Today was another busy day. Yet in the rush, it was turning into one of those annoying days when irritating thoughts of failures and mistakes kept subtly cropping up, quietly accusing me until I started to recognize that I was becoming worn down and discouraged. In the process of it, involuntarily I started to think of my Dad, and immediately recognized what I had learned from him in dealing with such accusations. Though he’s been in heaven for some years now, I still think of him a lot.
None of us really knows how we will be remembered after we are gone. I have a strong suspicion that most of us have very unrealistic illusions of how we are perceived by others, how we affect our children, and how we will be remembered. My Dad was no exception, except that where the majority of us would probably be shocked to discover how much ‘wood, hay, and stubble’ comprises the greater part of our lives, I don’t think my Dad ever had any idea of how many lives he positively affected for the glory of God.
I wish you could have known him. I really do. Next to my husband, there is no one in the world that has had such an impact on my life as my Dad did. When he died suddenly at the age of 84, his memorial service was jammed with several hundred people, many of whom spoke over and over of the great impact that his faith in God had on them. I couldn’t get over how many young people told me, “He was like a father to me!” I shouldn’t have been surprised. When anyone talked with my Dad, they had his full attention as he entered easily into animated conversation, especially when he talked about the love of his life, Jesus Christ. And he remembered faces, sometimes years and years later.
But before you start to imagine him as a great orator, a theologian, or a wise counselor, let me correct your misperception.
My Dad was a very humble, though extremely warm and personable man, who loved God and loved people. He was born to a family in the Ukraine back when war kept moving the border back and forth between Poland and Ukraine. His birth certificate says he was born in Poland, though he always denied it. He immigrated to Canada when he was a teenager, with a Ukrainian accent so thick it stayed with him the rest of his life. He left school to work a job after only the 8th grade, yet without a college degree, he worked his way up by sheer natural ability and diligence to become a skilled tool and die maker, while farming a seven acre vegetable field on the side.
He did not do many the “right” things that a proper father is supposed to do. He did not take any of his five daughters on dates, nor did he play football with my brother. He was not one for buying gifts for my mother or remembering their anniversary. He was just a little rough around the edges, yet was one of the friendliest, most outgoing people I’ve ever known. He worked hard six days a week, and after church on Sundays, he rested. On some points, his theology was probably not accurate; he worried too much; sometimes he spoke impatiently, and once in awhile he made wrong judgments.
But in it all, his faith in God was so real, and so alive that God was a living reality from as far back as I can remember, as real as my grandparents or my siblings were. When he failed, as he often did, my Dad was quick to cry out to God for forgiveness. Memories of my Dad kneeling by his bed praying out loud, usually in Ukrainian, are forever etched in my memory. So many times, he cried as he prayed, asking that God would forgive him for his anger, harsh words, or impatience. And when he repented, we saw it. He hid neither his failure nor his repentance from us. As a Dad, he didn’t just preach to us about our need to repent. Instead, he showed us how to do it. He taught it by his example.
These memories formed me, because quite frankly, if we’d had a father who tried to convince us that he was a model of parenthood, or that he was perfect, I would never have been able to identify with him. I would have given up, hopeless, long ago. I did not need a perfect father who was so far beyond what I could reach that it was unattainable. I needed a Dad whose weaknesses I could identify with, yet one who in his weakness would point me constantly to Christ, where I could find forgiveness, hope, and help. I needed the assurance that despite my own failures and weaknesses, my own children, like his, would see beyond me to where I was pointing: to Jesus Christ.
All of us want to live life perfectly. We want to be perfect parents, perfect friends, perfect examples, and want to be a blessing, not a stumblingblock, to those around us. But we so often fail. As long as we live, we will battle our sins and weaknesses. Our desire is to live righteously, yet we know we’ve disappointed our husbands and our children many times, and so often, guilt and regret weigh down heavily. Thankfully, the Gospel is not for perfect people, nor does salvation require perfection. It’s only through the undeserved, imputed Righteousness of Jesus Christ, Who alone is our hope. He forgives.
After we’re gone, there are so many things that we want our children to remember that we taught them. But more than anything else, we ought to want them to remember us as examples of those who know where to find forgiveness and hope in Jesus Christ. Just like my Dad did, we need to point our children, always, to Jesus Christ. When they too become weighed down by their own disappointments, sins, and failures, we can show them where to look to find hope.
*”When Satan tempts me to despair, And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there, Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died, My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied To look on Him and pardon me.”
What hope! What a legacy!
(*Before the Throne of God Above-written by Steven and Vikki Cook)
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