I never realized until a few years ago just what an astonishing man my father is. Many men would be intimidated by having a daughter, but my father jumped in with both feet. Looking back now, I realize that he gave me so many gifts. These are just a few:
My father gave me strength.
My father had expected me to be a boy—he had even picked out an appropriately manly name for me—but my arrival changed plans dramatically. He had not planned for a girl.
A girl? What should he do with her? God hadn’t given him a son, so some boyish activities would have to go. “Being feminine doesn’t mean you have to be weak,” Dad said. "Be strong. If you’re strong, use your strength to help others.”
So I learned how to climb a rope, wrestle, run like a deer, throw a ball (still not very good at it), and punch straight. As I grew, he taught me the basics of shooting a gun, how to identify edible wild plants, how to change my car's oil, and how to exercise in the way that was best for me.
I can’t say that I’m just bursting with muscles, but I’m not helpless either. I clearly remember one time when my mother and I picked up mulch from the local garden store. Mom and I hefted these fifty-pound bags before the men in the store could aid us. I wish I could have sent my dad a picture of the looks on those guys’ faces.
Yep, dudes, I’m the daughter of a strong man.
My father gave me words.
My father brought me up with books. At one time, he read aloud every night, from books both simple and complex. His library of hundreds (thousands?) of books was available to any of us kids who showed an interest. He taught me how to properly “break in” the binding of a new book, and apparently passed on to me the gene that results in compulsive reading of everything, even the back of a shampoo bottle.
My father did more than create an avid reader. He created a life-long learner, with all the advantages of a well-read mind. And he created a writer. I cried the day that I found a note written in his spidery handwriting on the front page of my latest novel manuscript.
Daughter, this is beautiful. Our Lord is pleased. Do something with this story. It’s well worth sharing.
As I’ve grown and shaped my craft, I’ve realized that I really seek his approval. Does he like my work? Does he think I can do better? He is not an easy critic. Those who wish for easy approval should not seek my father’s opinion. But when his approval is given, I know that it’s completely genuine, that I have earned it.
Whatever my writing becomes in my lifetime, I want my father to know: Every word has a drop of him in it.
My father gave me conviction.
I love the story Richard Wurmbrand tells in his book Tortured for Christ. When the Communists declared that Christianity and Communism were basically the same thing, Sabina turned to her husband. “Stand and say something! Wipe the shame from the face of Christ!”
“If I do so, you lose your husband,” Richard replied.
“I do not wish to have a coward for a husband.”
Richard stood, spoke, and spent the next 14 years in prison, tortured in unimaginable ways for the Cross.
My father would be the first to admit that he is no Richard Wurmbrand, but I see the some of the same fire in my father. There is a sense in which every man of worth must be a warrior. I’ve seen my father take an unpopular stand because his conscience would not permit him to be silent. I’ve seen him speak when he would much rather be silent, and bend his back to a burden when he would much rather walk away. I’ve seen him commit to my mother with a ferocity that makes me praise God for a father who won’t quit.
My father gave me truth.
“You are brainwashing your kids!” someone protested to my father.
“Darn right I am,” Dad replied. “Somebody’s going to, and it better be me!”
Well, I’ve been brainwashed, all right. I know there is a God who made me, and that Christ, who died for me, lives at this very moment inside of me. I know that this life is important, and that eternity is even more important. And that’s largely because of my father.
He read us Scripture in the evening when I was a child. He taught us over dinner, everything from Biblical patterns of growing a relationship with someone of the opposite gender to the particulars of a Hebrew word. He quizzed us: “What was the name of Moses’ parents?”
He even made a rule: No one could marry until s/he had read through the Bible at least three times.
I admit, I didn’t quite realize the importance of all that knowledge until I noticed that many women I know receive spiritual food only in church. I certainly learn much through meaty sermons, but I’ve also had the equivalent of a lifetime of sermons from my father. If my father had been a preacher, I could not be better taught. Because of my father, I know the truth, and I am equipped to live it and to share it with others.
I am proud of my father.
I know Dad doesn’t seek credit. He knows his faults far too well, and I’m far too honest to put him on a pedestal. But I would be so remiss to pass by the opportunity to honor his incredible part in my life. He’s just a man, but he’s my dad—and that means a whole universe to me.
I still remember the words he spoke once on his knees, through tears. “I ain’t no stinkin’ hero. The only hero I know died on a cross.”
That One and Only Hero has a way of making heroes out of those who are not noble or worthy. My father is one of those heroes.
None of my life has gone the way it was "supposed to go," but I don't love my life any less because of the hardships and new directions. I see so much unexpected good in it, and I want others to see the good in theirs.