The life of following
Jesus is full of moments and scenarios lacking in clearly defined lines. There
are subtleties which require us to trust and find a middle ground. One such
dichotomy is experiences that illicit sadness, when as believers we are to be full
of joy. As a conscious decision, I tend to shy away from overtly lamenting
something personally, that everyone else ultimately endures as well.
Two years ago today my dad
passed away. No one reading can escape the inevitability of wrestling with the
death of someone dear to the heart. We are all in the same boat, being able to
identify with one another on a very personal, meaningful level. When I read of
a friend, even a distant acquaintance, who loses a father, my soul is pricked
and it bleeds a little with compassion and heartache. It is something with
which I can identify and empathize without much effort. I feel it…I feel the
person who is enduring the loss.
Feelings are interesting.
I cannot recall the last time I shed a tear over my dad no longer being a
living part of my life. Certainly this morning as I looked through a few videos
and photos my eyes glassed over, but the sharpness of the pain has subsided
over time. In the early days, it didn’t take much to illicit tears and the
sorrow had a physical nature. It reached into the deep places of my body and
wrenched muscles and organs. A photo, Bass Pro Shop, the Vols, a Super Bowl, the plant in my office, the smell of gun oil, my truck, my phone contacts…the list was lengthy of things that triggered intense emotions. Over two years the intensity has dulled and settled into a muted, but ever present ache.
You become accustomed to it…you get used to it…but it seems I will never be rid of the undercurrent of loss. I have often compared it to shopping in a store that is playing music in the background. You focus on shopping and you don’t really notice the music. It’s there. It creates a certain atmosphere. Then a song comes on that you know really well and your attention automatically shifts in its direction. The tune draws you into a particular place and time of your life and connects you to memories and emotions. One minute you are going about your business, attentive to the task and at hand, and in a moment you are pulled into another time and place. Loss has the same affect.
I can say comfortably, I don’t have any regrets with my dad. There are no gnawing “what ifs” under the surface. Our relationship was what it was. The father son dynamic is special and at times uncomfortable. I see it playing it out with my 7 year old son. He has this ever present tension of wanting to conquer me, to destroy me…yet this intense yearning to be near me, to press against my strength and be validated by my voice. The internal pull to not need dad, to be individually capable…yet the peace which accompanies his company and shelter. In death, the narrative hones in a little more to the things that matter most.
My dad was special. He isn’t your dad so the nuances of his life would be lost on you so I will refrain from all the details. I can say I am incredibly proud of my dad. His life story is utterly fascinating and an inspiration. He was beloved by many. He had this unusual mixture of joy and focus. He was the life of the party and someone everyone enjoyed being around, but he had an authoritative edge which caused people to not cross him. He commanded respect and compelled people to great loyalty. He was very focused on doing a job with excellence, but along the way he had the ability to pause and be human. I could go on all day…
The Lord is so strategic. So many of the things I have needed to lead in the capacity I am assigned to lead were embedded in my dad and passed down to me. The Lord imagined me and released me into earthly existence with an assignment and funneled me through a dad from whom I would inherit strategic equipment for the task ahead. Maybe for that I am most grateful. If you never met my dad, you have certainly seen him in my mannerisms, demeanor and function as a leader. If my life has affected yours positively, my dad’s ways are a contributing factor. My dad had no clue just how much of who he was has affected so many lives, not just directly but also through his son.