The gift a dad would never ask for

hike

Yesterday, social media feeds were filled with dad tributes in the form of grateful posts and blogs. I realize I could have written a blog and posted it yesterday, but sometimes the inspiration doesn’t come until the day has passed. Likewise, the best father’s day gift isn’t always realized until later. My wife asked me over the weekend what I wanted for a gift. It’s not that she isn’t thoughtful, far from it, but because I so frequently purchase what I need or want throughout the year it has become very difficult to buy for me. My son even informed me he had ordered something online the day before and it had not arrived and I’m sure I’ll like it when it comes. However, I am content to relax the special day away with my family, so I don’t lose any sleep over what I might get for a father’s day gift.  Nevertheless, I already received the best gift yesterday and somewhat unexpectedly. I simply got to “play the dad”.

My son’s car had several minor issues that would prevent it from passing inspection today, and yesterday those things needed to be done. Could he have done them on his own? Sure. Did I help him anyway? Sure did. We took a little trip down to the auto parts store to purchase a headlight lamp, license plate bulbs, and a set of wiper blades. I even let him pay for it. We got them home and while I replaced the headlight, he worked on the license plate. Then together, the two of us, mechanically challenged as we are, dripped sweat in the Texas heat while attempting to install the wipers. (insert joke: how many Wrens does it take to…….). Come to find out, the YouTube video led us astray (honest to God) and we drove back up to the parts store and let a professional come out and install them for us.

I came from a line of hard-working Wren men who were paint and body men and mechanics. But it all stopped when it got to me because my dad steered me toward music. No doubt, he tried to convince me to watch him work on cars, but I waited him out in my room on the piano bench until he gave up. (he gave up pretty quick). As a result, I had the privilege of passing down all I know about cars to my son. (insert winky face)

The day of imparting my “knowledge” came yesterday, and together we struggled. In the end, however, he now has working lights and wipers. Indeed, these are cherished moments for me whenever he gets to witness the joys that “adulting” can bring. Of course, he is an adult, but he’s still trying to find the joy in all this. But it’s a true gift for a dad like me to see him through all these mundane tasks. Mind you, it’s not about bailing him out of predicaments like some sort of low level super hero. It’s about the journey, much like the 4 hour mountain hike up McCullough Gulch we did last summer. (see photo above)

I can remember the trailhead offering a contrasting view from the one 2 steep miles up by the waterfall. The trailhead offered hope, looking ahead to the destination, and the waterfall gave us perspective to see how far we had come. Oh, but the middle and its  rocky terrain, obstructed views, thin air, exhaustion, needed respites, and struggle.  Turns out the journey was the bridge between hope and perspective.  I’ve been on this journey called fatherhood a while now and thankfully my hope increases as my perspective broadens. It’s a gift that I really need and really want.

Lean times

shepherd There was a popular gospel song in the 1970’s titled “Learning to Lean”. The lyrics of the chorus were as follows:

Learning to lean…..learning to lean…I’m learning to lean on Jesus
Finding more power than I ever dreamed, I’m learning to lean on Jesus.

As a kid, I didn’t have a grand conception of what these lyrics were saying. Lean on Jesus? I imagined sitting on a rock and gazing at a sunset while leaning next to him as he put his arm around me to comfort me, much like a dad would his little boy. To be honest, the song with the catchy chorus didn’t get much deeper than that. It was not in the same league with many of our timeless hymns.

A few decades later, one begins to realize the sheer magnitude of what it actually means to “Lean on Jesus” but with not much help from the phrase itself. Per Merriam-Webster, one definition of “lean” is “to rely for support or inspiration” which really doesn’t cut it. (Frankly, it was difficult to find a definition that doesn’t fall short.) The phrase “lean on Jesus” seems to imply that He is good for that occasional helping hand or good advice, but it doesn’t paint a picture of minute by minute reliance.

That’s just it, lyrics like these say much about us. We don’t like to think of ourselves as helpless sheep. We don’t want to be “made to lie down in green pastures”. We would rather not venture into “the valley of death”.  Instead, we prefer to seek our own pleasures, like Abram’s nephew Lot who, when given the choice, chose to pitch his tent near a wicked city.  We lack the faith of Abram who relied on God enough that he deferred to Lot when it came to parsing land. Abram knew that no matter where his tents were pitched, the Lord was with him. Keep in mind, Abram had not showed himself to be a bastion of faith before. In the previous chapter, Abram was lying about Sarai being his sister instead of his wife simply to save his own skin. The Lord rebuked him the end of Genesis 12  (through the words of the Egyptian Pharoah who he feared) and then the next thing you read is Abram giving Lot first dibs on the land.

Often when hearing this story, we focus on Lot and his decision as if it is the great turning point of the story when in reality it was a turning point for Abram.  In the previous chapter, Abram attempted to control the outcome through lying which was not an exhibition of true reliance on God. It was as if he was saying, “thanks Lord for getting me this far, but I have a better way to secure the inheritance you promised me.” In fact, we discover that it wasn’t Abram’s scheme which saved him, rather it was God who afflicted the house of Pharoah with plagues which caused him to send Abram and Sarai on their way.

The action of God (afflicting Pharoah) was the catalyst to creating faith in Abram and it only takes a few verses into chapter 13 to demonstrate the change in Abram. He witnessed the power of God and by doing so, came to see the futility of his own plans and it resulted in a faith that viewed God’s unseen promises as infinitely more valuable than the prosperity that lay before him.

Was Abram “leaning on God”? Sure, if leaning means total reliance. His relationship with God throughout the Genesis narrative isn’t one of shared sunsets and fatherly advice to a son. It is one rooted in God’s promises and his sovereign actions to make those promises come to pass. In spite of Abram’s weaknessess and moral failures, he truly learned what it meant to lean on God. Likewise, we must come to see the futility of our ways and wait on God to act. Remember, as the Psalmist wrote, God is the one who restores the soul and He will lead us to the path of righteousness for his namesake. Ultimately, that’s what his promises are for, the sake of His name and the eventual peace and rest of his people.

 

 

 

The Hand

I remember an old song from my childhood that implored its listeners to “put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the waters.” It wasn’t thought of as being theologically rich in content, then or now, but it’s not a bad place to find one’s self. There’s nothing wrong with an image of clinging to the Savior amid life’s tempestuous seas, but there’s another way to think about the hand of God. Proverbs 21:1 is especially hopeful in the crashing waves of our political climate. Solomon’s God-bestowed wisdom emboldens those who trust in these words. “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.”

So even though we live in an increasingly godless nation where its citizens promote godless men and women and which threatens to drive us further into the abyss, our faith is strengthened by this truth. We are confident that no matter who is elected to the highest office, that God has ordained it to be, and that he will be glorified in it though now it seems preposterous. And if he turns the hearts of kings and presidents, he is sure to do the same for us. Like the rest of the song says, “take a look at yourself and you can look at others differently”. Resting in the hand of God not only gives us a vision of His sovereignty, but also a reflection of how little control we have.