thankful: my dad

SmittyI was the firstborn of my parents’ children, and, as I hear it told, my dad was overjoyed at becoming a father. He’s always been very much a “family man,” and because he had almost three years with me alone, our bond developed without distraction. For most of my life, my dad was the most important person to me. Something I’m sure was difficult for my mom. My relationship with my dad was always stronger than with my mom, and it wasn’t until adulthood that this began to change. Of course, that doesn’t mean that things were always good with me and my dad. Throughout my adolescence he and I were at persistently at odds. I felt suffocated by his high expectations of me, and he was constantly perplexed at my indifference to them. He could never understand why I would want anything less for myself than the very best, and I could never make him see that my own hopes and dreams held just as much merit as those he had for me. The biggest issue, however, was church and living the Christian life. I was disillusioned by the hypocrisy of the “church-goers” I saw every Sunday, and eventually I just refused to return. Because my dad was raised in a home where church-going was expected behavior and not to be questioned, we began to argue about the subject at every opportunity. And I became more and more bitter about everything related to Christianity, but much of it was a direct result of simply going the opposite direction from what my dad expected of me. At 19, there was simply no chance of me hearing what “was best for me” when it came from a father who only sees the world in black and white. I wanted to live in the gray areas.
At the age of 27, I finally began to analyze my life in terms of my own sense of self and my own faith, rather than the faith of my parents. God was very gracious to show me that Christianity is not about going to church or believing what other people say simply to please them, but rather it is a life of faith and relationship with Jesus the Christ. And although these revelations were in line with all that my dad had expected of me, I fully embraced it because I had come to it on my own. From that point forward, my dad and I began to restore our relationship as father and daughter, and for the first time we also began to develop a friendship. I learned that our struggles had always been so volatile because we are almost exactly the same in every way. We approach the world through logic, and we both strive for perfection. We feel compelled to set things right, and we want people to appreciate the same things that we do. It helps to know that we are so similar since most of the world doesn’t follow our lead or play by the same rules. We now spend a lot of time shaking our heads at the rest of the world and wondering how people can possibly live the way they do. [Of course, the rest of the world, and our own family, spends a lot of time wondering why the two of us are not more normal!] At this point in my life, as I begin to realize I’m staring down middle age, it helps to have a partner like my dad. I am thankful for friendship and for his unconditional love, which I know exists even when I fail to meet his expectations. I’m thankful, too, that he has learned to see things as I do and to question more than he once would. I know that I’ve influenced his perceptions of people and that he wouldn’t be as much of a minister today had God not used me in this way toward my dad. I’m enormously proud when people tell me what a great man my dad is, and I’m finally beginning to understand why he spent so much time stressing the importance of “a good name.” Everywhere my family travels, someone seems to know my dad’s two older brothers, one of whom was a respected educator and the other a beloved football coach. This has always made my dad very proud. But now, I experience the same thing: many people know my father and have nothing but praise for who he is and how he serves. The older I get, the more I experience that same kind of family pride. And I’m so thankful that our relationship was restored early in my youth so that I could enjoy this time as intended.


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