My father taught me, “Take my words to heart. Follow my commands, and you will live. Get wisdom; develop good judgment. Don’t forget my words or turn away from them. Don’t turn your back on wisdom, for she will protect you. Love her, and she will guard you. Getting wisdom is the wisest thing you can do!” Proverbs 4:4-7a NLT
I’ve learned in almost 50 years on this earth very few wise men exist. I’m fortunate God gave me one of them—my father. In fact, he's the wisest man I know.
Papa finds joy in life through his work, nature, and daily interactions with people. It’s not unusual to find him in the local convenience store with his Pepsi and pack of peanuts chatting with the clerks or regular customers coming in and out. He’s enlightened more than a few folks that putting the peanuts in the Pepsi and consuming them together is the way to go. J
Animals rank near the top of his joy list. My father loves animals. One of his favorites: the donkey. Perhaps this is because they’re kindred spirits. J They’re stubborn and strong animals who persevere despite their circumstances. He’s owned them for decades. The mama donkey who’d been with him the longest died over the weekend after becoming toxic while pregnant. While I listened to my dad’s account of her death, his sadness and regret shone through. But his wisdom and acceptance of life’s tough times reflected the character he’s always displayed.
I’m more than blessed to have Christian parents who instilled solid life principles in me. But my conversation with my dad made me stop and consider a few qualities that make him so wise.
My father is wise because he not only showed his children love, he taught us love.
Love is more than affection. In fact, it’s often confused with affection. Love is reflected in your everyday interactions with others. My father owned a cleaning company when we were growing up, which eventually evolved into a very successful landscaping company. All of us kids worked for him during our childhood. Back in the day, with nine people in our family, money was tight. We often collected glass coke bottles to turn in for 5 cents each to pay for a coke or treat at the store when we didn’t have an extra quarter to spare. Yet my dad never turned away a needy person. No matter how little money we had, or how far we needed to stretch it, he always had loose change or a dollar bill in his pocket to give the homeless people who crossed our paths. Working in a university town, this was a common occurrence. My dad had experienced homelessness and hunger in his life. He wouldn’t have been able to come to the dinner table to eat what little we had, if he’d walked past others who didn’t have a table or food to eat.
My father wisely showed his love by not making his kids the center of his universe or putting us first.
No, you didn’t misread that.
To everyone’s detriment, one of the biggest lies of modern culture is children should be made to feel they’re more important than anything else. We’re paying for it with a generation of narcissistic kids who are surprised and angry when a desire goes unfulfilled or they’re not the center of the universe as an adult. Or heaven forbid, when someone else's needs may come before their own.
Good parents make their children feel special, unique, and loved. But to instill the idea that one is special, and in fact, more special than anyone or anything else, isn’t good. My dad never attended any of my piano recitals during the six years I took lessons. As a teen, I resented him for that, but as an adult, I appreciate that his hard work ensured our needs were met and provided extras like piano lessons. This meant, as a self-employed businessman, work came first. In doing so, he showed me love by providing something that brought me joy. I discovered in my mid-20s that my dad loves music as much as I do when he bought a fiddle and started taking lessons. I realized his dreams had always come second to ours.
My father is wise because he not only taught us about life, he taught us about death.
Papa isn’t afraid of death and didn’t want us to be. After all, death is an inevitable part of life. When an animal died on our small farm, we all pitched in and buried it. Yes, tears flowed, but we learned life is temporary on this earth.
I remember the first time my daughter Lindsay attended a funeral with us. I struggled with whether to expose her to such a harsh reality at five years old. My dad settled it when he grabbed her little hand and walked right up to the open casket. He didn’t think anything of it. Doing so was natural.
Back in the day, when a relative died, the open casket stayed in the home and relatives sat with the deceased until the casket was removed for the funeral. Nowadays, parents shield their children (and sometimes themselves) from open casket funerals or viewings—and sometimes any kind of funeral or memorial service. In doing so, the perception of death becomes skewed. Often the first experience with death or a funeral is that of a close loved one or friend after becoming an adult. Then “Why me?” or “Why them?” questions ensue.
Shielding a child or ourselves from death also prevents us from dealing with the fact that we will all die, and then there is eternity to face. What will that look like for each individual? For some folks, it’s easier to live in denial.
And this brings me to the most important lesson Papa ever taught me about death.
For a Christian, death isn’t the final act but a transition into an eternal life better than our earthly life (Revelation 21:1-4, 22:1-5). Maybe that’s why I don’t fear death (1 Corinthians 15:55-58).
These are only a few of the reasons my father is a wise man. At almost 80 years old, he can be cantankerous and hard-headed at times, but I’ve often thought the only man more perfect than Papa is Christ himself. I thank God every day for the grace and love He showed me by giving me such a wonderful, loving father.
If you would like prayer for a particular need, please leave a comment or e-mail me confidential requests. I’d love to pray for you. J
I’m excited to announce the launch of my quarterly newsletter, “So You Want To Be Encouraged!” next week. In the inaugural edition, I’ll share my exciting publishing news and give away one copy of master wreath maker Nancy Alexander’s “Deck The Halls: How to Make A Christmas Wreath” Kindle book, just in time for the holidays. To be eligible for the drawing to win her book, you simply have to be a newsletter subscriber. The subscription box is at the top right-hand side of this blog. Hurry and sign up so you don’t miss the first issue and your chance to win Nancy’s book. I’ll announce the winner in the first newsletter.
©Laura Hodges Poole