It has been brought to my attention that I seem to have elevated my father to sainthood since his death almost thirteen years ago.
Dad was actually elevated to the status of a saint when he trusted in Christ alone to save his soul, sometime in the ’70s. Psalm 116:15 says “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.” “Saint” as used in the Bible refers to one who is “in Christ”, or “set apart”. The Catholic church refers to exceptionally holy or virtuous people as saints.
My dad was no saint in the Catholic sense of the word. He lost his temper more than once. I know he made mistakes and had regrets from his life before he met Christ. He talked to me often about his feeling of failure, and his general feeling that he let others down, especially his children. He told me one time that he shouldn’t have bragged on himself in a certain conversation (I didn’t think he had done that, but I could see how someone else may have taken him that way). I overheard conversations he had with others and winced at his matter-of-fact honesty, which sounded harsh. Two examples come to mind, but I won’t share the details in order to protect others in the conversation. Take my word for it, he shouldn’t have said it. And did I mention he struggled with his temper? I could go on, but I’m sure you can see that he wasn’t perfect. This is one reason why I loved him so much. I wasn’t perfect, either.
But I want to be clear: I have not elevated my dad to sainthood after his death.
I did it while he was alive.
Well, I never thought of him as a saint per se. I still don’t. I thought of him as partner, hero, and friend. I told him that, too. As a young girl of three and four, I ran to him, leaped into his arms and hugged him when he got home from work. He gave me piggy back rides to bed. We ate “late, late breakfasts” (that’s what he called them) at McDonald’s on Saturdays in the summer. He played Connect Four and Sorry with me. He let me try to blow his trumpet. He let me help him change the oil or a tire. We took important trips together to Napa Auto Parts and the hardware store. We took walks together, smelled the honeysuckle, and commented on the neighbor’s neat (or not-so-neat) lawns. On one such walk, he told me about killer bees. “They’re in south Texas right now.” He said, calmly. “Headed this way.” He then informed me that one day, we’d be taking walks around the block wearing protective bee-proof clothing! I sure am happy that he was wrong about that one.
With Dad, I didn’t have to mind my P’s and Q’s. I didn’t have to wear matching clothes, and getting dirty was fine with him. I could say just about anything and he would listen. Not that he wouldn’t correct me on my attitude, he did. But I knew it came from someone who was fighting the same battles as I was. He understood my struggles and he liked me just the way I was. He made me want to work hard. He was devoted to my mother, so he showed me how a woman should be treated. He made me want to absorb information because he liked talking – and listening – to me. And folks, for a motor mouth like me, finding a person like that was rarer than gold.
As I look back, I see just how extraordinarily blessed I was to have a dad that loved me this much. My dad was older than my mother. I came along when he was 40. If I had a dollar for everytime someone said I was the “mistake” or the “accident”, I’d have a good bit of change. And if it hadn’t been for parents who were genuinely delighted that I was part of their lives, I might be away from God and utterly depressed right now, too.
His sudden death cut a gash in my heart a mile wide, and it still hasn’t healed. But Dad lived out the faith that saved him every day of my life. He was not perfect, but he knew the One Who was, and he leaned upon Him. Because of the impact of my dad’s life, I know Who can help me through life, too. It is Christ the Lord.
So, if I seem to think highly of my Dad, it’s simply because I do.
Not because he was perfect, but because he wasn’t.