This Sunday, June 21st is Father’s Day in the United States. The History Channel says this of the origin of Father’s Day, “On July 19, 1910, the governor of the U.S. state of Washington proclaimed the nation’s first “Father’s Day.” However, it was not until 1972, 58 years after President Woodrow Wilson made Mother’s Day official, that the day became a nationwide holiday in the United States.” So Father’s Day has been around since 1910 but was made an official national holiday in 1972. In this post I want to share with you about my Father.
My Dad was an incredible man, at least in my eyes. He was a hard man, serving over 22 years as a sergeant in the Army tends to make men hard. He never compromised. He never seemed intimidated. He worked hard at two low paying jobs to put with his military retirement to provide what we had, meager as it was. He always seemed to be in control. In spite of all this persona I know he loved me and my older brother, Robert. Not once have I ever doubted how proud he was of us or how much he loved us. In July of 1978 my father was involved in an accident. He was working at our local golf course when somehow the tractor and mower he was working on ran over him. His injuries were life threatening. My father was helicoptered to Forrest General Hospital and I was ushered to Jake and Karen Keith’s home. This would be the best place for me. They lived in the staff home at the golf course that was such a huge part of my young life. There I could swim in the pool and play golf and be surrounded by my friends. The day of his accident was the last time I saw my dad, Bob Stewart, alive. He died a few weeks later on Friday, July 21st, 1978, 26 days before my 10th birthday.
I was able to deal with my Father’s death well. There were a few things I remember even to this day that were difficult. I will never forget the look on my Mother’s face when I walked in the room after my Dad’s death. No one ever told me he had died; that look shared everything I needed to know. My Dad was dead and my Mother seemed to be dying. Seeing my Dad in the coffin was also tough. However, for the most part, I adjusted and life went on as normal as we could make it. One day several months after Bob’s death I went with a friend to his home to ask permission to go down the street to another friend’s house. We three youngsters were inseparable, Lawson, Stewart and Adams. When you saw one you usually saw all three of us. This day my friend asked his dad for permission to go down the street and maybe some money for a coke. The conversation went something like this, “DAD, can I have some change for a coke and can I go across the street? Here you go, SON.” Those words hurt. There was nothing inconsiderate in this conversation. It was a normal conversation. No reasonable person would have ever known how they stung. I realized there is certain finality in death; I would not say DAD or hear SON ever again. I made a silent commitment that day to try to never again hear those words from anyone else. Over the next few years with no one ever noticing I tried to never be present with a son and dad. My life revolved around a handful of places that were safe for me: golf course, school, home, pool hall, Aunt Barb’s to fish.
Church was soon added to the places I loved hanging around. I had been miraculously saved by watching a TV broadcast of Main Street Baptist Church in Hattiesburg, MS. My family did not attend church very often. One Sunday morning as a ten year old boy in a home all alone Jesus saved me. Honestly, I was on the fast track of discipleship. It was unusual how I loved studying the Word and going to church to hear preaching. Let me assure the sanctification process was slow but I was gobbling up the Word. My life was a mixture of golf, pool, fishing, church and a little school. Still silently I avoided FATHER/SON conversations.
Fast forward in time a few years. I was 14 years old and working through a call on my life to preach. My home church was having an event in which we were having a special prayer meeting. I asked my pastor if I could come to the prayer meeting and he invited me. We prayed for laborers, souls, resources and the speaker. When that prayer meeting was over my life changed forever. My 5th grade teacher, Mary King, came straight to me and before I could stand to my feet she cupped my cheeks with her hands and put her face to mine. She was standing and I was sitting and I was still taller than she was. We were nose to nose and eye to eye. Ms. King was an old lady when I was born and was a tough teacher. I am sure she had to be near 80 at this time and I was afraid she was about to scold me as she had many times in her life. I will never forget what she said, “Dean, God has impressed upon my heart to tell you that God will be your Father if you will let Him. Son, you don’t have to carry around the hurt you are carrying. You have a Father and He is God.” How did she know? Had it been obvious I avoided certain places and conversations? Was she just so close to God she could see what others couldn’t see?
My life changed that very moment. God no longer would be just God. He was now my Father. How my life changed! From that moment, every Sunday I went to friends’ homes and ate Sunday lunch. There I was surrounded by sons, daughters and dads. Never again did I dread hearing the words, FATHER or SON. God is not an impersonal God who we can’t approach. He is our Father and we can approach Him boldly. What son is afraid to approach his father? Through the years there has been one chapter I read more than any other. It is my favorite chapter. Romans 8 contains every promise a believer needs. Right in the midst of all those promises is this verse, Romans 8:15, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but received the Spirit of sonship. And by Him we cry Abba, Father.” Thank you Jesus! We can call God our Father and we are His children.
Happy Father’s Day to all you dads. You guys are great. I am grateful for Mary King for she was the first to teach me every believer has a great Father.