Sunday, June 15, 2014

Father's Promise

A father's love never ends.

The life of a father revolves around promises.
More so than another person in the family tree, it seems that this one man has the weighty job of making sure that everything and everyone is taken care of and looked out for. Mothers also have a monumental function in our lives concerning our well-being and upbringing. The character sketch of a father, however, brings us a slightly different look into the intertwined working of how and who this person become who he is - father, dad, pops, "the old man". The two worlds of mother and father take on a different persona all their own. There are things you would only talk to dad about that you would never say around mom, and vice-versa. The car company Hyundai in promoting one of their vehicles put together a cute commercial where Dad takes the kids through several moments of high angst situations all with the simple instruction - "Don't Tell Mom". (And, yes, it goes both ways, as the commercial would reveal at the end.)

Don't know many moms that would take their kids fishing and handle all the yucky worms. That's usually a dad's responsibility. Without dad, the car would not get it's oil checked or the engine worked on. And, what about granddad. That opens the door to a whole other spectrum of memory. Grandpas seem to think it's their work to spoil the kids and show them how to be as ornery as they can be. My poppaw was the one who showed me how to twirl my spaghetti on my fork (a trick I still use to this day) instead of cutting it up on my plate. I'm sure I tend to be a little more like my grandfather in my everyday dealing with my kids. He used to have this thing for gritting his teeth when he was playing with you or tickling you while he was talking to you. He used to say, "The boy makes me grit my teeth." Ornery the man was! I get it honest.

What father has not heard the infamous phrase, "But, dad, you promised!"
It is the father's work to make sure that everybody gets what's coming to them. Good and bad.
One promise we probably did not want to see fulfilled was the promise of discipline if we did not do as we were supposed to do. The paddle or belt was a fixture in my family until I was a teenager and then my rear end could absorb the blow. I never will forget the first time I stood up and laughed as I walked away. Dad knew he would have to use a different psychology to reach the hard headed person inside. And, he did too. He found things that meant a great deal to me and would cut me off from those incentives. A stereo or a party. Whatever it took to make sure that I knew who was the one in charge.

Growing up I was the world's greatest fan of America's #1 dad - Bill Cosby.
In the 60's and 70's Cosby was known for his stand up comedy and we had all the albums.
On a cassette titled "200 M.P.H." where he spends most of his act talking about automobiles and sports cars Cosby spends a few moments talking about the differences between Mothers and Fathers. As a kid I memorized all the great skits and routines. If you're reading the blog, you should shoot over to YouTube and take in the classic routine. If you're in church on Sunday, you're in for a treat.
(I, of course, will tweak it up a bit for the church crowd.)

What Cosby seems to understand from his deal with his father was who was in charge.
Jesus seemed to always know who was the one in charge. He knew that it was not himself.
He always gave props to the Father and intentionally gave attention to the One who made all things possible. The scriptures abound with the promises of God. Jesus made sure his disciples knew that the Father wanted to bestow good gifts on them. Namely, the blessings of his Spirit. In the midst of an explanation on discipleship Jesus would mention a promise.

John 12:26

New International Version (NIV)
26 Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

 Good gifts are the blessings of a father who cares.
I can remember distinctly how my grandfather always took care of his own.
He helped me get back into a car after my first one had broke down and I spent the better part of 4 years walking or riding a bike. When the head gasket blew in the engine of the first car my grandfather helped me get he found another and got me behind the wheel of that one.

But, the thing I recall the most were shoes.
On several occasions when I would stop out to see my poppaw he would excuse himself from the room, go back to their bedroom and return with a pair of shoes. During the early to mid 1990's over what was probably a 5 year stretch I don't recall having to ever buy a pair of shoes. It might have been a few months between visits to their house. Sometimes my visits were more frequent.I didn't get a pair of shoes every time I went out to their house. Every few months, though, you could count on him leaving the room and returning with a near perfect pair of shoes. "Here, I broke these in a little bit. You and I have about the same size feet. Why don't you try them on?" I never asked. I really had no idea the blessing was coming. Without speaking it, he gave and provided.

Promises are usually unspoken.
A person don't usually come right out and say they are always going to take care of you.
The love of a father is most generally a thing that he does not a declaration he makes.
Luke 11 might just be a really good place to look at on this special day.
This passage of scripture is mostly known for the prayer that is taught to the disciples.
People learn these famous words, "Father, hallowed by thy name...", from right here. 

What is missed is the story Jesus tells afterwards. There seems to be a man who is in need and he has come late at night to ask for help. There are visitors coming to his home and he has nothing to give them. This man is hoping that his neighbor will have something, anything that he could use to meet the needs of those stopping by his house. The provider has become the beggar. How it must cripple a man to have to ask for help. My dad raised us in the light of what he was taught. To be self-sufficient. To not have to ask for help. It was thought of as sin to need to ask someone for help on anything.

I wonder what is going through this man's mind as he knocks upon his neighbor's door this night. What kind of response does he think he will receive? He is hopeful for help. The words from inside do not encourage his hopes.
‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I know my father and grandfather probably would have shooed them away. But, even in the rough and gruff moments of life, there is tenderness. Like the time I busted the control arm for steering on my '83 Chevy Cavalier Station Wagon. My dad let it sit there until it was cold outside. It was back to riding the bus or my bike. In the coldest winter we had for some time, my dad drug me down to my Grandpa Shank's garage and had me shivering in my shoes through that cold afternoon as we worked to replace that control arm. He didn't have to. He could have let me ride the bus all winter. The man in bed with his children doesn't have to get up and do anything for the man pounding in his door. But, because of his persistence, he gets up and gives him whatever he needs.

Jesus equates that moment of giving to a total stranger with how God deals with us.
God is our father. We are his children. Stop for a second and ponder it some more.
Who are we? We are the children. We are tucked away in bed. The message of the story here is about perspective. We might feel helpless and hopeless at time, like a stranger banging on the door at night. That is not who we are. We are God's children. He has us in the house when night time arrives. He has promised to care for us and provide for us. And, that he does. With the utmost care for his children and his neighbor, he meets the needs of those in need. My relationship with my grandfather taught me to honor these words.

"Ask and you shall receive.
Seek and you shall find.
Knock and the door will be opened."

When I was 18 and had a falling out with my dad, I had no where to go.
I drove out to my poppaw and mommaw's house. I came in and sat down.I needed a place to stay, but I couldn't pull it together to ask him. I left after 5 minutes and began to drive away. That notion of not asking for help was strong. But, I had nowhere else to go. Over the years my grandparents had, in part, be responsible for raising nearly all of us in the family. And, then, we made the return visit home to live in their basement. I knew this was what I needed. My destiny, if you will. But, I couldn't ask. And, yet, I knew I had nowhere to go. So, around I turned and back to their house. I walked back in. "I thought you had something to ask me, but you just couldn't spit it out." I move in for a few months. He put up with me and my habits and behaviors until it was time for me to get my own place. His promise to me, though unspoken, was to take care of his own. And, he did that unwaveringly.

Now, it is my turn. As I see my son sitting in the big chair in the living room this morning he repeats the phrase, "I am daddy. I am daddy!" In many ways, I hope not. In some existential way of caring and forgiveness from times gone by and through the channels of history, I hope he gets something good. I can only hope to share with him the specialness of a couple people who gave all they had to make sure I made it in this world.

A promise is a promise, forever.

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