A Father's Day Story

August 2002  - Moving into my dorm at Florida State University

“Dad has just been taken to the hospital. He’s had a heart attack,” my sister told me over the phone in late October of 2013, “I’ll tell you more when I find out.” At that time I was working on my graduate degree in Christian Formation and Ministry at Wheaton College – thousands of miles away from my family in Florida. I had been sitting in a revival conference listening to Paul Washer, one of my favorite speakers, when I received the phone call. Immediately my stomach dropped and my mind raced with worst case scenarios. 

My first impulse was to go home immediately and leave on the first flight to Florida. I rolled through my head the possible issues with that plan: I didn’t have the money, I had several important papers/assignments due at the time, I’d miss out on work at my job and possibly have to leave it. I waited outside the Billy Graham Center in the cold night air waiting to hear more. Eventually, I heard from my mom and was able to hear from my dad as well.

I can't remember the exact timeline of the phone call, whether it was that night or the next day, but in talking with my father, I expressed my love for him, we discussed some trivialities, and then I shared my desire to drop my studies for a while, go home and visit him. His response, and I wrote it down word for word because it struck me so much at the time, was this:
I want you to succeed up there. Finish what you went up there for. I really believe in it. I can’t wait to go up there when you finish.
My father’s thoughts, even while he was recovering from a heart attack and a stint procedure, was that he believed I was following my calling and he didn’t want anything to get in the way of it. It’s hard to put into words the powerful security and confidence a son can derive from a father who loves by supporting his calling.

This picture was texted to me after the call

His words reminded me of another phone conversation I had with him and my mother eleven years earlier, in 2002. I called home with the decision that I was changing my undergrad major from education to religion. I was burning out and de-motivated from my education courses and only found drive and inspiration in the religion courses I took. I knew that if I was going to make it out of college, I had to switch. I didn't tell them that I was struggling greatly with demotivation and feelings of listlessness in my current major. I’ll never forget my father’s initial response, “What are you going to do with that degree? Go and work at the religion store?” It’s something that has always stuck in my head. I knew that his concern was for my financial future and ultimately for my well-being, but it still stung. He couldn’t see the wisdom in my decision, but this didn’t stop his support for me; in words or in deeds. 

After finishing up at Florida State University (mostly finished, but that’s another story), I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with my life and with this religion degree. I got a job at Suntrust Bank, sparking one of my favorite lines to people who asked me what I did, “I got a degree in religion, so I naturally went into finances.” It was just a placeholder. Eventually, my campus pastor asked me to help him plant a church in the area. I felt called to do this. However, there wasn’t much money in it. 

Easter 2009 - held in the FSU ballroom

Still, my father and mother supported me when I decided to stay in Tallahassee and help to plant Mosaic Church, even though it meant I wouldn’t earn that much money and it meant staying five hours away from them. My parents supported me financially, they came up to visit, attend FSU games, and support the church and its endeavors – especially our Easter celebrations. 

After about five years working with Mosaic Church, I felt a change in calling. I felt the Lord leading me to get a graduate degree and deeper spiritual training. When I told my parents of the decision to attend Wheaton College in the western suburbs of Chicago, they supported me – even though I wasn’t sure what job field I’d enter afterwards, it meant moving even farther from home, and it meant incurring new student debt. Like at Florida State, my father helped me pack my stuff and move into my apartment in Wheaton. 

August 2012 - My Dad and I visiting the campus after I moved in

“I want you to succeed up there. Finish what you went up there for. I really believe in it. I can’t wait to go up there when you finish,” my father said over the phone in October of 2013. I knew he meant it. I knew he even meant the final part of that response as well “can’t wait to go up there when you finish.” You see, I’ve numerous major changes that required moves to new cities and my father has been there for all of them. He’s helped me pack, make the road trip, and even renovate. In January 2014, I had essentially finished my studies and my father flew into Chicago to help me pack and make the move down to Florida. He was there when I finished. 

January 2014 - packed up the cars in Wheaton, ready to head home

I am writing this from Louisville, Kentucky where I have been following my calling as a high school Bible teacher the last five years. I am certain that without the support of my family, and specifically my father, I would not have made it here. Who would have thought that all the side jobs, the changing of minors and majors in my undergrad, and the pastoral work, that looked so random and temporary – would lead me to a calling as a Christian educator that is the most satisfying work I’ve ever done? I’m still not really making very much money and I’m still living away from my family, but that's something I hope the Lord can change in the future!

When I was a teenager in high school, I struggled greatly with my belief in God. In one conversation with my parents they asked me, “Don’t you see how God has changed us? Don’t you see God in us?” I replied, “No. You’re great, you’re nice people, but I don’t see anything more than that.” How foolish and blind I was then! On this Father’s day, I wanted to honor my father with the telling of this story. I want my friends and family to know of his love and support for me, even when it didn’t make sense, seemed random, kept me away from them, and even when he was on a hospital bed. Above all, in his love and support, it has allowed me to see the goodness of Christ through him. I know now and am eternally grateful that he’s more than just “a nice person” – he’s my loving father through him I see Christ working. 

Happy Father's Day
"As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;" 
-Psalm 103:13