A time of reflection.
Father's Day week is typically a time of reflection for many of us. It's a week of valued life intersections---remembrance of our fathers, the joys and challenges of being fathers, and perhaps thoughts of do-overs we imagine in the rear-view mirror of life. For me these reflections find greater definition when viewed through the influence of the people pictured above---our dad, The Chester, at left; Harriet, the wife whose hours in a labor room gave me the privilege of being a father, the center picture; and, Liz and Brian, at right, the beautiful children who have so blessed my life as a father. Like most of us, my memory is annotated with asterisks and parenthetical scribbles that bring clarity and perhaps some levity to the main story lines. They remind me of a father's influence, more specifically, how The Chester prepared us for life, how the partnership of mother/father managed our home for forty-five years, and the dynamic joys that our children brought to that most reverenced ideal of family.
The other day The Chester and I had an honest review of his profound influence on me, our brother Mike, and our sister Christie. He'll be 91 in July, has experienced some health issues since a serious fall last year, and was in the mood to reminisce about the mileage he's accumulated in those years. Being raised in the mill villages of Walhalla, SC, he went to work fighting forest fires in 1944 before he reached the age of joining the United States Navy during World War II. After having served on the USS Wisconsin, BB 64, he was discharged and pursued further education at North Greenville College, then a two year Associates Degree program. There he met the May Queen, Esther Mae Owens and they were married before he began his career in the insurance business. With veteran's benefits, he enrolled at Furman University and graduated in 1949 with honors. His senior picture in the Furman Bonhomie is annotated with the fact that he was newly a father. That would be me.
That hour or so we rehearsed those many years of family growth and his profound influence on me, Mike, and Christie. Like most achievers, the retrospective was punctuated with his many accomplishments, and also the dreams and wishes that were never realized. That was when I interrupted his thoughts to remind him of three significant influences this father has expressed to his children.
1. The Chester raised us in a Christian home and always took us to church.
Scripture is clear about the role of a father in the home. Paul wrote---
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the
discipline and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:4, ESV
As one old Bay Boomer said, "I had a drug problem when I was a child. My parents
drug me to church three times a week." And, that was us, Mike, Christie, and me.
Ours was a home constructed on strong Christian principles. He taught us the place
of faith in our lives and wept when we professed Jesus as Lord and received
believer's baptism. He taught us the joys of Bible study and the disciplines of the
Christian life. It was perhaps his greatest contribution to us.
2. The Chester modeled the blessings of Christian marriage.
Mom and dad were married for fifty-eight years. He truly believed what the Apostle
Paul wrote about husband/wife relationships: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ
loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Ephesians 5:15, ESV). This truth was
evident in our home at every turn. Today, we are so grateful for this example. All of
us have been married to the same person these many years. What a legacy in these
times. We are the beneficiaries of their commitment and faithfulness.
3. The Chester educated the three of us.
Chester and Esther sacrificed much so that their children could receive a college
education. They paid the entire cost of our tuition, room and board, and a spending
allowance. I graduated from The Citadel debt free. Mike received his degree from
Furman University and Christie from Mars Hill College, also without debt. This
education was important to him. Today it is important to us. And, we are grateful.
Of course, the line items of his influence over us could extend for pages. His humor, his financial acumen, his work ethic, his belief in the Scriptural injunction, "But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Timothy 5:8, ESV) are hallmarks of a life well lived according to God's standards. In review, these three stand out!
So, this week, I am reflective. A father's influence is profound. Today, I am grateful for the many ways The Chester has impacted my life.
Happy Father's Day week, dad!