With Father’s Day approaching, my thoughts are drawn to my father, who left this earth to be with Jesus in 2014. Naturally speaking, my dad’s life taught me many things. He worked a LOT to keep my childhood happy and carefree, so I inherited a strong work ethic, learning to work hard and save for things in life. As a kid, though, I didn’t understand why lights always had to be off when we left a room or why the refrigerator door or front door to our house couldn’t remain open because “money doesn’t grow on trees” or “we don’t live in a barn,” as just a few examples of perplexing things fathers say to kids.
As a rebellious teen, even more things my dad said and did wore on my nerves. I often viewed him as annoying and sometimes getting in the way of what I wanted to do and hopelessly not able to understand my world. I failed to see him as the foundation of my security and well-being in the tireless daily contributions my parents both invested in our family.
Growing older, your perspective sharpens and you begin to notice things that escaped attention before.
Shortly after my baptism, my dad handed me a packet of church literature and pamphlets in a big envelope, where he had written on the front, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (Timothy 2:15).
I never read that verse before, but suddenly I knew why I’d observed my dad often hunched over a table with scriptures open, scribbling notes furiously in tablets. And why after family dinners at my grandparent’s home, he sat in the living room and discussed scriptures with his father-in-law, as my siblings and I played games with my uncle and my mom and grandma washed dishes. It took me years to digest the packet of reading material my father carefully selected for me, but I understood that was the start of how my dad, who never graduated high school and lacked much of an earthly education, knew the scriptures so well. I could always ask him, “Dad, where does it say _______ in the Bible?” and he would have an answer in a matter of minutes.
Today we have a wonderful Church app to easily search for phrases and words in scriptures in seconds. As convenient as apps are in a technology-drenched world, nothing replaces the benefits of a worn-out Bible. I recall a sermon where Brother Jim Link encouraged all to make sure our Bibles were “puffy” with use. One of our son’s favorite quotes is “A Bible that is falling apart usually belongs to someone who isn’t.”
My dad completely wore out multiple Bibles in his lifetime. After his funeral, I asked my mom if I could have one. One summer day, when I particularly missed him, I sat on my back patio with it in my lap, opened it randomly, and my eyes fell on Psalm 103 because it was full of his handwritten notes, circles, and highlights.
As I read, I felt overwhelmingly close to my dad because I realized I was literally in a place where he had been before me reading, “Like a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For He knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust…” (verses 13-14) I could barely read through my tears by the 17th verse, which says, “The mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children’s children.”
At some point in life, you begin to see your parents outside of their role as your parent, as fellow human beings who journeyed the earth only a generation ahead of you. I began to wonder why my dad circled the things he did in that chapter. Was he weary? Discouraged by life’s battles? Was he my age as the words spoke to him? I’ll never know for sure, but I unexpectedly saw my dad’s Bible had left trail markers for me like hikers do in unfamiliar territory.
A brother and close friend of our family in the Church, often talks about writing the initials “T.P.” next to verses in the scriptures he has found “tried and proven” to remind him that God’s word is alive, relevant, and still comforting souls throughout the ages.
As our daughter neared the end of her graduate studies, she told me the faculty prepared her graduating class for life post-university by emphasizing they were ultimately responsible for their own education. They shouldn’t arrive at a workplace blaming any lack of knowledge on someone else. Ultimately it is in their hands to make up any deficiencies after the educational institution provided the fundamentals.
That outlook sums up what the verse my dad wrote for me years ago is saying. Church, as my spiritual educational institution provides the basics, but it is up to me to study and dig deeper. Timothy says in the next chapter (2 Tim. 3:16-17) “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”
Thanks, Dad, for helping me to see I need to be thoroughly furnished (equipped) for this life through God’s word and teaching me to leave a few notes in the instruction manuals for those walking after me.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.