My dad was a Vietnam veteran. He listened to the blues. His favorite color was purple. He fell asleep watching baseball games. He ate McDonald’s for breakfast every day. He had a favorite spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway. He always had a bandana on him, and he’d wear one as a headband when he mowed the yard. He played the harmonica. He refused to watch anything animated until I managed to get him to sit through Shrek (but his favorite was Monsters, Inc.). He was both a Duke and a UNC fan. Even after he became a diabetic, I had to hide my candy from him or he’d eat it. He was the first in our family to attend college in any capacity. I believe he enjoyed getting ready for church because he took his time doing it every week. He really liked the Old Testament, and he always wanted to hear a sermon on “Jesus wept.” He watched Spanish soap operas, even though he didn’t know Spanish. He sang all the time. He was great at shooting pool. And as many places he’d been and as much as he’d done, he just really enjoyed being home with his family. He was the coolest man I’ve ever met.
I was very close to my dad. We were both stubborn. We had a similar sense of humor. We were both very charming, so we never really had trouble talking to other people. We both loved music, sports, and discussing God with each other. Unlike a lot of dads, he treated my brother and I exactly the same. He never left me out, and he told me how proud he was of me. He felt his life’s calling was his children, and he loved all three of us immensely.
My dad passed away on January 30, 2012. I refuse to let death erase who he was, flaws and all. I’ll not forget how wonderful he was, but I’ll not forget that he wasn’t perfect. To remember him differently than he was would be to change him, and I don’t want to do that. My dad was human. We didn’t always agree, and I can tell you with certainty that we would agree on even less were he still alive. But what I recognized the very day my dad passed into eternity and what I realize more and more the older I get is that I had 20 years with a fantastic father, and that’s more than a lot of people can say. Some people never know their fathers, and some never spend time with their fathers despite living in the same house. Some people, like my dad and his siblings did, have terrible fathers, and some never hear their fathers tell them they love them. I was blessed with a dad who told me in so many ways how much he loved me.
My dad was saved in 2001, and from that moment on, I think he tried to follow God’s example of being a father. Don’t get me wrong; my dad was always loving and did his best. I think he stepped up his game after receiving salvation. Like every other human, he couldn’t measure up to God, but I could tell he tried. He tried so hard to be a light and demonstrate God’s love, to show everyone God’s goodness.
2 Corinthians 3:2-3 (NRSV) reads, “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
I think my dad understood this, although I know he struggled with it as we all do: We are examples of Christ to those around us. We are to try to be Christ-like because people may not read the Bible, but they’ll definitely read us. We need the portrayal of Jesus that we present to others to be as accurate as possible.
God presents Himself to us daily in different ways but always in love. It could be hearing a song that you like and haven’t heard in a while or standing a long time in a checkout line because if you left sooner, you’d be in a wreck or someone giving you a compliment when you really needed to hear it. All of these are examples of acts of love from God, whether we recognize it or not.
How, then, are we demonstrating that same love to others? Our anger and bitterness won’t do it. Ignoring people and not checking in on them won’t do it. Elevating ourselves or belittling them certainly won’t do it. Letting someone else have that perfect parking space will. Encouraging someone will. Listening to someone enjoy something, even if you don’t share that interest, will do it.
All acts of kindness point to a greater source joy, and when people see these acts coming from you in a real way on a regular basis, they’ll know something’s different about you compared to the rest of the world. Jesus Himself said the world would know we are His disciples by the love we show each other (John 13:35). People will notice a difference, and that’ll give you a chance to explain what– rather, who– that difference is.
No one is perfect, but God and His love are. We may fail in presenting that to people, but I truly believe that if we try with a heart that seeks God’s kingdom, it’ll come across more often than not. The people around us may not care that much and may not accept the grace that God extends to them, but through what we do and how we treat people, they’ll know it’s there. And that’s the most important thing any of us can do for our fellow humans.
By Carrie Prevette
P.S.: Father’s Day is always rough for those who’ve lost fathers, but this year was bad because Dr. David Belcher, the most recent Chancellor of Western Carolina University, passed away from cancer he’d been fighting since April of 2016. Chancellor Belcher was WCU’s greatest champion, and he was viewed as a father by the entire WCU community. This has been a rough week for Catamounts and his family. If you don’t mind me asking, please keep his family and those of us whose lives he touched in your prayers.