Father's Day reflections

16 Jun 2024
Father's Day

On a Sunday morning in June 2010, I first heard the congratulatory phrase directed toward me. As I turned the corner at a Texas church where my wife served as children’s minister, a sprightly, elementary-aged girl cried out, “Happy Father’s Day, Mr. Ben!”

I accepted the words with delight, since my wife and I had just learned we were pregnant with our first child. No one at the time knew it. But, when my wife and I finally told everyone, an elementary-aged boy – who was at the church every time the doors were open and saw us together often – cried out in astonishment, “You two are married?!!!” Yes, we replied with a laugh, we indeed were married.

Then, in the blink of an eye, I was holding my baby girl – and my only desire was to cherish her and protect her.

My son, born 21 short months later, was different. When I learned our second child was a boy, I dreamed of all I hoped to teach him someday. I suppose I felt this way because I enjoyed, as a child, learning from my own dad – though, no doubt, some lessons took root more easily than others.

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My dad taught me, among many other things, to appreciate what one historian has called “the poetry of history” – that is, “the quasi-miraculous fact that once, on this earth, once, on this familiar spot of ground, walked other men and women, as actual as we are today, thinking their own thoughts, swayed by their own passions, but now all gone, one generation vanishing into another….”

This appreciation for history didn’t solely come through the books that still line his shelves, in multiple layers. Since before I was born, my dad has been an enthusiast for archaeology, and for many years he was a member of the Oklahoma Archaeological Society. This gave him the opportunity to participate in archaeological excavations on the western plains of Oklahoma where we lived, and my dad occasionally brought me along.

Often, on these occasions, we helped a team of archaeologists methodically strip back layers of soil, and we occasionally found pottery or arrowheads. But, on one occasion, we helped uncover the buried remains of a Native American dwelling, under which we found a burial pit with a person’s skeleton intact. I vividly remember scraping away the soil around this person’s remains and wondering who he or she had been.

Few experiences could have helped me better appreciate “the poetry of history” – and this lesson has held me in good stead. After all, it ultimately sparked in me an interest in Scripture, in biblical archaeology and in the history of the church, interests that have fed my faith for decades now. And, with the help of my wife, I’ve enjoyed passing these lessons onto my own children.

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One of the unexpected blessings of marriage has been hearing the faith stories that have come down to us from my wife’s grandfather.

My wife’s grandpa was a longtime, faithful preacher in northwest Missouri. He loved people, loved the church, and loved the Lord – and his love wasn’t dimmed at the end of his life, even as he dealt with Alzheimer’s.

Every morning, no matter the day, my wife’s grandpa would dress in his best Sunday clothes, ready to preach the Word.

Despite his illness, he was also a passionate evangelist to the end. One day, my father-in-law received a call from the police. His dad had wandered out of the house and was walking down the middle of the local main street. When my father-in-law picked up his dad, the roles were suddenly reversed, and the child was looking after the parent. “You can’t wander away from home, dad! Why did you do that?” His father’s reply left a lasting impression. “Well, I was going to visit my friend. See, he doesn’t know the Lord, and I thought today might be the day he would be saved.”

I’m thankful, this Father’s Day, to have such a heritage of faith, and I pray I might be able to leave such an example for my own children and grandchildren someday.

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Of course, the greatest blessing we can recall on Father’s Day is that God Himself has made us His own children through faith in Jesus Christ. The apostle John captures the wonder in this truth: “See what great love the Father has given us that we should be called God’s children – and we are!” (1 John 3:1).

Happy Father’s Day!

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