It has been a long weekend for me. And I am not just talking about my hectic schedule over the past several days. I am referring to my consuming thoughts about my father.
My father was funeralized Father’s Day weekend, 1989 – twenty-two years ago.
I trust I will see my father again in glory. This is a comforting assurance for me. Yet there are still times when I still grieve his passing. It happened to me again this weekend.
I think being at my grandmother’s funeral this week did it to me. There was a slide show at the end of the service. And there was a picture of my dad, standing outside my grandparents’ house. There were several other people in the picture. But I did not pay attention to them enough to tell you who they were. All I saw was my father’s big smile. I have been consumed with thoughts of my dad the rest of the week.
Most of my weekend has spent studying and preparing myself to preach. And it has made me think much and long about how my father taught me to love books.
I do not think that my affinity for reading and research came naturally for me. I made friends with books trying to be like my father. He was an avid reader, with a library that consisted of thousands of books. We moved several times over the years. And I remember the biggest priority was always whether a potential home had a suitable place to store his books. I think he would be impressed with the library I have developed over the years.
I do not know what happened to most of my father’s books. But I still have my father’s Bible. It is filled with the study notes in the margins. When I see it, I think about the countless hours my father sat reading and studying that Bible. And it challenges me to spend much time in the word of God.
One evening, I asked my father to help me find a scripture. I quoted it to him: “If my people, who are called by my name, would humble themselves…” I knew the verse. But I did not know the reference. He told me to go get a book off his desk called a “Concordance.” He told me he would show me how to find the verse. I did not want to do that. I just wanted him to tell me the reference. He gave me a choice. Either I could get the concordance of his desk and let him show me how to find the verse or I could get his phone book off his desk and call to ask his assistant pastor, Rev. Russell Banks, where it was. I chose to call Rev. Banks. But I was rebuked by how patiently my father dealt with his prideful son. I later asked him to show me how to use a concordance. And it began a friendship with reference books that has taught me the word and help me to prepare to teach others.
My father taught a minister’s class on Tuesday nights. One night, before class, I showed the other guys several new books of sermon outlines I had bought. He sat and listened. Then he started the class by warning the other guys not to be like me. He says that I was looking for short cuts and that guys were making money writing sermon outline books for lazy preachers like me. I was challenged to dig my own wells so that I won’t have to steal other people’s water.
As I was preaching my early service this morning, I thought about how my dad used to tell people that raising me was like raising a champion horse. He was trying to discipline my ways without breaking my spirit. I do not know if he died with a sense that he succeeded. But I hope he would be proud of the man, Christian, husband, father, and minister that I have become.
I truly miss my father. And I thank God for sharing him with me as long as he did. And I pray that the Lord will keep me from dishonoring the good name my father passed on to me.