My dad’s been gone almost 15 years now. When I think of him I remember his cute smile and the sound of his laughter, which came so easily. A man of character, he had the quiet confidence of a person who knows right from wrong and does not compromise the truth for a convenient lie or to easily fit in with others.
Growing up, he always sat next to me in church. We shared holding the same hymnal. Neither of us was the best singer, especially when it came to hymns that didn’t roll off the tongue with an easy melody like “Amazing Grace” or “Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus.” Many times we sat together staring at the words on the page, not uttering a sound.
Our church was a solemn church. There was no raising of hands in praise. No “Amens” shouted from the pews or the pulpit. No dancing or clapping or laughing out loud. In fact, even when the entire congregation stood up or sat down in unison, there was very little noise. Only the rustling sound of suit coats and dresses.
Trying to look solemn was hard when Dad would gently nudge me in the side, encouraging me to sing. Knowing all the time that there was no way I could carry this tune, whatever it may be, in a bucket and dump it out like cold water on those around me. Out of the corner of my eye I could see him secretly smiling. He couldn’t carry it, either. So we’d leave it alone and continue staring at the same page through multiple stanzas.
As I got older, I developed a theory that our minister could sing anything, which was true. He had the gift of music. And that he picked out the congregational hymns according to the lyrics that best fit his message. It wasn’t until Bible camp that I learned songs I could actually sing like “This Little Light” and “Kumbaya.”
And yet, some of the old hymns are the ones that mean the most to me today. The lyrics have stayed with me like an old friend who sits next to you without saying a word because you know one another so well that even in silence, unspoken words and memories fill in the spaces around you like a warm hug.
There were many Sundays spent sitting next to my dad in church, not singing together. They are happy memories. Sitting next to Dad was one of my favorite places to be, I just didn’t realize it until those days were long gone. As the years pass I appreciate them more and more. I’ve learned to be thankful for times in my life that will not come again, but leave a lasting impression. I recognize that they’ve helped to mold the person I’ve become. The lessons I’ve learned from these precious memories also help to grow me a little closer to the person God created me to be.
When I think of Dad I remember another time. It had nothing to do with singing or church. It was a day filled with sunshine and a lazy warm breeze. A day filled with possibility as it takes its time to leisurely stretch out its long arms and fingers, slowly waking up everything and everyone in its path. A day filled with new challenges.
My family was vacationing at the lake. My dad coaxed me to come to him. He was swimming in the clear water. Not a good swimmer, I didn’t want to go in. But I followed his smile and his encouraging words, all the while I was nervous. As I waded into deeper and deeper water, I became very afraid. My dad saw the fear in my eyes and picked me up and put me on his shoulders. The minute I was on his shoulders, the fear left me. I knew that he was my safe shelter. He wouldn’t let anything happen to me. I was his daughter and he loved me.
That memory stays with me. When there are times in this life that seem like deep waters wanting to overtake me, the Lord picks me up and puts me on his shoulders. Like the Good Shepherd, he carries me to safety. He is my shelter in the storms of life. He is my rock and my refuge.
If you’ve never had a good earthly father, know that the Heavenly Father will never let you down. Just as the words in Romans 8:38-39 read, nothing can separate us from God’s love. You don’t have to sing complicated hymns, just reach out to the One who created you and loves you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). Accept his son, Jesus, as your Lord and Savior and take your place as the beloved and cherished son or daughter of the best dad for eternity.