As I write this, it is the eighth anniversary of my father’s death. I’ve gotten lots of comments from friends and family about the impact of his life on them. He wasn’t a well-known guy and didn’t have an extraordinary amount of earthly success. He came from a very poor upbringing, even by Depression standards. He left a successful and promising corporate retail career to care for his aged aunt and grandmother in Mississippi. He enjoyed relative anonymity in the country, while my mother became the successful merchant, choir director, and business woman. I think he preferred it this way since he was never one for the spotlight.
He was a deacon, Sunday School teacher, and a church trustee. He lived to serve people. A gentle smile and kind spirit were always present when he was with people. He was prone to depressive moods, particularly in his later years as his health progressively failed. However, as he told me, serving others always seemed to help whether it be a kind and encouraging word, a meal cooked for someone, or just a hug. He always thought of others before himself. He was a nice man, but he was something more than that.
More than simply nice, by God’s grace he was a good man. Additionally, he was a good man who finished well. Not with a blaze of glory—he was extremely limited physically in his final years. He finished well because he remained that same good man to the end. His goodness was not a faḉade, or a show that he put on. It was who he was. Many people are overtaken with bitterness, regret, or a sense of betrayal or being shortchanged as they get older and it infects their spirit as the restraining walls of their personality start to break down.
My father, while he was willing to bicker with his nurse over various stuff, remained a genuinely kind and peaceful man all the way down to death’s door. While he was ready for (and even anticipating) death to come, he trusted that his days were numbered for a reason and that while he was still here among us, he would do what he could to remain true to who he was as a Christian man.
No More Nice Guy?
I’ve thought a lot about this over the last few days. I’ve struggled mightily of late with the prospering of the wicked—the feeling that nice, good guys don’t win anymore, at least in the way that I think they should. When ungodliness (and a false show of godliness) in others are applauded and believed, I’ve been tempted to some degree to abandon what my father taught me- not in any gross and heinous way, but to be less of the nice guy. I guess you could say I’ve been thinking about getting in touch with my inner jerk, and letting it out every once in a while.
While I can’t say that I’ve completely overcome this struggle, God is using the witness of his life as an encouragement to me. Similar to the author of Hebrews encouraging his readers by recounting the faithful lives of those who have gone before them, I am exhorted to stay the course by the witness of my father, even when I cannot see any payoff on the horizon. His life was not lived in vain. The ripple effect of his simple, kind, and faithful life continues on through those he counseled, taught, cooked for, and loved, and that has been passed on to their children.
I have seen in others the sad remembrances of the wasted and selfish lives of those who have gone before them. I have seen the disappointment that comes from lives of deception and hypocrisy being exposed. I am thankful that, while my father (as well as my mother) was not perfect, the overwhelming witness of his life was that of faithfulness and goodness. The account of his life did not contradict his profession of faith. The remembrances of his life from others attest to that.
I pray that I will be able to walk in that same grace of kindness, faithfulness, and goodness, no matter what the earthly measures of success might be.