With Father’s Day approaching, I suppose it is natural for my thoughts to dwell on my father, who cast a large influence upon my life. Like a lot of children, I looked to my father for protection and an example on how to live. He seemed to be the most powerful man in my life. I remember bragging to the neighbor kid that my father could whip his dad in a fight. I didn’t realize that Dad overheard my challenge, and he quickly corrected me. He didn’t need to fight anyone to prove anything.
Even as a child, I could see the obvious flaws in my father’s life. Even though he was a pastor and a cement mason, he wasn’t a very good businessman. He relied on my mother to manage the finances, because he had such a kind, compassionate heart that he would either underbid a job or be a sucker for a hard-luck story of some stranger. Because of his tender disposition, he often did not exert himself in leadership, either in our home or in the church, as he probably should have.
But Dad was creative, helping Art Yensen and Roy Schlottman build the statues of the Dorian Woman and Big Foot that still stand in the Fort Boise Park in Parma. He also had a wonderful, deprecating and dry sense of humor. He often made himself the target of his own jokes. Dad’s outstanding virtues were his personal humility and his deep, genuine love for God and people.
Looking back, I am ashamed of the teasing and fun we had as children at his expense. Often when he came home from a hard day of labor, he would sink down into the old stuffed chair in the corner of the living room and fall fast asleep. We little urchins would pull feathers from the corners of our pillows and slip them into his open mouth. Oh, how we would giggle with anticipation, waiting for him to gag when he closed his mouth. The poor, tired man could not even take a nap in the sanctuary of his own chair without being assaulted by the little boys he was trying to feed.
But in spite of having to work to support his family, Dad pastored a small congregation and took those responsibilities very seriously. Sometimes he barely had time to come home, eat a small supper, change clothes, and hurry over to the Bible study he led at church. Even though he lacked all the formal education he desired, Dad remained a curious student of the Bible and was a very good teacher. He truly loved people, and ministered to them as the best possible representative of God. One of my earliest childhood memories was seeing my father praying at the altar of the church, humbly asking for heaven’s help. I remember his calloused, worn hands lifted in worship and knew Christianity was not for sissies. Dad lived it better than he could preach it.
Dad went home to be with the Lord in October of 1983, and I have deeply missed him for almost 32 years. But he would be embarrassed to read this tribute, and his personal humility always would point his children to the ultimate Father in heaven he was trying to model.
Through my father’s example, I realized that God cared so much to come so far to be so near. One of the reasons we do not recognize God in our world is because he is often dressed up in the lives of other people. The footprints of the savior were imprinted across the soft tissues of my memory by my father’s size 9, unpolished oxfords. God walked in Parma in Dad’s flannel shirt and Levi’s!
This week, I celebrated my 70th birthday. I am reminded that my father lived to be 70. So this Father’s Day, I am not only reflecting on those who walked before me, but I am also aware that I, too, must be careful to live honorably, because I have no idea how many little eyes are looking for the savior who desires to live through my flannel shirt.
Loren A. Yadon is pastor of New Life Fellowship of Boise.
The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.