Someone asked my mother how she was doing, and she said "We cry and laugh but the overtone is thankfulness." That says it perfectly. Today I want to share six qualities of a godly man that I saw in my father and for which I am deeply, deeply grateful. He was serious, responsible, generous, communal, diligent and tender.
1) My father was serious about spiritual matters. I cannot remember him ever making light of them. To do so is to trivialize them. Because our only hope for happiness is found in Christ, any discouragement to finding it there brings great harm.
2). My father was responsible. A commitment made was a commitment kept -- regardless of feeling or convenience. I remember him often going back to work after supper to fine-tune the books or unload a truck. He cared for our home and the yard. He moved from Edson because there was no Christian school there. He took us on vacation, built swings and repaired bikes for us. What he understood to be his duty, he did. We even benefited from this after his death. All of the papers we needed for the funeral home were in one file.
3). My father was generous with others while being moderate in his own living. Dad loved to see God's Kingdom extended. Whether it was to the local church, Wycliffe, individual missionaries or Focus on the Family, he loved to give. This generosity was combined with moderate living at home. We had to justify every new pair of shoes or boots that we wanted -- maybe because at times they cluttered the hallway when he came up from work. Sausage was not to be stacked on bread like pancakes but rather spread like checkers on a board. Strict examination that apples had been eaten to the core was required before we could throw them away. Christmas was very simple with treats and a game to share. I remember one year getting a game -- I think it is called Ker-plunk -- where you have a cylinder of marbles held up by sticks and you tried to pull out the sticks without dropping the marbles. We had barrels of fun with that game. I am grateful for this part of the legacy my father has left. Similarly John Calvin and Martin Luther both lived very simply. In fact, Luther was so generous that his wife sometimes feared they wouldn't have enough to feed the family. I have seen moderate living modeled along with generous giving.
4). My father lived communally, that is, he looked past himself. I believe this was symbolized in the large windows he had built in the dining room. He could look way over Hank Wierenga's field and beyond, and if the hedge got too high, it had to be cut.
Dad cared deeply about the crops, and lived along with the farmers waiting for rain and sunshine. On some Saturday afternoons, after we were bathed and in our pajamas we'd barrel into the car to see how the crops were progressing. Even in his 80's he loved to have Bert drive him to see the farms.
After dad's stroke, Dr. DeWaal told him he needed to go the hospital. His only question was "Will there be a window in my room, doctor?" There was.
5). My father was diligent. The Bible says "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all of your might as unto the Lord." My father modeled that for us. Whether he balanced books, swept floors, unloaded trucks, washed his car, mowed his lawn, walked or swam, he did it with great energy and resolve. Nor, I believe, did he think any work beneath him. In Christ he had the sure promise of a generous reward, but there can be no harvesting without planting.
It was quite a crisis when dad retired in his early sixties. I think he had found his identity in his work, and he hadn't thought a lot of what he would do when he retired. This stirred great fear in my dad. Thankfully there was a godly pastor in Edmonton, Peter Heaton, who counseled him. When Pastor Heaton heard dad's story, he told him to find work to do and keep busy.
6). My father was tenderly broken. His crisis after retirement was an example of God bringing good out of ill. Besides telling him to find work, Dr. Heaton recommended Spiritual Depression by Martyn Lloyd Jones. This was of great spiritual benefit. Another pastor in Grand Rapids gave him Phil.4:6,7: "Be anxious in nothing but...make your requests known to God. And the peace that passes all understanding will keep your heart and your minds in Christ Jesus." This became a life verse for him. My father had a new sense of his weakness, his brokenness, his dependence. This dependence is not unmanly. It is real and those who lack it are deluded. Jesus condemned the strutting Pharisee but loved the sinner who knew himself to be dirty and naked except for Jesus washing his sin and giving him a robe of righteousness. Christ had become his treasure.
So these are the qualities of a godly man that I saw in my father. He was serious, responsible, generous, communal, diligent and tender. God gave these graces to my father. May God be glorified.
My father ran the race and he has finished. He will never have to worry again about whether bills are paid; whether the oil has been changed; whether we'll be late, or the dryer will break down again; whether the books will balance, or the church will meet its budget; or whether the rains will come on time for the crops.
Again, Richard Baxter said at 76, anticipating his death:"Is not dwelling with God in glory forever better than in this sinful world? He that is our beginning is our end....How often has my soul groaned under a sense of distance, darkness, and alienation from God. How often has it looked up and panted after him" and said "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for you, O God."
My father's panting is over. His thirst is fully quenched in God.