As a boy I spent a lot of time in my dad’s truck— a mobile office/workshop that smelled of oil, metal, and Doublemint gum. He would take me with him to various jobs, and I went as his assistant. This usually meant I carried his tools and he installed water heaters or retiled bathrooms. But the truck. That’s where we talked in depth about life. I had a lot of questions and he had a lot of thoughts. In the truck was where I thought out loud with my dad and pondered his wisdom. In light of Father’s Day, I wanted to share four pieces of fatherly wisdom that he passed on to me.
1. Don’t Worry About What Others Think
Like most kids I was very concerned with how others saw me. The pervading question in my mind was, “Am I cool?”I remember sitting in the truck on a hot summer day with my dad when I asked him, “What is cool? What really makes someone cool?”He turned his head and looked at me through his aviator sunglasses and sad, “Joe, cool is whatever you like.”He explained that I should enjoy the things I like and not worry about what others are doing or are into.
This was helpful for me, and as I grew into a teen peer pressure proved to have little influence on me. I went my own way and what others thought was irrelevant. Upon my conversion the Lord took hold of this bit of advice and and strengthened it. I shouldn’t worry about pleasing others, but pleasing the Lord. I’m not going my own way, but his way. His way is my way.
2. What Goes Around Comes Around
I remember once as a teen driving with my dad and passing a car on the side of the road. I laughed at that driver’s misfortune. Dad gave me the sideways glance with a raised eyebrow and said, “Joe, what goes around comes around.”He said everyone has a bad day. You will have many. And in those days you will want someone to be kind to you. I think it was a few weeks later I got my first flat while on a highway. No one drove by laughing, but another kid from high school stopped to help me change the tire.
My dad would say, “What goes around, comes around”with different emphases. Sometimes he meant you reap what you sow. Sometimes he meant that the proud and the bullies will one day get what they’ve been giving out. His point was, be humble and helpful. We all suffer, and it is best to not bring it on ourselves.
3. Be Patient with Others and Yourself
“Be patient.”I heard that piece of advice a lot from my dad. I am a naturally impatient person, and my dad saw this early on. “People take time, and things take time.”He pressed me hard in this area because I like things to move quickly, but most of the things in life, he told me, take time. Relationships, success, and learning. My dad is famous for having a long fuse. I was, and am still, amazed by this. In over 40 years I have still never heard my dad complain. Not in the midst of financial crisis, or even as he now walks through Huntington’s Disease.
Again, though my dad was not a Christian during my youth much of what he taught me overlapped in some ways with the truths of Scripture. Not only do things take time, and therefore require patience, but as we have all experienced the long-suffering of God toward us, we must be patient and kind. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”(Eph. 4:32)
4. Confront Wrong
I always saw my dad as a tough guy. He is a loving, tender, thoughtful man. I’ve seen him care for others deeply and sacrificially. But I have also seen him make very hard decisions and even step up in a physical confrontation. And in every instance of confronting wrong it has been wrong done to others. My dad didn’t teach me to be a tough guy. Not at all. But he modeled the need to be tough and tender; to be strong for others and to stand up when the occasion arises. This too was formative for me as I grew up, but it wasn’t until my conversion that I came to see that this is God’s will for us all and the reflection of his own character—to speak out against evil, defend the defenseless, and help the weak. (Ps. 82; Jam. 1:26; Ps. 72:4)
My dad couldn’t explicitly point me to the gospel. He didn’t know the Lord. Yet, his words were good, and God used many of them in preparing me for my conversion. And by the grace of God I saw my father come to know Jesus in the last few years. He is now my father, and my brother. And we have both come to see the wisdom of God in the person of Jesus Christ. We have both come to seek the wisdom that our Heavenly Father gives to all who ask for it.
Joe Thorn is Lead Pastor of Redeemer Fellowship in St. Charles, IL and blogs at joethorn.net. His book, Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself, was released through Crossway/ReLit. You can follow him on Twitter @joethorn.