FORT WORTH, Texas – I was blessed to have my dad when I was growing up. Not only that, I also knew both of my grandfathers (since they were World War II vets, one at Utah Beach and the other on Guadalcanal, that was not a given). Not everybody is as blessed as I was.
Today, many boys – through no fault of their own – grow up with no dad in sight. Because of that situation, these boys are put at a great disadvantage. One of the true treasures of my childhood was the father-son relationship with my dad. I watched him. I copied him. I learned from him. All other men were measured against him. From an early age, I wanted to be a man like Dad.
I would not be the same man, husband, father today if it were not for the things I learned from my dad. Some lessons of manhood are caught as much as taught. Not all lessons were positive and many would not show up in a Sunday School curriculum. Dad did not always mean to be teaching me, but I learned from him nonetheless. Many of the manhood lessons that I learned from my dad are hard to express in words. However, I will try to verbalize at least a few of them:
– Men work hard – a lesson Dad learned from his dad. My dad worked the day shift at his job (maintenance/electrical) and then came home in the late afternoon to work at home. Dad built our home. He fenced in the pasture. He planted gardens. He fixed our cars. He trained our animals. When finances were tight, he took on outside jobs for extra cash. Whatever the task before him, Dad worked until it was done, even if it took longer than he or Mom liked.
– Men serve others. Before he was ever labeled a “deacon” at his church, Dad served people. He did not speak often in a public setting, but he was the “behind-the-scenes” man that made life easier for others. He worked in the bus ministry at church. He helped in children’s church. He did (and still does) pro bono electrical work for widows. Small tasks didn’t bore him. Dirty tasks didn’t scare him.
– Men love their families. Dad did not do sappy sentimentalism. Hallmark never asked him to write cards for them. However, he loved us and it showed. He provided for us and worked harder if we needed more. He took us to our sport practices and taught us to fish. He loved our mom and spent weekends with us. He talked with us about life choices.
– Men make choices and live with consequences. Leading a home is not a glamorous position filled with lots of accolades. It is not about “coming up big” in the big moments. Leading a home is about thousands of small, daily choices. For Dad, many of these decisions were already made. Once you made a principled decision, as future similar choices appeared you already knew what to do. Dad taught us that with each choice comes a consequence, good or bad. He learned from his own dad that bad choices bring bad consequences. Dad did not shield us from the consequences of our choices. If I challenged his authority, there were consequences. If I made foolish choices at school or in the neighborhood, I suffered the consequences. My natural pride and stubbornness often led me to challenge this choice-consequence relationship. Dad let me see that it applied to me as well.
– Men trust the Lord. Before Dad married my mom, he had strayed from the Lord and knew it. However, when they were expecting me, through repentance and faith, my dad renewed his walk with the Lord and my mom professed her faith through baptism. As a consequence (see previous lesson), all I ever knew was a Christian home. Dad (and Mom) made sure that my brother and I were involved in church during our childhood and teen years. When he faced difficulties or hard choices, Dad leaned on the Lord. Even though our financial provisions often were modest, Dad taught us to be thankful to the Lord for what we had. Dad reminded me that my faith in the Lord should end up with obedience to the Lord.
I am thankful for the many lessons that I learned from my dad. Now that I have five children of my own, it is my time to invest in my children and to trust them to the Lord. I hope to teach my three sons to be real men who will walk with the Lord. To all the fathers out there, I challenge you to meditate on Deuteronomy 6, Psalm 78 and Ephesians 6. Make these texts the formative wisdom of your life. If you do, your children will blessed by a dad who teaches them to trust the Lord, as I was.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Jason Lee is associate professor of historical theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. This column first appeared at TheologicalMatters.com, a blog of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.)