(We are celebrating David Faust’s 25th anniversary of writing weekly columns by sharing a few of his favorites. Read a different classic column every day through Aug. 3.)
DAVE INTRODUCES THIS COLUMN FROM JUNE 17, 2001: “When I became editor of TheLookout in 1996, . . . we had a big goal: to help ordinary Christians (‘the people in the pew’) grow in their faith. We tried to shine practical, biblical light on three key areas: (1) personal spiritual growth, (2) contemporary cultural issues, and (3) building healthy families. The emphasis on family inspired a lot of my columns over the last 25 years. . . . I wrote the following article for Father’s Day in 2001—about 10 years before my dad went to Heaven.”
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By David Faust
GROWING UP ON a farm in southern Ohio, I spent lots of time with my dad. I’m quite sure he never read a book about “spending quality time” with his sons. We just did things together. We bailed hay, repaired fences, and chased down livestock that had wandered onto our neighbor’s property in the middle of the night. Lots of times, I simply assisted while Dad did the hard work—wielding a wagon hitch, fixing the water pump on our well, de-horning cattle, replacing a tractor tire.
Many knew Dad as a community leader and an elder at church, but I appreciated him for other reasons. He let me play basketball in the barn even though the bouncing ball bothered the cows. When Mom was away for the evening, he’d cook cholesterol-laden macho meals like fried bologna gravy over toast with fried potatoes on the side, which my brothers and I devoured with delight.
In our family room sat a big easy chair covered with brittle brown plastic. Both armrests were chipped and worn. Others must have used that chair on occasion, but I don’t remember anyone sitting on it except Dad. Late in the evening he’d kick off his shoes, prop his feet on a footstool, turn on the TV, open the newspaper to the sports page—then fall asleep and begin to snore. Finally, Mom would wake him up and make him go to bed. One night of the week, Dad varied the routine. On Saturday nights instead of the newspaper he’d open his Sunday school lesson quarterly, then fall asleep and begin to snore.
I’m not sure why I remember that old brown chair so vividly, but I think it sticks in my mind because it simply meant Dad was there—home with us in the family room.
Nowadays, it’s hard to find a good definition of fatherhood. Rare is the movie or TV show that portrays dads at their best. Most media dads are either good-natured buffoons or cruel autocrats. Real life isn’t much better. Out-of-touch dads are too preoccupied with their own professions, pleasures, and problems to initiate a deep and growing relationship with their kids. Out-of-balance dads are either “bullies” too tough to offer kids the love they need, or “buddies” too soft to offer kids the discipline they need. I also know quite a few out-of-gas dads, exhausted as they try to balance work, family, friends, and church.
Even the fathers we read about in the Bible had their struggles. But like them, God calls today’s dads to be faithful—and to be present during the everyday events that shape the character of our children. I admire the dad who stands in a cold rain at a football game on a raw Saturday morning in October, cheering when his mud-covered son makes a tackle. Or the man who skips a golf game so he can go to the park with his five-year-old daughter instead. Or the sleepy guy who stays up long enough to put together a bicycle at 2:00 a.m. on Christmas morning. I admire the dads who leave no doubt that faith in God defines the direction of their lives.
My dad wasn’t perfect, but he was there, and that’s what I needed most. I didn’t need a bigger room, fancier toys, or a trip to Disney World. I needed the security of a familiar snoring sound rising from the big brown chair—a sound that meant Dad was home, and he cared.
Last winter, I went out and bought a big green easy chair for my family room. Most evenings I fall asleep there, and my wife and daughter have to wake me up and send me off to bed. What can I say? Like father, like son.