“Fathers, do not exasperate your children.” I remember quoting this first half of Ephesians 6:4 to my dad all the time growing up.
Whenever Dad would poke fun at any of the four of us just to see our feathers ruffled or play the devil’s advocate in an argument for the sheer enjoyment of watching our temperatures rise, we would righteously declare that phrase with fists raised and eyes blazing.
The conviction was real, even if my description is somewhat exaggerated.
This happened more often than you would think, and I can vividly remember myself saying that phrase, pulling it out whenever it best suited me or my siblings.
But I don’t remember ever hearing the second half of that verse: “Instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” I know I’ve read it before, heard it in a sermon or given a positive response to it in a Bible study. But it’s never really clicked for me before, that the verse continues in that way.
I’ve told my father so many times that he exasperates me, but I’ve never told him about the impact he’s had on my “training and instruction of the Lord.”
In all fairness, he is a pastor. It’s his job, his calling and the biggest consumer of his time. So you would naturally assume that he taught us about God — and you would be right.
What you don’t know is how he did it. While we were always — and I do mean always — in church whenever the doors were open, closed, ajar or off their hinges, our family had all the same struggles that a non-pastor’s family would have. That whole “being human” thing really has a way of leveling the playing field.
But at the core of our family is a love that was fierce, unyielding and unconditional — a love that is of God and for God. And Dad’s role in demonstrating this love in our family dynamics is the same as it is in every other aspect of his life: in his service.
One time I was interviewing for a job and the interviewer asked me to describe my family. Even though I didn’t think my family environment was any of this stranger’s business, my desire for the job kicked my brain into high gear, and I attempted to describe each member of my family as concisely and accurately as possible.
When I got to my dad, I told the interviewer, “My dad taught me how to serve.”
It was the first thing that came to mind and the more I thought about it, the more I realized how true it was. Dad is a tireless worker who can do everything from sewing to construction to writing poems. His ridiculous range of skills is both impressive and annoying.
He is always doing things for others, constantly giving of his time, knowledge, handiwork — you name it, he gives it. He serves until he has nothing left, and then he wakes up the next morning and does it all over again.
My whole life, I’ve watched him do for others. I could give example after example of how he’s shown God’s love through service, but it would only embarrass him and elicit a joke of some kind to deflect the attention from his good deeds.
He taught me how to love others not by saying how to do it, but always by exemplifying it. And the older I get, the more I understand the motivation behind and impact of his servanthood. He sets the bar high, and I couldn’t love him more for showing us the importance of serving others for the glory of God.
My father is not perfect. But he has trained and instructed me in the Lord for 24 years, and I am beyond grateful that God placed my siblings and me in his care.