2 “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), 3 “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.Ephesians 6:2-3
You might guess that the 3 men in the picture are related. From left to right, that’s me (Chris), my brother (Tyler), and our dad (Chuck). This was taken at Tyler’s wedding 3 years back, and though wedding pictures can be laborious I assure you those are not forced smiles. For the last 10+ years the 3 of us have lived in different cities and we delight in one another’s company. Even more, we rejoice and marvel at what God has done in our family.
Dad turned 60 this week. He and Mom have been married for 35 years, and I feel confident in speaking for my brother when I say that Dad is our hero. He has loved Mom faithfully, worked with integrity, loved us consistently. Someone recently asked on Twitter for everyone to name their ten spiritual heroes and while the temptation was there to name someone famous, it didn’t take me long to settle on the fact that my #1 is my dad. I realize this is not everyone’s lot in life. It is not hard for me to honor my dad, but for many it would be nearly impossible to honor theirs. This makes me more thankful for the hand that I have been dealt and helps me find more compassion for those with a different one.
As we spoke this week, Dad and I were overwhelmed with gratitude for the life that God has given us. We were stopped in our tracks and I was brought to my knees in thinking of how the Lord has turned things around in our family over the last many years. Fifteen years ago I was in my freshman year of college, my brother in his freshman year of high school. We were only a couple months removed from Tyler receiving felony charges of arson and me nearly losing my life to an overdose on cocaine, all in the same summer. My parents’ marriage was understandably under duress, their Christian faith being tried in the flames of rebellious children. They were in survival mode, not sure if we would all make it through.
Fast forward to today. Mom and Dad are moving from NW Arkansas to Nashville as we speak, for a job opportunity that puts Dad one step closer to retirement and a whole lot closer to family. I am a pastor in a God-fearing church in suburban Memphis, with a Jesus-loving wife and 4 wonderful children. Tyler is a Christian business owner in Nashville, expecting his first child with his lovely wife who he met while they were serving together as missionaries to SE Asia. There are some remarkable stories to be told about how we got from teenage idiots to decent men, but those will have to wait for another time. The summary is this: God’s grace is amazing. We were dead in our sins but he made us alive in Christ. And humanly speaking, Tyler and I would both tell you that in bringing us to new life in Christ, God used no one more than our dad. He was certainly not perfect, but he loved us well even when we were unlovable. He imitated the love and grace and mercy and forgiveness of Jesus that eventually brought us to Jesus himself. And as we have been finding our footing as young Christian men, Dad has served as a great example of the kind of man we both want to be.
A couple takeaways:
1- No matter how dark things get in your life, do not underestimate the power of God’s grace. Turn to Jesus. Confess your sins to him; he is faithful to forgive you and cleanse you of all unrighteousness. Trust the Lord in plenty and in want, give thanks in all circumstances, and look ahead with expectant faith to what God will do. And even if your appointed trial takes you into the grave, our hope is in glory. The joys of healing and restoration that our family has experienced is only a foretaste of the full healing and restoration that awaits every single one of God’s people on the other side of the grave.
2- It is not too late to repent… to turn from your sin to God in order to receive his grace in forgiveness and be empowered by his grace for change. In God’s strength, you can take up the responsibilities he has assigned to you and work those responsibilities in a way that brings blessing to all involved. My dad did not even become a Christian until Tyler and I were already born and for much of our childhood he was just learning the ropes of the Christian life, stumbling forward in the path of God’s grace.
And even if you are much older… a few years ago, Dad and I went to a conference together where he was terribly convicted about his passivity as a father, particularly when Tyler and I were in high rebellion. Even then, we were able to rest and rejoice in God’s kindness to us together. God’s grace always out punts our coverage.
3- As Douglas Wilson said in his book, Reforming Marriage, men cannot help but be dominant. Take fathers, for example. A father who leaves his wife and children to pursue the pleasures of this world will dominate his home even in his absence. His absence will dominate. Likewise, a harsh father’s harshness will dominate as everyone walks around on eggshells, and a passive father’s passivity will dominate as things come unraveled. But so too will a faithful father’s faithfulness.
Men, do not underestimate the power of a humble, faithful life. Walk with God. Love your wife. Lead your children. Confess your sin often. Work hard. Work with integrity. Love all those that the Lord puts in your path. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances. Be strong in the Lord and the strength of his might. Own the responsibilities that the Lord has given to you and work them with a glad and sacrificial heart. Of course, all of this is only possible by God’s grace, but take heart because his grace is in abundant supply and he delights to give it. In addition, the fruit of God’s grace is much more than we know how to ask for or imagine.