My Father's Day Gift

Dr. Ray Pritchard
Dr. Ray Pritchard

L-R Eli, Mark, Ray, Josh, Knox

It is late on Sunday night as I type these words. This morning Marlene gave me my Father’s Day gift, a canvas print of a picture taken last month when Josh and Mark, our two oldest sons, graduated from Dallas Seminary. When I posted the picture on Facebook, I captioned it, "Five Pritchard men, three generations, a great day to celebrate.”

As I study that picture, it seems to send an important message. I’m in the background, where I belong, with Mark and Josh facing forward, as if to say, "Look out, world. Here we come.” But they hold the real future in their arms. Eli and Knox, who are 2 and 3 respectively, could hardly be expected to know what that day means. Twenty or thirty years from now, they will understand it better.

In 1719 Isaac Watts composed the hymn "O God, Our Help in Ages Past” based on Psalm 90. That’s the Psalm that says we may live 70 or 80 years, "if our strength endures” (v. 10). I know some people who have made it to 90 but not very many. At 61, I’ve already lived longer than my father did. We live and we die. One generation goes, another generation rises behind it. Isaac Watts put this truth into musical verse:

Time, like an ever rolling stream,
Bears all its sons away;
They fly, forgotten, as a dream
Dies at the opening day.

Which might seem like a downer, except that it is totally true. No one makes it off planet earth alive. We all die eventually. What, then, is our hope? Again, let Isaac Watts give us the answer:

Our God, our help in ages past,
Our hope for years to come,
Our shelter from the stormy blast,
And our eternal home.

Psalm 90:17 seems like a fitting conclusion:

May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us;
establish the work of our hands for us—
yes, establish the work of our hands.

One translation handles the key phrase this way: "Make the work of our hands last” (CEB). Down deep in my soul, that’s my prayer too. I know I won’t be here forever. The days and years are zipping by for me. Soon enough my time on earth will be done. What exactly do I expect God to do so that the work of my hands will last beyond me?

Mark and Josh hold in their arms a big part of the answer.

The drama of humanity has been running for thousands of years. I can’t stick around for the whole production. After I play my little part, I shuffle off the stage, and the play goes on without me. But I get to leave behind a legacy, an inheritance, a living testimony that Marlene and I believed something that was true, that we gave our lives to it, and God has honored it by raising up generations to come after us.

I feel like old Father Abraham tonight, and that’s a happy thought. God intends to make the work of my hands last even after I am gone. The future belongs to the young, and that future is as bright as the promises of God.

That’s why I start smiling whenever I look at my Father’s Day gift.

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Originally published June 16, 2014.

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