Note to My Readers: Due to the busyness of my summer schedule, in which I'm serving as a camp pastor on top of my normal duties, I'll be putting my ongoing Thursday and Friday series on hold until mid-August. All other days will continue to feature new content as usual, and the Thursday and Friday slots will offer devotional and theological reflections (heretofore unpublished) from my seminary years.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

How I Learned to Be a Dad

I remember you telling us bedtime stories--
Fanciful stories, with fairy-tale characters all mixed up together.
          We loved them.
You taught me how to whistle and snap my fingers.
When I decided to walk along the outside 
Of an upper-story balcony railing,
You ran across the yard like a crazy man
          And made me climb back to safety.
                     Thanks, Dad.

I remember you holding me down
While Mom poured noxious, agonizing medicine in my ears--
Parents being forced to inflict pain on their child.
But you did it faithfully,
          Because you loved me.
When I had my last ear surgery,
You brought me a stuffed animal snow leopard.
I thought I was too old for stuffed animals.
But I loved that snow leopard.
          And I still have it.
                    Thanks, Dad.

I remember going with you to prayer meetings,
And singing next you in the church choir.
But what I loved best of all
Was those times in church,
          Every now and then,
When the words of a hymn struck you so deeply
That you had to stop singing.
In those moments,
          I wanted a faith like yours.
                    Thanks, Dad.

I only remember one time
When you got in my face and raised your voice.
          I deserved it.
But what strikes me now is that I only remember that one time,
When I'm sure I deserved it many more.
And every now and then you came up to my room
And apologized
          If you thought you'd gone too far.
                    Thanks, Dad.

I remember when we got put together
In the same canoe for our Brigade trip.
I was glad I got you--
          Even when our canoe was sinking.
You got a job at my high school
When I was halfway through.
Not every kid would've been wild about that idea,
          But I loved it.
I think I liked you
Even when it wasn't cool
          To like one's parents.
                    Thanks, Dad.

I remember that you were proud of me,
But in such a humble way
That it taught me to be humble, too.
You encouraged my strengths--
Like letting me take long hours
On our lone family computer
          To write my juvenilia.
And every so often, you nudged me forward
In areas that needed a little work--
Like when you made me go to prom
After my friends showed up
          To kidnap me there.
                    Thanks, Dad.

When I went off to college, 
          You prayed for me.
Even when I went to serve
In some of the most dangerous places in the world,
I never heard a word of dissuasion from you.
And when our home pastor left for other fields,
You put me in the pulpit first,
          Before I'd ever preached a sermon.
                    Thanks, Dad.

The very first time you met my future wife--
On a weekend where you met many of my friends--
You told me that she, she specifically, was great.
I wasn't about to take romantic advice from my dad.
          But you were right.
Later, the first time I brought her up to meet the family,
You told me right away
That it was OK if I wanted to marry her.
That time, I knew you were right
          Even before you said it.
                    Thanks, Dad.

You treat my wife like a treasured daughter.
You treat my kids like just about the greatest thing in the world,
And again you're right--
          Because that's exactly what they are.
Now I'm a dad--a good dad, I think--
But as I sit here and remember,
I know how lucky I am:
In the school of fatherhood,
          I was apprenticed to a master.
                    Thanks, Dad.

1 comment:

Naomi Smith said...

Matt, this might be the best father's day tribute Ja and I have ever read. Here's to your good dad, and to you, too. We sure are glad you married that wonderful woman. Happy Father's Day!