My dad would tell you that he made mistakes as a father. But I do not have the energy, nor have I the want, to spend time thinking about what went wrong in my childhood. Instead, I have elected to think about what went right. And particularly what went right with my dad.
Though my dad has many unique eccentricities that endear me to him, (like the fact that he never cared about sports but absolutely loved nature, or that he has given me at least 12 Swiss army knives and noted their country of fabrication each time, or that he is a history whiz, or that he can make a garden salad that will put all other salads to shame) there are three things that stand out as particularly formative for me. And they are the following:
- My dad never told me for whom he voted.
- My dad taught me to pay attention to my gut.
- My dad never, never one time, spoke an unkind word about my mother.
These three things, I have come to realize, have helped to shape and form me and how I understand the world. Let me tell you why.
1. My dad never told me for whom he voted. He simply went to the ballot and pulled the lever according to his convictions. And then he went on about his business. He told me that I have that same right; that I don’t have to ever share with anyone my political preference. I have formed by own thoughts and opinions, based own my own critical thinking. Dad has given me space to discuss those things. He has challenged my thinking, but has not pressured me into thinking a certain way. I find this an oddly important formative truth. He didn’t teach me what to think about politics or social issues, but taught me how to think about them.
2. When I would (do) rant endlessly about whatever perceived injustice is accosting me or the world at the moment, my dad responds by saying, “pay attention to your gut on that,” which is entirely different than “trust your gut”. Trusting my gut takes away from trusting my God. Trusting my gut will fail me, as my feelings are as shifting as a wave tossed involuntarily about by the force of the great sea. Paying attention to my gut will allow me the space I need to critically evaluate my feelings with my thoughts. To measure them up against the Word. To seek God’s response. My gut is not always to be trusted, but it is something to which I should be attentive. Sometimes my gut is wrong. And sometimes it is not.
3. Though my parents are divorced, they have been incredibly amicable about the whole thing. I was never a messenger. They had three children together and that was enough for them to understand that they would have to communicate a bunch about life stuff. I had friends who had different experiences than mine, and it made for a very tumultuous adolescence. Additionally, never did my dad ever utter an unkind word about my mother. Not once. In fact, the opposite is true. My dad often said, still says, what a wonderful person/mother/businesswoman/spiritual leader/friend my mom is. It’s true. Perhaps he’s said nothing bad because there’s nothing bad to say, but I think it’s more than that. I think he knows that she is a part of us and we her, and so in belittling her he would belittle us. And he wouldn’t do that. He really loves us. And a fun little dividend? In a way, that observation raised my own standard of how I expected to be treated. I have expected to be respected, and I am. I married a man who would not speak an unkind word about me, not to my children or to anyone else. In fact, should a sweet child of ours speak back to me in his presence…well, he handles it with immediacy. That is not permissible.
And Daddy always checked my heart. He would simply say, “How’s your heart?” During their divorce he asked me that a lot. It was a brave question to ask an already overemotional tweenager in the midst of her parents’ divorce. But he asked anyway, and he always listened to my response. Sometimes I was angry. Sometimes I was angry at him. Sometimes I teared up and sat quietly, staring out the window as we drove down the highway to wherever we were going away from our home. I didn’t always have the words to respond.
He still asks me that. But when he has asked me that as an adult, I have almost always had a contented reply. Because of Christ – not my dad, not my husband, not my friends, my career, aspirations, my home or anything else – because of Christ alone, I have resolved my adulthood on the side of contentment and not despair. So when Dad asks me how my heart is now, I tell him. Exhausted and content. Enthusiastic and content. Directed and content. But generally content. If I answer that I am sad, or confused, or stressed, he texts me encouraging scripture and notes until I am through the rough spot. But I know how to recognize if it my heart isn’t right. If something is amiss, awry, off kilter. I know how to conduct a heart check. It is a practice with which I am well rehearsed. It is a practice that has saved my life, in more ways than one.
My dad has taught me more than how to buy quality products made in countries that pay their employees well, although thanks too for that little lesson, Daddy. He has taught me how to reason. And how to recognize and respond to myself. These blessons shaped and formed and continue to help mold me. They help me to understand my Savior as well…to think rightly and not only emotionally about Him. And to get right with Him, when I have wondered away. To repent and allow God the Father to restore my heart to the fullness that He intends for it.
Daddy, I am grateful to God for you. And my heart is good.
Happy Father’s Day