One of my earliest memories is of watching my dad weave a heavy nylon cord, the kind he used to tie down planes at the hangar. He had one end of the yellow rope tied to his big red Craftsman toolbox, and with his free hands, he worked the smaller strands into one very strong cable.
As he worked, he talked to me, explaining what he was doing and why. He taught me the pattern and let me have a turn. My three-year-old hands were too small and the weaving was complicated, but I liked being near him and watching him work. He smelled like metal and grease and bit of Old Spice, and I thought he was very handsome.
He was always teaching, always explaining, and always demonstrating something to me. When he took me up in the airplane by myself, and I got to sit in the co-pilot’s seat, he made sure I knew exactly what he was doing. He taught me how to make cookies and how to play Risk and showed me how to remove stamps from envelopes so I could start a collection just like his. Teaching was just something he did, like breathing.
My dad died only three days after Christmas the year I turned eleven. He pulled out onto a snowy Ohio road and never came back. They said he died instantly in the crash, that he never felt a thing. But we felt it.
The wake was held just a few days later, and then the funeral, when everything was hazy but real enough to be horrible. People came up and said things to me that seemed to make them feel better, about how it was all so tragic and how there hadn’t been enough time.
It seemed the right thing to say. His death was unexpected and heartbreaking. He was so young. We were so young. There was a gaping wound where once he had been.
But in another sense, it was not tragic, and it was not too soon. Many other people had lived much longer lives and done much less with them. It seemed that was a greater tragedy.
In the years that followed, I have known many friends and family members who have died, but no one has ever said there was enough time. Death always comes too soon. I remember talking to my grandpa the summer before he died from prostate cancer. He had lived over eighty full, fruitful years, but even he was struggling with the idea that life was closing in. There was still so much he wanted to do, so much he wanted to say, and the living part of him could not help but grieve the fact that the dying part of him was winning.
Life is a precious thing. Even a full, long life is over in a blink.
The tragedy comes when life is over before it ever really began, when a person fills his life with nothing but small stuff and never gets around to the things that really matter. For parents, the tragedy comes when they save for tomorrow what should have been started today, when they bother over enjoying their children today with little regard to whether or not they will enjoy them for eternity.
That is a tragic.
But in my home, teaching us about faith was the priority. I do not remember a time when my family did not pray around the dinner table. I don’t remember when we started reading a chapter from the thick children’s story Bible after dinner. I don’t remember when we started going to church or memorizing Scripture or reading missionary biographies. I don’t remember because it always was.
My parents took seriously the charge to care for our eternal well-being by teaching us God’s Word and demonstrating real-life faith in flesh and blood right before our very eyes. From a very young age, I understood that all of eternity hinges on matters of faith.
Keeping the commitment to godly instruction was not always easy, I’m sure. I stomped my way into church more than once, and the busyness of life threatened the quite times with God. But absolutely no temporal sacrifice could compare with the eternal enjoyment of each other that was born out of that faithful work.
Because of the way my parents taught me, I was able to see the hand of God even in the sorrow of my dad’s untimely death. I remember opening my Bible on the night he died, seeking comfort in the Psalms. His legacy, shortened though it was, carried me through the early years without him, the firsts of college and marriage and children, the uncertainty of childhood transitions and adult decisions.
The things he taught me governed how I lived, helped to determine whom I married, and even today, gives me a pattern for how I raise my kids. My dad’s priority has had generational impact. Even though he has never met them, his grandchildren are following in his footsteps.
He had enough time because he did not take his time for granted.
I want to parent like that. Whether I die today or fifty years from now, I want my kids to say I had enough time, that I kept my priorities straight and I did not neglect the big things because the small things were more immediate and more demanding. I want them to know that I did the hard things, the less enjoyable things, so that we could enjoy each other forever.
What is life, but a breath? Yet all of eternity stretches out before us. May we make decisions today that will ensure we can enjoy it with all of our children and the many generations to come.
Please join us tomorrow for Day 29!
1) Take time today to explain to your children why you believe what you do. Do they know your testimony?
2) If you have not been faithful to teach your children, confess it. Tell them that you have not done something you should and tell them that you are going to start today.
3) Pray with them today. Even a very short prayer at dinner or bedtime leaves a lasting impression.
4) If your children are small, get an age-appropriate children’s Bible and read a chapter a day. One Bible storybook we love for the littles is The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name. Older children can be read to from The New Living Translation (a very well-done modern paraphrase) or any Bible you have in the home.
5) Find a Bible-believing church and go!