As we approach Father's Day on June 21 it's important to pause and reflect upon the many blessings bestowed by our Father in heaven through our fathers on earth. While not all of us experienced loving, caring and attentive fathers during their formative years and beyond, I consider myself one of the luckiest, for my dad continues to be a source of encouragement, hope and support on a consistent, daily basis. When I think of my dad, the word "loyalty" comes to mind; it is imperative that children know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that their parents are loyal and trustworthy. Over time, that loyalty turns into appreciation, which evolves into deeper respect, and soon a son or daughter realizes that all of it looks like, feels like and is--love.
The following article is a blog post I wrote about twelve years ago after my dad flew up to visit Mandi and me in our home. I am so glad this blog post still exists; additionally, it was only shared with a couple of close friends long ago. Now, as we move towards Father's Day, I share it with all of you, my precious church family, as we continue to celebrate and value the family bonds we share as fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers in the body of Christ. After all, we need to thank God for these meaningful family bonds more than ever before because it is in the safe haven of family love where we find our peace and joy! And so my hope is that the following true story will cause you to thank God for your family bonds, those in your immediate, extended and church families--places where we indeed find our peace...and our joy. Amen!
What I Learned at PTI Airport Today
Today, I drove my father to the airport for his 3:20pm flight.
After eating a couple sandwiches and downing our drinks at RolyPoly sandwich shoppe off of Jonestown Road, we filled up on gas and accessed Interstate 40 via Highway 421.
Our conversation bounced from my mother's struggle with her aging mother, the best way to see your blind spot when you drive, and even how to make the newly installed fan stop from "clanking" when it rotates. Every now and then I would reach over as I drove along and rub my dad's neck and he would pat me on the knee. We talked, we shared, we worshiped. We never said the name "Jesus" but Jesus was evident in our care for each other.
Jesus was much more evident when I placed my last quarter in the parking meter (this gave me 15 more minutes with Dad). I took his bags (even though my left shoulder had 11 stitches in it) and helped him check in at the Delta counter. Then, we both walked 150 yards to the nearest restroom together. I helped him find his terminal and put his bags down for just a few minutes before saying goodbye.
We placed our bags on the ground just as a family of four was saying goodbye to the mother's parents and brother. I watched as they robotically threw their arms around one another with the father standing at a distance, maintaining his "macho" image, displaying an "I'm not the emotional kind of guy" attitude while his wife told her parents farewell. The grandkids seemed indifferent, and finally the wife's parents and brother walked away. I then noticed a couple kiss each other and watched as they each departed in opposite directions. Soon afterwards I witnessed a couple in their mid-50's say goodbye so quickly (and not even look back at one another) that it almost seemed completely impersonal.
Dad and I maintained some more conversation about our families and the upcoming week, and then it came time to move closer to the checkpoint. Dad picked up his two bags and walked with me. As we reached the divider he put his bags down and we immediately embraced. I intentionally, and very meaningfully, pressed my lips against his temple and held them there for a few seconds. I kept holding on while my dad continued to pat my back. As we unlocked our arms, he began to walk away and he noticed my eyes quickly welling up with tears. He said, "I love ya buddy, and I'll talk to you tonight." I mustered a smile and wanted to be strong for Dad before he too could've succumbed to emotional tears. He looked at me one more time, realizing that saying goodbye this time was much harder for me. (You see, having him come and spend special time this weekend meant the world to me, and to Mandi. Although my dad has never won a Pulitzer Prize or come in first in any contest, although he isn't recognized for all the great things he does behind the scenes, he has been a true example of love, service, and fatherhood to me my entire life. I am proud to call him father and best friend.)
I nodded my head and slowly turned away for a moment to try and keep my 32-year-old self together. But I missed my dad...already.
I watched him take off his shoes and put his change into a bucket. He walked through the checkpoint and immediately turned to wave at me. He knew I would be there. "Bye buddy!" he said as he waved. I gave him the "I love you" in sign language and watched him walk behind a wall and out of sight.
Tears rolled down my cheeks as I, a 32-year-old son, watched my 65-year-old father leave to go back home to Georgia. I saw other couples tear up as they said their goodbyes and it made me realize something:
We must remember how special our families are. We must allow ourselves to feel emotions. We must show appreciation. And we must thank God for the moments when we can embrace, kiss, and show affection for the ones we love. Someday, the people we love will not be going home on planes...
...they will be going home to see Jesus.
Now is the time to hug longer.
Now is the time say "I love you" even more.
Now is the time to relish each moment, each conversation, each breath.
God took me to the airport to make me realize that even at 32 years of age I still love my Daddy. And I don't mind showing the world that I am not afraid to kiss him and hug him and let him know how my heart feels.
Jesus had 33 years on this earth. He and His Father had an intimate relationship as well. Saying goodbye was difficult for God when His Son carried our sin. But the "welcome back" on Resurrection Sunday makes saying goodbye to our loved ones in Christ so much sweeter.
Therefore let the emotions flow. Be honest with yourself. Maybe you say "it's not like that with my father and me." That's ok. Be real with that feeling and seek to know why that is.
It's nice to know that in our "goodbye"s as Christ-followers we are also saying "see you later"s as well. So, to all of you dear church family, my friends, my companions on this spiritual journey known as life itself, I say:
Love your family as the gift they truly are. Love them lavishly. Cherish them, warts and all. And never cease to tell each family member often, and honestly,
"I love you."
Like saying goodbye to my dad in the airport years ago, we're also just in "see you later" mode. Eventually, one day, we will all experience the embrace of real, authentic, loyal friendship in person, again. While we wait upon the Lord during this pandemic, let us never forget the love God has for us in Christ, the same caring, patient, and compassionate love that draws us to Jesus' heart...and to one another. That love--is the Father's Love--that we share. What an amazing, special, abundantly blessed Love it is!
In conclusion, may God bless all fathers and all those who provide fatherly love and support and all praise and glory be to our Heavenly Father from eternity to eternity,
Seeking the Heavenly Father, the One Who gave me my magnificent earthly father,
><> Pastor Will <><