To honor my dad this Father's Day, I decided to write him a personal letter highlighting four life lessons he taught me. If you grew up without a father in your life (as my dad did), or if your experience was more like mine, I hope these lessons are encouraging to you.
Happy Father’s Day. I hope you know that you’re my hero. The older I get, the more blessed I am to have such a remarkable father. Given how much fatherlessness there is in the world today–and the experience you had growing up with an abusive, alcoholic father–I don’t take this lightly.
Most people know you as a speaker, writer, and Christian leader. To me, you have always primarily been my dad. While doing ministry with you today is one of my greatest joys, some of my best memories are just the times we have spent together shooting hoops, watching movies, or talking in the jacuzzi.
While you are the first person to admit that you have flaws, I wanted to honor you this Father’s Day by sharing four life lessons you have taught me. While you have taught me so much more than this, here are four big takeaways that I have tried to emulate in my own life.
First, you have taught me to live by principles. I remember you sharing how one of the early principles you developed as a public speaker was that you would not address racially segregated audiences. That may seem natural to many people today, but you developed this principle over five decades ago and it has even cost you some speaking opportunities through the years. I have seen you live by principles about money, relationships, politics, and many more issues. Thanks for modeling and teaching me to develop biblical principles and to live by them.
Second, you have taught me to speak up, even if it is costly. I have seen you speak up on many controversial issues, even though you have been criticized for it. Around a dozen years ago, I remember you speaking up about the sexual abuse you experienced from ages six to thirteen. You knew it was a huge issue in the church (and wider culture) and in order for people to get healing, they needed models of people who would speak up. Given that your own mother didn’t believe you when you told her, you also knew that there were many others who had been shamed into silence. And so long before the #MeToo movement caught cultural steam, you began publicly addressing sexual abuse in both film and books. Thanks for teaching me to use my voice to speak costly truth as well.
Third, you have taught me to prioritize family. You are a busy man, dad. I honestly don’t know how you accomplish so much! And yet amidst your busyness, you have always made a conscious choice to prioritize family. I remember you making all my basketball games my senior year in high school (including flying home from Russia for one game, and then flying immediately back that night) and am clearing my schedule next basketball season so I can do the same for my own son. While it wasn’t always easy having you travel so much when I was growing up, I never doubted your love for me, my sisters, or my mom. Thanks for modeling and teaching me about the importance of prioritizing family.
Fourth, you taught me how to enjoy life. Given that you come from such a dysfunctional home, it would be easy for you be a critical, negative person. And yet you have found a way to enjoy life more than anyone I know. I remember you telling me that your goal in life is to take as many people to heaven as you can, and to enjoy it along the way. Well, you’ve accomplished both! Even though you have some cheesy dad jokes now and then (or should I say grandad jokes?), your commitment to experiencing the joy of the Lord is extraordinary. Thanks for teaching me to find joy in life.
I love you, dad, and hope you have an amazing Father’s Day.