It’s strange how our minds grasp onto certain moments and memories so strongly. Over what’s been a very difficult past few months, one specific memory involving my dad has played in mind time-and-time-again. It’s funny because it wasn’t necessarily a “wow” type of event – frankly, it was such a brief and seemingly uneventful moment that I doubt that he even remembers it – but it impacted me in a big way.
My dad has often joked with me that my best (and worst) attribute has always been that I question everything.
Why do we do this?
Why don’t they do that?
How come this is wrong?
Why do we believe this way?
On the one hand, I think he appreciated and respected that I didn’t blindly accept everything in life without an explanation, on the other, I think I am responsible for quite a bit of hair loss.
When I graduated high school, I went through the process that every “new adult” has to go through. I felt the necessity of testing what I’d been taught my entire life in the church, school, and in the home. As I studied and grew personally, I began examining my belief systems with a healthy scrutiny. I tapped away on the foundational pillars my life was built on thus far to see what stood and what crumbled.
To the credit of my amazing family, I discovered that many of the fundamental beliefs I had been raised with were pretty sturdy. They passed the tests of Scripture, study, and additional counsel. And, naturally, there were also some areas where I landed in a different position than that of my parents.
My parents and I have always had a pretty open dialogue with one another, and there are a few topics we have not talked through at one point or another. However, even when a strong disagreement is present, we are generally able to prioritize the relationship with one another and communicate graciously.
I say all this to provide context for the most encouraging thing my Dad ever said to me.
I recall sitting across the table from my dad and mom at a Chili’s almost two years ago now. I had brought up to them that I had come to a completely different understanding of a secondary theological issue than they had, and was explaining what I believed.
They sat there for what must have been at least twenty minutes listening to me ramble on.
Throughout the conversation, my dad made it clear that he disagreed with certain things I said, all while maintaining a kind spirit.
After I finished my discourse, which looking back, was far-too-lengthy for a casual family dinner at Chili’s, my dad said something pretty cool.
He looked me in the eyes and said, “Well, you know that I disagree with you completely on this topic, but I can tell you’ve been studying. You understand why you believe this and I’m proud of you for that.”
I can honestly say that few things have ever made me feel more loved and encouraged than that simple statement. With two sentences, my dad taught me an invaluable amount.
He taught me patience (by taking the time to listen to me), he taught me how to disagree and critique graciously, and the importance of affirming the good; He taught me how to prioritize the lifelong relationship rather than throwing it out to win the immediate disagreement, and ultimately, through these things, he taught me much of what it means to be a good dad.
I can’t count the times I’ve told my wife that story. In times of discouragement, fear, or the struggle to decide what to do, I’ve reflected on the love and incredible support I felt in that conversation. My dad’s simple words of encouragement that night have followed me around California, to Virginia, and even all-the-way to India.
That’s the power of a good dad.