While running the other day my running partner, Dave Ramsey, shared a conversation he recently had with Dr. Meg Meeker. The conversation was about Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, a book Dr. Meeker wrote a few years ago. For this particular run I thought a lot about my own relationship with my father. The thesis of the book is that fathers are being marginalized in our families. Think about those hilarious shows we watched growing up: Everybody Loves Raymond, Home Improvement & King of the Hill are just a few, but they show what we’re talking about. Lovable guys, but not known for their masculinity or intelligence. Not known for being the leaders of their families. Not known for taking a leadership role.
Here is a loose paraphrase that Dr. Meeker highlighted as she spoke to dads:
You are the most important man in her life. Dad is a daughter’s first love. A dad gives a daughter the chance to learn how to trust all men, including God. The male love that a dad gives a daughter puts a template over her heart through which all her experiences with men will be viewed through forever and ever. The reverse is true. Women who were abused by their fathers as children have a hard time trusting all men because the dad determines her view of men.*
As I was running I listened to the conversation between Dr. Meeker and Dave (we’re tight… I can call him “Dave” since we spoke on air) and was amazed that my dad had done all these things, even without reading this book. He taught me how a husband should treat his wife by treating my mom well. He lived a life of integrity both in our home and in his career. He taught me that a husband should support his family by working hard… he works harder than most people, I assure you! He gave my mom the opportunity to stay home with me and my brother, something I knew I wanted to do with my own children. I feel that watching him, having HIM as my father, gave me the idea of what I wanted in a husband. Because I was blessed to live with such a good example, I knew a keeper when I met one… I give my dad a lot of credit for that. And my mom did a good job of protecting my image of him. And by that, I mean she spoke respectfully of him and to him. Even when she disagreed with him, she decided to stick by him and discuss those differences later. This is a practice I’ve taken into my marriage (usually… sometimes I mess up!). I felt like my dad could do anything and could protect us from anything. I love that he instilled in me a love of reading and a love of learning. Because of his willingness to pay me (and well) for a few books he thought were very important to read, I saw how much he valued reading and learning. He can take a topic and study it in detail for weeks… deeply. When he was teaching Sunday School, he was surrounded by volumes of books… engrossed in the depth of the Word and loving every minute.
I remember something that used to drive me crazy, and now I use it with my own children: If I asked him a question like, “are ladybug boys spotted or plain?” he’d simply say, “I don’t know… let’s go look it up.” It annoyed me because I really believed he knew the answer to EVERYTHING. I thought he just wanted me to learn to look stuff up for myself. Turns out, he probably didn’t know everything and figured, rather than just say, “I don’t know,” he’d turn it in to a learning opportunity.
He has taken all his amazing traits and is now showing our boys, as well as my nephew, who he is, and in turn, being a great reflection of God Himself. That’s what a dad’s main job is… to show his children and his children’s children the character of God. My dad’s not perfect. But the greatest thing in life is to know that God is a gracious and loving Father who loves us unconditionally and is cheering us on in life. God wants us to be close to Him and to hear His voice. He is the God of peace and clarity, not confusion. My dad, Tony, my earthly father who raised me along with my equally amazing mom, loves me unconditionally and is cheering me on in life. My dad wants me to be close to him and to listen to his wisdom but more than that, he wants me to be close to our Creator, and to listen to His voice. My dad raised me in a home of peace and clarity, not confusion. When it was time for me to accept that, even though I was a sinner and deserved separation from God, and that God loved me enough to send Jesus as a sacrifice for my sins, and that Jesus died and raised again, I had a very easy time accepting this as true. My dad had given me a view of who God is. Of course, I see God now as if in a blurry mirror (1 Cor 13:12) and I am excited about seeing Him clearly, face to face, but my dad gave me the opportunity to hold the mirror and look expectantly and excitedly in that mirror… he allowed me to accept God’s love for me as good and precious and there for the taking without me having to earn it. What a gift that is to me. And what a joy to know that I married a man who is doing those things for our sons.
Dad, I thank you for showing me what to look for in a husband. I thank you for treating mom as if she were the only woman in the world. I thank you for providing for our family with such back-breaking work and never failing us. I thank you for trusting God in the hardest of times to provide when there was nothing more the business could do. I thank you for loving me and Josh unconditionally. I thank you for making me read those books that were over my head but just what I needed. I thank you for
bribing me paying me to learn the capitals of the states and apologize for the fact that I can only remember about 4. Thank you for taking me to church before I can remember and having me there 4-6 times a week. Thank you for what you did the year after the really financially-tight one. Remember when we forfeited our own Christmas presents in order to shower a below-the-poverty-line family who lived with a dirt floor with toys and goodies? I wish they had been home so we could see the looks on the kids’ faces as they saw the new toys at their house… The image of that house has not left my heart for a moment. That was the most impactful event of my childhood. When asked to share about a time that changed your life, this is always the one that pops into my mind. You wanted to show Josh and me how to be thankful for Gods blessing. I believe it worked, and it was so fun to do this with our boys the 2nd Christmas Matt was deployed. They still remember the year they got very few gifts but we bought chickens and pigs for kids who have no food. That was a blessing from their Papa. They have heard the story, and they will hear it again. What a legacy. Thank you for making us late to church every Sunday as you waited for US to get ready before going to the office to write the tithe check. Yes, it annoyed us that you fussed at us for being so slow, then, as we all sat in the car waiting, you ran out to write the check. However, maybe you just wanted us to ALL be part of writing that check. I’ll give you props for that! Thanks for taking us camping and letting us sleep on the trampoline and for watching the stars with us… remember putting the blankets on the deck of the office and watching falling stars? We should have done that more often. I think those times prepared me to me mom to a slew of boys. Thanks for teaching me that eating deer meat is delectable if you marinate it for a few days in Italian dressing. Haven’t run across any deer meat lately, but you knew how to make it delish!
I’m sure as soon as I submit this blog and stand up to go to bed (it’s after midnight) I’ll have 5 more things pop into my head that I wanted to thank you for. I’ll just have to write them down for later. I love you, Dad.
P.S. HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!!
*The entire interview with Dr. Meeker can be found on the June 14, 2011 episode, 2nd hour of The Dave Ramsey Show. You can probably go back through the archives and listen to it online.