It has now been a month and a half since my father entered his eternal home. And every day that I reflect on the life he lived, I only become more inspired to follow in his footsteps.
My father was of a rare breed. He would never have considered himself extraordinary – but the way he lived his life is becoming less and less common and more and more “extra-ordinary.” In his obituary, I wrote that he valued hard work, discipline, and integrity – and that he was a man of conviction and principle. Growing up, I took these traits for granted, assuming that everyone’s dads were like that. But looking around at our culture now, I see that is not the case – and I feel the urgency to call others (and myself) to live a life like my father’s.
He was not perfect by any means. He’d be the first to admit that. Yet he was always pursuing a life that drew closer to Christ. And in doing so, he left us many beautiful examples to learn from. May they be a blessing to you as they were to me for so many years.
Strong Work Ethic
My dad grew up on a farm in Iowa – a fact we heard all the time growing up. He would talk about milking cows at four in the morning and learning to drive a tractor when he was ten years old – there was never any room for laziness or arguing about work. You just did it. And he carried this out his entire life.
My dad chose the life of a small-town pastor. He chose to go to places where salaries were low because he wanted to minister to those people. At his last church – the only one I remember – they couldn’t afford to pay him full-time, so he drove into another town twenty minutes away to work another part-time job. After he left that pastorate, he took whatever job he could get to support his family. He wasn’t too proud to take a laboring job – and in fact, that’s what he worked at until he finally retired three and a half years ago.
I pray that I, too, can stay committed to that kind of work ethic. The kind that isn’t afraid of hard work and is diligent to do whatever God has called me to do. I pray that I would carry out my tasks faithfully and give of my life to the end – not just seeking leisure as soon as possible.
If ever a man was disciplined, that man was my father. He got up at a quarter to four every morning because having his quiet time before he left for work at 5:30 was the most important part of the day. He’d make breakfast, read his Bible, and then get down on his knees (literally) and spend ample time in prayer before leaving the house.
Then he’d come home from work and either go for a six-mile bike ride or work out with weights in the garage – every day, well into his seventies.
In the evenings, he’d spend time with his family or study the Bible, review verses, or make time to encourage people by calling them or writing them notes.
His priorities were clear by the way he spent his days – spiritual health, diligence in his work, physical health, and strengthening his relationships. I never had to wonder where my dad was at. I never had to worry about the decisions he was making – because I knew he was living out a life of discipline that only strengthened our family.
I think I’ve already taken on a lot of that same type of discipline, but I long to get better at it every day, so that my habits also reflect my priorities – and turn into a life well-lived.
Integrity, Conviction, and Principle
This, I believe, is what is most lacking in young people today. And while I will admit that my dad could sometimes be too black-and-white in his thinking, he was not shy about holding to his convictions and speaking out about them boldly. And this is where I desire to grow the most.
My dad was a man of integrity – a man of his word. My mom said recently that she never doubted my dad’s faithfulness to her in their 48 years of marriage – and I believed her. I never doubted my dad either and it gave such stability to our family. When my dad said he would do something, he followed through. When he started a job, he finished it. He always gave his best to whatever he did.
He also had convictions and principles drawn straight from the pages of Scripture. The amount of time he spent studying the Word and memorizing it directly impacted his worldview and his convictions about political and spiritual matters. And no matter what church he was a part of, he committed to serving until he no longer could.
Before his dementia worsened, I would watch him walk down the aisle every Sunday at church to help serve communion, burning the memory into my brain, because I knew the day would come when I wouldn’t see him doing that anymore. And I’m so grateful I did. That’s how I most wanted to remember my dad – being faithful in his calling to serve until the very end.
And even in the last year of his life – when he’d forgotten most everything else, he’d still reach for his Bible to read it every day. When we’d call to talk to him, he’d still quote verses to us and pray for us. And the last few weeks of him living in his memory care facility, he thought he was in a church and he’d “preach” to all the workers who came into his room.
To have that at the very end of your life when everything else is gone from your mind – it points to a life well-lived. A life not wasted. A life that knew that the only things that will last forever are the Word of God and the souls of men.
Several months ago, I pulled out a few of the many notes my dad gave me over the years. And I keep coming back to this one as my challenge and reminder for how I want to live my life. In the second half of the note, he said,
“As you wait upon the Lord for finishing your education and wanting to get married, be consistent in the basics – having a quiet time, studying, reading, and meditating on the Word. Be excited about developing a close walk with God and maturing in the Lord. This will prepare you for marriage and being a teacher. In my past life that’s what I did, along with sharing the Gospel and discipling others. All of this prepared me for marriage and my future vocation. Meditate on Ps. 84: 11, 12 – ‘For the Lord God is a sun and shield, the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of Hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you.’ I’m proud of you. Merry Christmas – Love, Dad.”
Thank you, Daddy. Thank you for living your life in a way that has inspired so many people. May it continue to inspire people, and may I be faithful in the charge you’ve left behind for me – so that I, too, may live a life not wasted.
To God be the glory.
Picture Credit: brother, Daniel Kinne.