My daughter’s birth brought me up short, a wake-up call to learn the heavy responsibilities of what it means to father a child. What did I know about being a dad? I knew nothing!
What does it take to be a good father? I reasoned that fathering a child is more than just bringing a child into this world, and exchanging butterfly kisses. Fathering is a life-long responsibility. It is a forever commitment. That is, if a man truly wants to “father” his child.
So what to do? I wrote a description of what I wanted my daughter to become. I wanted her to become a woman of integrity, honesty, and good morals. For that to happen, I decided I needed to model these qualities for her. That meant I had to be who I wanted her to become. I was sure a strong faith in God, who has those same qualities, would help.
I started early. While she was still pretty young, I started taking her out on daddy-daughter-dates. I wanted her to experience a good example of how a man should behave. I opened doors for her. I held her chair for her. I ordered the meal and the drinks, and explained to her appropriate behavior for a young woman on a date. We talked of what she would want in a man, and how she wanted to be loved and cared for. We talked about integrity, honesty, and chastity. We talked about faith in God, and whether faith was relevant. We even discussed the Bible, which gives answers to most of life’s questions that arise.
We continued to “date” until she married. I knew I would only get one chance to get it right. She would only be young once. I knew that if I were to impress on her heart the values I knew were important, I had to talk about them at home, when we were out, and when she got up in the morning and went to bed at night.
Now that she’s married, with children, we still go out on an occasional daddy-daughter-date. She feels free to talk openly and candidly to me because the door to that kind of relationship opened long ago. We can explore together answers to more mature questions that are on her heart. We can pray together for solutions to problems she faces in her grown-up world.
I found that it takes a lot of effort and commitment to be a good dad. I discovered I had to do it on purpose, with purpose, to make a plan and work the plan. I set out on a mission to be a good dad and devoted myself to make it happen. We still exchange butterfly kisses; we have a very special connection, my daughter and I. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
I was the first person to hold her tiny, delicate form in my arms. My hands trembled as the nurse placed her tenderly in my arms. Miniature and fragile, could she break? Looking into her E.T. face, I instantly fell in love. I counted all her fingers and toes. There were ten each—tiny and perfectly formed—paper-thin nails and all. My eyes stung and my heart swelled as she turned toward me, and snuggled into my chest. I couldn’t help it. I promised her I would always love and protect her. I would shield her from evil and harm all her life. I promised to raise her to love and fear the Lord.
My mind jumped to the future. This is my little girl. Already, I was thinking what I would say to her when a young man would ask her out on her first date.
Then I started thinking about what I would say to her date! How do I prepare her for that? I began to search the Scriptures. What does God say about fathers? What are a father’s responsibilities toward his children?
I discovered that a father’s responsibility to his children is to mentor them and to teach them the ways of the Lord, His commandments and His decrees. A dad must live a Christlike life before his children, teaching them to hear, trust, and obey the heavenly Father. Following Deuteronomy 6:5, I read, “These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (vv. 6-7).
I found it is up to a father to help his child recognize that God is the teacher and ruler in the child’s life. It’s not about me, and what I could do as a father. It is about God, and what a child could become by learning about God
Her E.T. face is now beautiful. Her fingers are long and skilled at the piano. My heart still swells when she turns to me and hugs me. She’s married to a fine Christian man who became the main man in her life. But she’s still mine. And, most importantly, she is God’s.
A short drama:
Setting: A quiet place with a single stool or chair.
Character 1 enters and sits, and covers his face.
Voices are all off-stage
Character1: What have I DONE?
Voice 1: (voice off-stage) Hey, take it easy! Everyone does stuff like that.
Character1: I wish I hadn’t done it. I want to do better.
Voice 1: Nah, you’re not strong enough to be that good. They drove you to it.
Character 1: Yeah? Probably so. But I shouldn’t have, anyway.
Voice 1: Don’t worry about it. You didn’t do anything THAT wrong.
Character 1: Go away! What I have done is wrong and I wish I hadn’t done it.
Voice 1: (Evil laugh) Hey, it’s not your fault. Don’t feel guilty! Man, your parents were way too strict!
Character 1: They WERE strict…
Voice 1: Right! Exactly! You only feel bad because of how they raised you so strictly.
Character 1: Maybe.
Voice 1: Sure! That’s it. Suck it up!
Character 1: (Clenches fists) I just have to be stronger, that’s all. I won’t do it again, I WON’T!
Voice 1: (Evil laugh) Yes! That’s the best you can do!
Character 1: Well, I AM only human, after all. I can’t be perfect.
Voice 1: Right! You’re human!
Voice 2: (Patiently) You can’t do it in your own strength.
Character 1: (Looks up and around, searching) Huh?
Voice 1: Yeah! That’s right! You’re too weak! Loser!
Voice 2: I can help you.
Character 1: How?
Voice 1: (Loudly) Hey! Don’t listen! He’s lying!
Character 1: Really? I don’t know….
Voice2: I speak the truth.
Voice 1: STOP! Don’t listen! You are WEAK!
Voice 2: Come to me, I will give you rest.
Voice 1: NO-O-O-O!
Character 1: Why do I do the things I do?
Voice 2: I made you in my image. Come to me.
Voice 1: (Interrupts urgently) He’s just human! He can’t help it.
Character 1: What do I mean? I mean I find myself doing the things I know I shouldn’t do, and I don’t do the things I should do.
Voice 1: Exactly! That is GOOD!
Voice 2: I am able to help you with that.
Character 1: How? I am too dirty, too unclean.
Voice 1: Yeah, you slime-bag! You don’t deserve anything good!
Character 1: What can I do?
Voice 2: You can do nothing, but I CAN.
Voice 1: See? Don’t listen to him. He doesn’t make any sense!
Voice 2: Are you willing to let me?
Character 1: Let you what?
Voice 1: (Like a child who makes noise because he doesn’t want to here.) La, la, la, na, na, na!
Voice 2: (Over Voice 1) Are you willing to let me help you?
Character 1: (Over Voice 1) I can’t stand it any longer! I want to do what’s right.
Voice 1: No! No! Don’t listen! Not again!
Character 1: (Weeping) Why do I do the things I do?
Voice 2: Be holy as I am holy.
Character 1: I want to be holy, but I can’t.
Voice 2: Let me fill you with my Spirit.
Voice 1: ARRRRRRGGG!
Voice 2: I can fill you with Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Self-Control.
Voice 1: (Fading screech)
Character 1: What are all of these?
Voice 2: The fruit of the Spirit. They become evident when filled with my Spirit.
Voice 1: (Desperate moaning)
Character 1: How can I have these?
Voice 1: (Sounds further away – groaning and mumbling, almost like curses)
Voice 2: Surrender your will to mine, and consecrate yourself only to me.
Character 1: Is that all?
Voice 1: (Weakly) Too easy!
Voice 2: (Kindly) That’s it. That’s all I ask.
Character 1: That’s a lot.
Voice 2: Yes. I ask your ALL.
Voice 1: (Further away) No way you can do it! NO!
Character 1: How do I do that?
Voice 1: (Hissing static)
Voice 2: Simple! Just ask.
Character1: Ah! Faithful is He who calls, who will also do it.
Voice 2: That’s right! Come to me.
Character 1: I will do it!
Voice 1: (Screaming way off in the distance)
Character 1: Will you make me holy? I give you my will, my whole self.
Voice 2: DONE! Welcome into my presence!
Character 1: You are my peace!
Voice 1: (From very far off) No-o-o-o-o!
Voice 2: Well done, my servant. Welcome.
Garlic. Just mentioning the word evokes memory of how it smells. I have a clove of garlic in my hand. Its strong, pungent odor assails the taste buds and makes my mouth water. I peel off the paper-like skin. My nose stings and tears fill my eyes. Garlic reeks through the house as I chop it into tiny pieces and place it in stew.
Garlic flavor permeates the vegetables and meat in the stew, flavoring everything—even steam billowing from the boiling pot smells like garlic.
Garlic is garlic inside and out, and will always be garlic, no matter how I chop it, slice it, or cook it. My fingers reek of garlic. Garlic saturates everything it touches. It doesn’t go away easily. Tomorrow, the kitchen will still smell of garlic. After eating the stew, my breath, even my skin will smell of garlic.
Daniel of the Old Testament was like garlic inside and out. Not because he smelled, but because a Godly integrity saturated him through and through. It penetrated everything he touched—everything he did. Daniel’s character had a strong quality, difficult to corrupt, and difficult to suppress. He couldn’t hide it—it is who he was.
When he was elevated (Daniel Chapter 5) to be over King Darius’ entire kingdom, it was because of his integrity. When jealousy arose among the other leaders, they tried to destroy him by watching for anything he might have done amiss. But we are told they could not find any ground to accuse him of any wrongdoing. His integrity was impeccable. They had to manufacture a way to trap him by passing a law they knew his faith would not let him obey. They passed a law that everyone in the kingdom must pray only to Darius or die.
Daniel immediately went into his chamber to pray and to worship God. His enemies caught him in the act of praying to the one true God.
I have discovered that a person’s character is who he is. It suffuses everything he touches, everything he does, in much the same way. It is who people perceive him to be. Integrity is a condition that does not vary with circumstances of life or personal preferences. I have learned that a person of strong integrity will be strong in character. Conversely, a person of weak integrity will be weak in character.
Is integrity a condition that varies with circumstances of life or personal preferences? I think integrity is an ethical quality. It is moral excellence. It is honesty. It is innocence of motive. It does not have bad intent or improper behavior. Daniel was filled with the Spirit of God. He worshiped God only. He depended on God for everything. Daniel’s integrity was righteousness of the heart. It was a transparency of Godly motive. It saturated him through and through. It nearly cost him his life.
Now I am faced with a question. Will I allow God to fill me with His holiness? Will I let Him infuse me with the odor of righteous integrity?
Sweat burned my eyes and stung the sunburn on my face. Equatorial heat and humidity made it difficult to breathe. My blue jeans stuck to my legs, mud clung to my boots, and made it difficult to climb the scaffolding. From up on the scaffold, Emmanuel asked me to toss him a roll of wire and a sack of nails.
“Emmanuel,” I asked in floundering Spanish, “what do you do for a living?”
“I am a building contractor. And you? What do you do?” He started another nail.
“I am a contractor, but I am praying, asking God what He wants me to be.”
“What are you doing right now?” he asked. “Aren’t you serving Him by doing what you are doing right now?”
“You mean building buildings? No, that just pays the bills and feeds my family.”
“No.” He drove the nail home with three blows. “I mean right this minute. Aren’t you serving Him by doing what you are doing right this minute? By being here, helping us build a church, and visiting my neighbors, and preaching? Isn’t that serving Him?”
“Well yes, I guess it is!” I clipped a short piece of wire. “But this is just a ministry trip. I can’t do this on a permanent basis.”
“Why not? Maybe God is calling you, like Abraham, to go to a country that He will show you?” He took the wire from me, ran it through the holes in the wood planks, and tied them together.
“Look,” he said. “See how these planks fit together? We fasten them with wire and nails? They will hold the planks in place when the concrete is poured inside. Together, they will give a proper shape to the concrete. When the concrete matures properly, we will take off the planks, and the column will stand on its own. We are the planks. God’s word is the wire and nails. He fastens us together, to help shape the pillars of the church He has given us to build. That is what a missionary does. He comes and helps form the pillars of the church until it matures sufficiently and then he pulls himself away and the church will stand on its own.”
God spoke to me clearly, “This is what I have for you. I want you to be a missionary.”
For as long as I could remember, I knew that God was calling me into full-time ministry. I had tried out several roles of ministry—preaching, youth pastor, Sunday school teacher, music ministry, and others—but never felt a confirmed call in any of these areas. I remember asking God to please clearly reveal His perfect will for my life. In my youth, I grew desperate to know what God had for me. It seemed I would never know. Then I had an opportunity to join a work and witness team from my church.
That trip changed my life. I understood my ministry role. Missions has been my life ever since.
“How in the world did I get myself into this? What in the world was I thinking? I had disobeyed my mother, again, and this time she came for me with a Ping-Pong paddle. I knew I was about to get my butt dusted. I deserved it. I knew that. But, being reasonably intelligent, I figured I could outrun her. I ran out the back door, through the yard, and up a tree – can’t catch me!. Hah! Nobody could climb a tree like me! Now she can’t reach me! “Na, na, na, nu, nu!” I thought! Exulting in victory, I watched mom go back into the house. Sitting there basking in the glory of my Flash Gordon speed, I heard the screen door open again. Turning, I saw mom come out, and to my horror she was carrying not only the paddle, but a folding lawn chair. She opened the chair, sat down, looked up at me and said, “Now. You can’t stay up there forever. You’ll get hungry, or tired, and you will have to come down sometime. Oh, by the way,” she said smiling, “you know, the longer I wait the angrier I get!” What was I thinking? Flash got his pants lit up. It was the smile that did it.
All that I know about who God is comes mainly from three men in my life. One is the pastor I grew up under. Another is my father-in-law. But the primary example was my dad. He was a man who loved us with all his heart, yet didn’t hesitate to use the rod when we needed it. He loved God. He loved his family. He loved his church. He lived his deep faith in front of his children, and he lived it with honor and consistency. I honor him. I honor him for his faith, for his selfless service and sacrifice to family and church. He inspired me and discipled me in my faith. When I turned 18 he told me, “The only thing a man has in this world that will leave a mark is his honor. It is honor that makes a man, not his age, not his size. It is honor.” I’ve always tried to live up to that statement. I believe it is pleasing to God to live with honor. Honor fetches the image of honesty, truthfulness, correction, and reproof. Honor conjures perceptions of uprightness, righteousness, fairness, faithfulness, and dependability. Honor is integrity. It may represent a portrait of God.