Rushing out the door I caught a glimpse of myself in the foyer mirror and did a double take. For the first time in my life I noticed I looked just like my Dad. I left the house laughing that it’s taken me this long to see the resemblance. It’s not my hair, features, or build it’s my clothes – my sense of style which shouts, “Dad!” Even the boys noticed it that day. When I caught up with them Luke said, “You’ve got glasses like Grandpa Davis.” Chase chimed, “There’s a giant in my room!” an inside joke he and his Grandpa share.
Why that day, over any other, was the gene pool so obvious? It came down to a trench coat and sunglasses. Neither item is new I just don’t think the boys had seen me wearing them together. Sunglasses are mandatory at our altitude but a trench coat is rarely required. Where their grandpa lives the coat is a necessity but not the glasses. The look still works for my Dad even if the sun is rarely out in his neighborhood.
Fathers and daughters aren’t usually compared in terms of their looks or taste in clothing. You hear mother-daughter comparisons far more. I don’t look much like either of my parents so this hasn’t been an issue for me. In terms of personality, however, I am more like my Father than anyone else in my family. This strikes me as funny because I didn’t grow-up living with him. My parents’ divorced when I was three years old. Co-parenting wasn’t en vogue at the time so I only spent every other weekend, two weeks in the summer, and one week at Christmas with him. Not a lot of time when you think about it, but clearly my dear old Dad has made an impression on me beyond just genetics.
The similarities run the gamut. From books, music, food, movies, travel, to every other form of leisure we’re pretty close to peas in a pod. The long list of likes and dislikes we share has always made our time together enjoyable but what I treasure the most about my Father is learning from him the value of being available to people to encourage them. While he wouldn’t call the gift of encouragement a spiritual one it is, and nobody has taught me more about cheering people on than my Dad.
For him this gift was born out hardship. An encouraging word from his parents was a rare commodity. So many abusive things were said by them that even if kind word came it would be hard to remember. I know this to be true not from my own experience with my grandparents’, but from watching their interactions with him. A suit of armor was required at their perfectly set dinner table because a dart to the heart was inevitable.
My Dad’s way to offset that has always been to offer mountains of encouragement when it’s needed. Sometimes his praise feels a bit disingenuous but if you were tell him that, he would assure you he means every word. Case in point, the last time he was visiting I made creamed corn from scratch and his praise was so effusive I thought Bobby Flay would show up ready to challenge me to a throw down. Nobody knows how to bubble up a person’s spirits like my Dad! He’s the best even if sometimes you don’t believe him, which unfortunately is often the case for me. Truth told any measure of self-confidence I have is very fragile. I am not nearly the self-assured woman my Dad would like me to be. I’m very good at portraying myself that way, however like many people I struggle with my self-image.
The mirrors we fly by everyday are at times cruel. Like life in my Dad’s childhood home, what’s reflected back is distorted. We see ourselves as the world wants us to not God. While sober judgment is important, for many the image reflected leaves the heart hungry for an affirming word. The fatigue and burn-out this causes is exactly what the enemy wants. When you feel like your efforts are worthless they truly are worth less. Why wouldn’t you want to throw in the towel? Why wouldn’t you be discouraged?
This is why my Dad’s encouragement has always been valuable to me. I know when I’m in the pit he will help me climb out and as a result of his faithfulness I try to do the same for others but it’s not nearly the priority for me that it should be. I get so caught up in my own struggles and so behind schedule with all that’s on my plate, I forget there are folks just like me that need an encouraging word. I see people around me who might need their spirit lifted and I either try to take care of it quickly or just walk around it. However, when were told to feed the hungry and clothe the sick being an encourager is a part of that. Meals, clothing, shelter, and financial support are one part of the equation, blanketing the world with affirming words is the other.
The hard part is that it takes time and energy and when you’re struggling yourself it’s easy to dismiss someone else’s need in favor of your own. Only in the most extreme situations, however, are any of us so emotionally bankrupt that we don’t have a kind word to share or the time in which to share it. Whether it’s a card, email, phone call or cup of coffee with someone who needs it the effort needs to be made. If not, the wounded keep walking passing all sorts of mirrors along the way that don’t show them an encouraging picture. That’s not okay and does nothing to advance the Kingdom.
This Father’s Day I hope we can all take the great lesson my Dad taught me out into the world. Reach out to people. Greet those you love, and even those you might barely know, with a kind word. Notice something great or small they are doing. Listen when you know they are hurting. Find something affirming to say to them. Build up their spirit. From this, we will all see a greater measure of our Father’s presence reflected among us which is truly a beautiful picture.