There were days in my young life that I thought my dad was the meanest, most antagonistic, unrealistic and unreasonable man alive. In fact I spent many times in my closet repeating the words, “I hate him, I hate him!” when I was a child. The truth is I loved him deeply and it was one of my main objectives in life to win him over and gain his approval.
My dad never raised a hand to me, but his words could cut deeper into my heart than a two-edged sword. At the time those words were nothing but hurtful to me, but they had more impact on the person I would someday become than he ever could have imagined. In today’s world his words would scream “verbal abuse,” but in his eyes he was toughening me up for the cold, cruel world I would someday face. To tell you the truth, I would much rather have faced the cold world.
He had a whole slew of issues dealt to him in his own childhood. His father deserted the family when he was just a small boy. He never had the advantage of a father’s love so he found it difficult to show it to his own children. He never really experienced childhood either. Everything centered around taking care of his siblings and helping to provide for them. His work ethic was born in that experience.
Despite the fact that he wasn’t the “Father Knows Best” dad that all kids wanted their dads to be, he did the best he could. He worked two jobs and sometimes more so that we could have the things we needed and wanted. He made sure we had a Christian education. I know he loved us, even though he didn’t often say it. He would brag about us when we weren’t present, because he didn’t want us to get big heads.
I learned some valuable life lessons from him even though I didn’t realize it at the time. I learned to work hard for the things I wanted in life. In fact, I learned to do more than was expected. I also found that life isn’t always easy and that we have to take the good with the bad. I discovered that I should never underestimate myself or my abilities. He taught me to dream.
My dad was only 61 years old when he died. Before his death I wrote him a letter to express my love for him. Here is an excerpt from that letter:
“When I was growing up there were times I couldn’t understand you. I often thought you didn’t know a thing. When I became a parent, I realized that you were one of the wisest men I’ve ever known. You shaped my life into something I can be proud of. Our children are with us for such a short time and we’re never sure if we’ve done all we could for them. You did your job, Dad. I hope you know that and because of it I love you forever.”
Being a perfect dad is impossible, just like it’s impossible to be all that God wants us to be. We can try to meet the requirements, but we always fall short. The beauty of God’s fatherly love is that He looks beyond our imperfections and loves us anyway.