My dad was a coal miner for most of his life. He served in WWII in the 79th Division in the US Army, in the 314th Infantry. He received the Purple Heart for being shot in a hedgerow in France. In all, he spent 26 months sleeping in the European mud before returning home, and well, with my mother’s help, gave me life.
The most important fact about my dad and me is that we had ‘relationship’. Now if you were watching us, some of the time our relationship could be misunderstood. If you looked at it from the outside, he could have looked (to someone that did not know or understand him) too direct or too firm, but that was not really the case. He just understood that he had a responsibility to try and train me in a way that gave me the best chance in life, to get the most purpose out of life that I could. He took that seriously but not selfishly. My great benefit was that I didn’t misunderstand dad’s love. In my mind there was never any question about how much he cared, how much he tried to be a guardian for me.
What I saw was someone that held two jobs much of my childhood. He did that to make ends meet. He never came to me and said, “Hey, I’m working day and night here for you and the rest of the family”, but I knew that he was away a lot of the time trying to make my mother’s, my brother’s and sister’s and my life better. I saw him scrimp to come up with the money to buy my first baseball glove, a Rawlings glove, the best! Paul Wilson ran the local DX ‘filling station’ and he kept a few gloves in the station to sell. That moment was overwhelming to me; it was so thoughtful and giving on my father’s part. Up until then, I don’t know if I’d ever experienced someone sacrificing specifically for me, denying their needs, just to make my life better. I noticed what a joy it was for dad to give me that glove. Actually, he got as much out of giving it as I got out of receiving it. My playing ability never did justify the purchase, but he never complained. I saw many unspoken things about dad that translated love for my mother and three kids. He didn’t ‘toot’ his own horn but he simply, quietly cared for all of us in his unique way.
The relationship between dad and me was one that was largely understood, not necessarily expressed. Occasionally, we would slug away at each other’s shoulder, but we used that ‘touching’ as more of an expression of fondness for each other, never a real blow. I could see the pleasure in his eye as I grew up and matured. He never said anything, but I could tell that he ‘loved’ when life went well for me. I got to where I assumed his caring whether he said anything directly to me or not. As our children were born, he delighted for Jane and me. In the last few years of his life, dad fought prostate cancer and gradually it wore away at this life. One of the really dear moments, one of the most special moments for me, was one late August day in 1998. Dad and I picked up hay out of the field together that day. He was very sick, actually dad died a few months later. But it was the unspoken sharing that took place that day that was so special. He and I didn’t talk about the pain and failing health. We talked of everything else with no words said about what we would be facing shortly, but there were unspoken words we each had in our hearts. I knew, and he knew, this was our last day to stack hay in the barn. (Even today, I don’t ever enter the barn loft without those feelings being re-kindled.) The charming part was that each of us enjoyed one another; we trusted one another without much expression. There was a confidence that each had about the other, a comfort that only comes when two trust and respect the other. He did not have to say it, I did not have to look for it, and we both understood it. It came from years of relationship.
I’ve said all that about my dad because I want you to know that the blessings I received from my dad were, in a large part, because of the way I saw him, how I perceived him. When we did not see eye to eye, I never did perceive him as a father that just wanted his way or wanted to control me for selfish reasons. I trusted him; I knew him, and had all the confidence in the world that anything that dad might say or do was motivated by a great love for me. His love was not self-centered. It was compassionate for me. That’s important in our Christian Life as well. How we perceive ‘our Father’ works the same way. How we see Him makes a difference in the relationship we have with him. If we don’t know what to expect, don’t know what He might do next, how can we live peacefully with God? Jesus told us that no man (prior to Christ coming) had seen the Father, but Jesus came to show us Who He really was. He instructed us that if we could perceive Christ’s heart we could perceive the Father’s Heart. You see, the way I perceived my dad was directly proportional to the amount of blessing I could receive from my dad. Knowing him, trusting him relaxed my relationship with dad. The way I perceived my Father was directly proportional to the amount of blessing I could receive from Him. Have you noticed how Jesus approached Peter in Matthew 16? His question to the apostle was simply, ‘Who do you say I am?’ Why did Jesus do that? Because what we say affects what we believe about God, which has an effect on what we see and experience of God. Jesus was leading Peter to think about that. Christ still asks each of us that same question today. Who do we say He is? What do we expect of Him? How do you see your relationship between you and God the Father? If we don’t see that relationship correctly, how will we ever get the right answer to that question?
When Jane was so sick, so close to death, it never entered our minds that God’s fingerprints were on that moment of such pain. Instead, of looking for a great lesson to be learned, we were looking for and received great Comfort and Peace. We knew that God was with us, cared for us, provided Grace to us. We were not suspicious of His place in our experience, trusting was easy. Confidence was natural for us because we know the Father in the same way that I knew my dad. My dad gave me life and up until the very time of his death, dad spoke and did everything to root me on in this life. I remember so well the words of care and love he spoke to me from his hospital bed. No matter what it looked like externally, I never did misunderstand my dad’s heart for me. That benefited the relationship we both enjoyed with one another. Likewise, there is no double-mindedness in my relationship with my Father; it’s stable because I know I can trust Him in every situation. Jesus advised us to be single-eyed, not looking to the right or the left to perceive Him, to look at the Father face to face. The most important phrase I learned in all my chasing the Bible meanings and all the studies, books, tapes and teachings did not come from any of those. It was a simple a statement made to me years ago by a friend; it has been a ‘true North’ marker for me ever since. Simply put “Dad ain’t mad.” That knowledge made a difference in my relationship with my earthly father; it has made a profound difference in my relationship with my Heavenly Father. That phrase has made all the difference. We are not to be ‘double-minded’, no Good God/Bad God. I’ve made up my mind about my Dad, He is for me, He is for you! I’m not afraid, not overwhelmed, not ashamed because I know my Dad just like I knew the comfort from my dad!