joy. Dad, when you read the Bible, The Story came to life. It’s no wonder your two boys have given their lives to teaching others that same Bible. Thanks Dad.
...Buying a hot tub so we could have a place to "hash things over." Some of my best memories as a teen are coming home after something happened at school or sports or with friends and asking, "wanna hit the tub dad?", and knowing that you'd never say no, so we could have life-shaping conversations. Thanks Dad.
...Teaching us the importance of having multiple mentors, by having them yourself and regularly showing us how they helped you. To this day, learning from men around me is a deeply held value of mine, one that has served me, my wife, our family, and our church well. Thanks Dad.
...Sitting on the front row, Bible open, taking furious notes and bellowing hearty "amen's" while I preach. In this, you show me what it’s like for a man to be a life-long learner.
...Confessing sin often. You were not perfect, but when you messed up, you were quick to confess it and repent of it. These made me feel safe, like I could follow you without fear. There was integrity in your life, and it gave me confidence in your leadership. You taught me by your example that a wise man is not a perfect man, but a repenting man. Thanks Dad.
...Being the first person I wanted to call when we found out Ella Mae would be born with Spina Bifida. That was a dark-night-of-the-soul moment. A confusing time. And all I knew was I needed to call my dad. You listened and affirmed your love for us and God’s plan in all the pain. Then you prayed with us and invited us over to the house. We needed to “talk it out and make a plan for this new little blessing God’s bringing into our lives.” I needed someone to tell me that day that this little girl would be a blessing, and you did. Thanks Dad.
...Loving my wife like your own daughter. She feels your love, she feels your support. She knows that if we came to you for counsel with a relationship conflict between us, that you’d take her side first before you’d take mine. “I think we love her more than we love you, Josh. I know we like her more.” You’ve said it with a wink and a laugh. But it’s communicated the point. And that’s a wonderful thing for a daughter-in-law to know. Thanks Dad.
I could go on but I’m way over word count. So thanks dad for living a life that makes it easy to remember and honor. I love you deeply and am still watching closely as you follow Jesus and finish well. You have lived a life worth emulating, and I’ve been taking notes. May I learn to love my children the same.