(This is a guest post from Sylvester Renner, a friend who is passionate about impacting lives through holistic development. He is the Founder and President of Develop Africa. His Blog site can be found here www.sylrenner.com)
It’s the month June – and the month when “Father’s Day” is celebrated in many countries. The words “Father”, “Dad” “Papa” and “Daddy” evoke and stir up many memories for me – as I am sure it does for most people that grew up with a father in the home. Here are 4 phrases that come to mind as I close my eyes and meditate on the word “Father”.
Great Provider: My father was a great provider. Today, being a father myself, I have a tremendous appreciation and respect for the superb provision that my father made for me, my mother and my siblings. While growing up as a child, we were well taken care of by my father. His provision did not just end with necessities – but also extended to many other areas. For instance, we had the opportunity to travel very often and this broadened my horizons, helping me to appreciate different cultures and languages at an early age. Between his provision and a scholarship, my undergraduate education was covered. In short he did the utmost to meet our needs.
This exposure and foundation provided an excellent platform for and launching pad into the person that I am today. I realize that some of this provision was the result of my father’s hard work and sacrifice. He worked long hours and I would often see him coming home tired and dragging after a hard day’s work. “I appreciate you, Daddy like never before for adding comfortable feathers to my early nest.” His example made it easy for me to see God as a Father who provides and meet my needs. It spurs me on to do as well and even better for my family.
Servant Leader and Role Model: As a Father, my dad set a role model for me in terms of his humanitarian leadership. He had plaque on the wall in his office with a quote that read “The poor cannot eat theories”. He was a man of the people and believed in the principle of what he called unscheduled stops. He explained that in Scripture, when Jesus was traveling, he often made unscheduled stops. Jesus stopped to attend to the needs of people on his journey – for instance while en route to a task or assignment, he stopped and attended to the blind Bartimaeus, the woman with the issue of blood, Jairus’ daughter etc.
My Father served part time for many years in ministry and had a heart and compassion for others. I know for certain that there are many people that he helped. Our home was frequented by many. Because he went out of his way to help others, the destinies and courses of the lives of these people were permanently changed / enhanced. At his passing just over a decade ago, I was overwhelmed with good wishes and stories of how he had blessed and empowered the lives of many.
With such a great example, it was almost natural for me to follow his example of humanitarian service. I started off in community service at an early age and I am so grateful for the example he left behind and his life of service. I am proud to be walking in His steps and standing on his shoulders.
Learning from The Positive and the Not-So-Positive: As children we derive and learn a lot from our parents and our environment. This includes facial features, other genetics, observed habits, expressions, attitudes to people of a different culture / skin color, money etc. When I was growing up, a common phrase that people would use with respect to fathers and sons was “Like father, like son.” This and such phrases embody the powerful influence that father (and mothers) can have on their children.
It is important to however note that this influence could, on one hand, be potentially positive and, on the other hand, could be not-so-positive (or simply put – negative). Given the 2 possible outcomes of fatherly influence, it’s essential that children (to the best of their abilities and as soon as they are able) become discerning and make the requisite wise choices. Let’s consider this from both options.
The Positive: As mentioned above, my father was a great model in several areas. He passed along many important life principles – including 2 that I will mention here. Firstly, he taught us to live conservative by example and word. When about to spend money, he taught us to ask ourselves the question: “Do I really need this”? He did not just “talk the talk”. He “walked the walk” and lived conservatively. Secondly, he taught us that in life, we must have “good shock absorbers”. Anyone who has travelled extensively on remote roads that were in bad repair would truly appreciate this image. He taught us that we must be able to handle the unavoidable and unexpected bumps and disappointments that life brings our way. He taught me and I clearly learned from him “what to do”.
The Not-So-Positive: In the interest of staying balanced,while I honor my father and appreciate all my father did for me and taught me, we had our differences. If you stop to think about this – this probably would be true to just about everybody – not just my Father. There were several things he did that I would not do or I would do differently.
Differences, I learned, are normal and part of life. Through our differences, I learned that we must have an appreciation for people beyond our differences. I learned to love and respect him even though I did not agree with him on everything.
Additionally, I learned that everyone is unique and deals with a different set of cards – that affect the decisions that they make. However, over the years I have learned to focus on the flip side of differences and to learn from them. This certainly has been a journey and has taken time.
Everyone has their flaws and room for improvement – including me and you. Over the years, through our differences, I learned to lighten up and be less judgmental. While I wish that several things were different and that history had taken a different course, I have learned additional key lessons. I have learned to focus and appreciate the good things he did. Sometimes we have to close our eyes to the “not so good” to appreciate and benefit from the good. It takes grace, wisdom and forgiveness to overlook faults, forgive and focus on the good. By doing that we will be so much better able to appreciate and learn from the positive. It took me a while to learn that.
Forward Thinker and Visionary: My father’s ideas were ahead his time and he creatively thought and planned ahead. For instance, in development work, he emphasized the need to provide a “hand up” (empower the people by teaching them to fish) and not simply a hand out (provide fish for a day). A good family friend explained that thanks to the advice that he received from my father, he was able, little by little, to build his first house. I am walking in his steps today – helping to provide a “hand up” and empower lives in Africa.
This month and forever, I honor you, Daddy. I celebrate you and your memory. Thanks so much – for everything!