What I Learned From My Father
For the past week I’ve been thinking about my dad. I’ve thought about many of these things over the past 20 years of being an adult — and even more over the past 12 years of being a dad. But a week ago my dad died suddenly and unexpectedly.
I think after someone passes on there is a tendency to want to speak of only the “nice” things of their life. I think this can do a dishonor to their legacy. No one is perfect, so acting like they were is not living in reality. Part of the legacy of a father is helping your kids learn from your mistakes, so they do not have to repeat them and go through the same pain you went through. My dad was not perfect. Stay around him long enough and he may frustrate you. But one thing that has been confirmed to me since my father’s passing is that he was a great and influential man — and I have the dozens and dozens of comments from the people he influenced his whole life to prove it.
So below are a few things I learned from my dad. Not all of them are serious and not all show him in a perfect light, but greatness has less to do with perfection and more to do with how you get up after you fail.
You Can Make Friends Anywhere
My family always joked about how easy it was for my dad to make friends — and how it skipped a generation when it came to me. My dad could talk to anyone about anything. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you I once saw him go up to a complete stranger — a tourist from Asia so there was a language barrier — and start talking to him about the man’s camera. I’m pretty sure he has exchanged phone numbers at times with the people he has just met.
For someone like me, who is more introverted, it reminds me that with kindness and genuine interest in people you can make friends with anyone. People respond to that kind of love and authenticity.
My dad was the most generous person I know…period. He knew what it was like to have nothing, so when he had something to give, he would. My dad has paid for more meals, lent or gifted more money to people than anyone I know.
After watching this my entire life, the lesson I glean from this is my dad always bounced back — financially or otherwise. He may have done some unwise things, but Proverbs 22:9 says, “The generous will themselves be blessed, for they share their food with the poor.” I don’t know how to explain it other than my dad always dealt generously with people and the Lord always dealt generously with him.
In addition to that, being generous is just a more pleasant way to live your life. I saw how much fun it was for my dad to bless people. He loved it! There is a great feeling you get from being around generous people. My dad lived out the words of Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”
Put Family Over Work
My dad was an entrepreneur and a type A personality. He had some great stories of the businesses he started while still in High School. I think it helped that he hated working on his dad’s farm, so he looked for a job elsewhere as soon as he could.
One of the areas my dad struggled with was knowing how to prioritize family above work. This struggle led to us not being very close, especially in my younger years. You might think it is impolite to honor my dad’s memory in this way. I disagree for a few reasons. 1) People are complicated and I’m not blaming him for anything. I realize there were all sorts of issues at play, including his own family of origin issues. 2) I am learning from his mistakes, trying to prioritize my own family above work. There are times when I’m working a lot and remember this lesson from my dad and correct my priorities. That is now part of my dad’s legacy.
Devotions Are Important
My dad was a real role model when it came to devotions. He read his Bible and prayed every morning. I went through a period in Jr High where I wanted nothing to do with God. I was in a very rebellious place. Every morning I would walk downstairs for school and see my dad kneeling on the piano bench praying…for me! In my head I was saying, “Stop praying for me.”
A few days ago I was looking through his Bible. It was marked up and highlighted throughout the whole thing. In addition, on his phone he had a bunch of notes that were filled with prayer guides and promises from Scripture. He loved the Lord. True story: he used to listen to his Gather videos so loud that I used to come out of my room and yell at him to turn it down because I was trying to study. He loved Jesus…and now he’s with Jesus!
Seek God & Work Hard
As I mentioned before, my dad was an entrepreneur. In high school he started the first disposal company in his little town. He used to sell the manure from the cows on the farm as fertilizer to their neighbors. He worked for AT&T laying some of the first phone lines connecting small towns. He started a Private Investigator agency that flourished until he sold it. And later, he started an Insurance Agency and became one of the largest agencies for Private Investigator insurance.
My dad showed me that if you have vision and you are willing to work hard, your chance for success goes up tremendously. However, in light of a few of the other lessons I wrote about my dad, the one caveat is he also knew it wasn’t the way to success alone. My dad put into practice Matthew 6:33, “…seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”
It’s only been about a week since my father’s death. I’m sure there will be more lessons that will pop up at time goes on. I suppose this is my way of honoring his life. Like Moses, Abraham, King David, you and me, my dad was flawed in many ways and yet God used him to influence and bless many people. Don’t let your flaws make you feel disqualified for use in God’s Kingdom. I guess that’s the last lesson my dad taught me.
Tags: Life Lessons
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