by Joanie Butman
“There’s a new sheriff in town!” That was my husband’s announcement to our children as I prepared to leave for a 10-day trip. His statement was promptly followed by a long list of directives. I heard him attempting once again to establish a ‘NO-SHOE ZONE’ along with a number of other new mandates. I finally told him, “Keep it simple. Even God only needed ten commandments, and most of us have a hard enough time remembering them.” Despite his show of authority, I knew my children were eager to see me leave because they understood that once alone with their Dad, they (and he) would enjoy a reprieve from my watchful eye and my own long list of do’s and don’ts. My intuition was spot on because upon my return, I opened the pantry to discover many forbidden, sugar-laden breakfast cereals. When I questioned my daughter, she told me my husband bought them. When I turned to him, he pointed at my daughter and replied, “She told me to,” as if that was a viable defense. Wasn’t that Adam’s excuse?
I’m not sure if that trip was when the DTM (Don’t Tell Mom) acronym was coined, but there were other signs that perhaps all was not what it seemed. I relay the story tongue-in-cheek, but developing a united front and their own love language was a joy to see. DTMs work just fine for me. There are some things I’m just better off not knowing, and they all intuitively sense which ones fall into that category.
My pediatrician was the first to lecture me on the importance of not hovering over my husband or criticizing his child-rearing techniques. If the diaper is on backwards, no one is going to get hurt. He stressed the importance of letting my husband be responsible for his relationship with his children without me trying to dictate the terms. I thought it odd at the time, but I suppose he’d seen enough uber-moms come through his office that he chose to use his position to improve the lot of dads in general. He was right of course – and particularly good-looking, which is why I was paying such close attention.
We all carry the influence of our dad’s throughout our life. Whether you had a great dad, a not-so-great dad, or even no dad, his presence or lack thereof has a life-long impact whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. We learn not only what we want to emulate, but also what we don’t. It’s funny. The things that sometimes have the most impact are ones they may not have thought important at all. For instance, my life-long love of the theatre began with my dad taking us to occasional Saturday morning plays as a way to give my mom a break. His tradition of taking the brood of us to a Broadway show every Christmas season lasted well into my adulthood. Unfortunately, there always seemed to be a big playoff game on the same day. As an avid sports fan, he was not to be denied so he would sit in the theater listening to the game through headphones. One of the last shows we saw was Fifth of July (a drama about a gay paraplegic Vietnam vet). Christopher Reeve’s was delivering his intense soliloquy when the Giants scored the winning touchdown. My father jumped out of his seat and screamed. I'm not sure whether it was that incident or our growing numbers that eventually put an end to the tradition. Regardless, we had a good run.
I’ve inherited a lot of things from my dad – some good and some not so good, like my driving skills. There are many things I admire about him, but his devotion to family, sense of fun, ability to laugh at himself, and his penchant for remembering only good times have got to be at the top of my list. Without a doubt, though I didn’t appreciate it growing up, the most important example my dad set for me was the way he lived out his faith.
A friend of mine met my dad last year during one of his visits. Shortly thereafter, she sent me a note saying, “When I look into your father’s eyes, I see Jesus.” Wow, in the middle of Swanky Franks? Who would’ve guessed? It was an unexpected compliment though oddly enough, people have commented on his eyes before. It made me wonder what people see when they look in my eyes. Did I inherit my father’s eyes? As a Christian, the answer to that question is a resounding, “YES!” Seeing the world from God’s perspective is part of our inheritance as is His legacy of love – if we choose to claim it. In turn, our lives are meant to be lived in such a way that reveals that love to others. I believe that is what my friend saw in my dad’s eyes, and like Amy Grant, I pray that someday, others will say the same about me.
When people look inside my life, I want to hear them say
She's got her father's eyes
Her father's eyes
Eyes that find the good in things
When good is not around
Eyes that find the source of help, when help just can't be found
Eyes full of compassion, seein' every pain
Knowing what you're going through, and feelin' it the same
Just like my father's eyes
my father's eyes
my father's eyes
Just like my father's eyes
As I mentioned, my father’s example of a faith-directed life laid the foundation, but much like that doctor advised all those years ago, I had to build my own relationship with my heavenly Father. Getting to know someone is always the first step in developing a deep, lasting relationship, which is why I choose to study the Bible. It is God’s love letter to us, and it speaks to each of us in different ways at different times. Any knowledge I attained would all be for naught though if I didn’t choose to spend time with Him everyday. It’s no different than developing and maintaining relationships with our earthly fathers.
We aren’t all fortunate enough to be blessed with fathers who share their faith or even gentle, tender-hearted fathers who shower us with love. Nevertheless, we all have access to a heavenly Father who wants to do just that, who values each and every one of us and is waiting to share those things we tend to keep hidden from everyone else. Even so, it is still our choice to determine the depth and breadth of that relationship.
While I am celebrating the men in my life today, I begin by thanking God for blessing me with them.
Thanks Dad for always being there when I needed you - and especially when I didn't think I did. Happy Father’s Day!
I wrote that last line for Big Lou as my dad is affectionately called. However, when I read it, I realized it also sounds like an excellent prayer for today so I will end it accordingly with a heartfelt "Amen!"