Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Thanks, Dad, for the One Thing Needful!

"My son, hear the instruction of your father,
And do not forsake the law of your mother." 
~ Proverbs 1:8

When I was home for Dad's funeral, and we girls were looking at old pictures to get the boards ready, I realized I don't really have any pictures of Dad.   I mean, I have a few family pictures with him hidden behind all of us kids.   But not really any of just him.  Or very few anyway.   I mentioned to Mom before we left that I'd like to get some.  To which she promptly replied, "Oh, that reminds me.  I found this one you can have."

May 24, 1981

My Dad, Bud/Skip/John Eskew, raised me from when I was six.  As you can see from the photo, he was not a big man.  But when I was young, he seemed very big to me. 

He was a story teller, but not so much to us kids.  I can remember many times when we hosted a house full of company or some-such, he regaled the gathered friends with one or another story of his childhood in the streets of Seattle during the depression, or his days in the Navy.

But when we sisters were talking after he passed away, and during the time immediately preceding that, some of us expressed that we didn't really feel like we knew him well.  Our husbands all seem to know more about him than we do.  It makes me kind of sad that I somehow missed the opportunity to know more about him   His life.  His hopes and dreams, ideals and interests.

As I grew to adulthood, eventually and gradually the relationship with adults shifted from child/adult to adult/adult.  So too in the relationship with parents.  We grow from primarily a relationship of training, to one of a more advisory sort.  I left home when I was a young adult, 18 years old.  After that, I went home for visits, but never really long enough to finish the shift in this particular relationship.  I left when I was young and rebellious, full of pride and self-righteousness.  And that young adult sense that my parents were wrong about much that I knew better about.  That's all far behind me now.  However, as an adult, visiting home in my younger days, Dad was busy working.  And during later visits, I was busy with my kids.  And visiting Mom and my sisters.

Although Dad was a story-teller in larger gatherings, he was mostly a quiet kind of guy around the house.  He and I both enjoyed books, and so free time spent at home could often find the two of us sitting companionably in the same room with our noses in our books.  We'd share an occasional interchange about what each of us were reading at the time. 

Some of us sisters may not feel like we knew Dad that well.  We probably all wish we had asked him more questions or heard one more story.  We may wish we had had more time for sitting quietly and reading together.  Or taken time for more visits home. 

But when I look at this photo that Mom gave me, the one photo I have of Dad and me together, my Confirmation Day, it symbolizes all that is important in how we kids were raised. 
Train up a child in the way he should go, 
and when he is old he will not depart from it.
~ Proverbs 22:6
What this photo acknowledges to me is that our religious training was always the front and center of our upbringing.  Life wasn't perfect.  But we knew about sin and grace.  About God's righteous Law.  And about forgiveness.

I was a rebellious youth.   There were, understandably, difficulties as I grew up.  What child doesn't have a few hard times with parents.   Dad was raised, as he often said, by a combination of a spitfire granny, the Sisters in the Catholic Schools he attended, and the Naval hierarchy.  He was a tough man.  He had high standards.  I was obstinate and opinionated and argumentative with more than a healthy dose of drifty thrown in for good measure. 

But Dad stuck with it.  He brought me up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

That reminds me of a funny story.  One that typifies much of my childhood attitude.  At one point (actually at many points) I was grounded.  Grounded to my room under whatever terms were deemed appropriate.  On this particular occasion, I was ordered to find and make a list of Bible passages about children obeying parents.  I, in my rebellion, decided to instead find all the passages about parents loving children.   And being kind to them.

But guess what I found, ... not a whole lot.  I did find the passage quoted above, and I made full use of it by multiple underlines beneath the first half of the passage.

And you fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath,
but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. 
~Ephesians 4:6

I really, really wanted to stress the part about don't provoke your children to wrath.

But that's all I could find.  Just as my heart was obstinately refusing to be humbled, my notebook page stayed obstinately empty.  I found passages about parents being diligent in the training of their children.  I found many, many passages about children obeying parents. 

But only this one passage about any sort of parental kindness.

That verse, that one verse exhorting fathers to not exasperate their children, it dimmed in import when compared to all the multitude of passages about children obeying parents.

"What's with that?"  I was sure there must be a mistake.  I just wasn't finding them.  But they must be there.  There must be more passages about parents being kind and loving and forgiving to their children.  But search as I might, using my concordance, my catechism, my familiarity with Bible stories, I couldn't find anything.

Now I'm a parent.  Now I understand.  I understand the tenacious nature of sin in our hearts, and our constant need for correction and training.

I also understand the places in Scripture that refer to our Heavenly Father's eternal forgiveness of and compassion toward His children.  And how that example is also for earthly fathers.

Now, as a pastor's wife, and a mother of ten, I understand the over-arching importance of a Christian upbringing.  I appreciate the gift I was given in a faithful Christian upbringing.  Not just the moral training.  But more importantly, the awareness of what to do about our failure, our constant failure, to live up to the standards of that moral training, God's Law. 

"The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin."  
~ I John 1:7

And now, as a grieving daughter, I appreciate anew the eternal value of faith in Jesus; in His sacrificial death, in His righteous life, for us.  To clear our slate before God.  To give us His good works.  To allow us to stand before our Heavenly Father at the time of our death, and to hear Jesus say, 

"Come, you blessed of My Father, 
inherit the kingdom prepared for you 
from the foundation of the world."  
~ Matthew 25:34

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