It was a hot day, I did not have a hat on and I was beginning to sweat. I was standing next to the grave-site of one of my CLC colleagues who had died on the island of Trinidad and was listening to people sing hymns. I was still in shock that she had died and was getting more and more uncomfortable in the black suit that I was wearing. As I stood there, I could not help but remember that the person we were burying was hired by my Dad many years before and how much he and my mom would have wanted to have been at this event. Somehow, in a strange way I was now his representative and was walking in his shoes. In a great irony, it was only a few days earlier that I had watched with sadness how hard it was for him to walk at all.
It was on the island of Trinidad that I first remember understanding what my Dad did for a living and really being fascinated by his work. Our family had moved to the island to serve as missionaries and my Dad was learning a new skill. He had been a printer for most of his life up until that point, but was now learning how to run a bookstore. This was what God had called him to do and he took it on with gusto. I am not sure how hard this was for him to switch careers midstream in his early professional life, but I am guessing it was not easy. Despite that reality, I never heard my Dad complain about his work and instead saw a man who loved a challenge and embraced it wholeheartedly.
My Dad saw something unique in me from an early age. He knew that I loved to read and encouraged that habit by getting books for me and even reading to me himself when he could. Our family had a commitment to family devotions on a daily basis. One way that my Dad kept me interested in what could have become a tedious routine was to have me read the Bible story to the rest of the family. Sometimes he let me lead in prayer and always he made sure that we understood that this time was sacred and even more important that our meal times. He was deeply concerned about my spiritual welfare and let me ask him the thousands of questions that kept popping into my head as a child about life, God and what it really meant to be a Christian.
As I got a little older, I wanted to hang out with my Dad more and he found a way to make that possible. Despite the fact that he worked on Saturdays, he regularly allowed me to help with whatever he was doing. Sometimes I tagged along as he was setting up a bookstall in the local farmers market and on many occasions I just went to work with him and got lost in books, comic books and reading the newspaper in his office. Instead of considering me a nuisance, he embraced me as something of an apprentice. I learned what it meant to experience the favor of my father and began to grow in wisdom and stature as my heavenly father had done two millennia earlier.
My Dad no longer works in a bookstore, but he is no less of an example to me now than he was then. In humility, he asked for my help when he had a recent back surgery and I was delighted to be there for him. It was not easy to see him is so much pain, but I realized that the favor and love that he had bestowed on me was now coming back to honor him through the legacy of his four children and many grandchildren. I think the hospital staff must have wondered what celebrity they had on their ward as so many people came to see him, pray for him and wish him well. To God’s glory my Dad is recovering now and is in a lot less pain and walking far better than he had just a few weeks ago.
As I follow in my father’s footsteps and get older each year myself, it will be my joy to walk where he walked and to serve where he served. Some of the people at the funeral that day even commented how much I look like my Dad these days and I could not help but smile at that comparison. Though I know that my Dad would chuckle at that comparison too, he would also have another concern. He is far more concerned that I should look and act like another Father that we both serve and love. My greatest tribute to my earthly father will be to learn daily what it means to embrace Jesus more and more as my primary model for life and faith on this earth. Thanks Dad for making that your life’s greatest ambition. I am forever indebted to you for showing me an example of a life transformed.