Meet my dad.
This was us probably 20 years ago. I sure loved him a lot then, and I love him even more now. So for Father’s Day, I decided to highlight five of the most meaningful roles my dad has played in my life.
My dad has either been a teacher or a student of theology for as long as I can remember. In the early days, I remember him studying Biblical languages, Greek and Hebrew flashcards strewn across the living room (I still remember the definition and proper pronunciation of koinonea after his mnemonic device of ‘coin-oh-knee-ah’ ). When I got older and spent most of my time at boarding school, we spent many an hour on the phone, me racing home with steam shooting out of my ears from the last bit of heresy I was certain I had heard in my religious studies class, hastily dialing the numbers, praying that the phone lines between the Eastern and Western highlands were working that day — “Daddy, they said in class today that you can LOSE your salvation, is that true? I don’t believe it!” He always had a way of setting me straight, with rock-solid biblical evidence, even managing to graciously suggest to me that maybe these various people I was arguing with weren’t as heretical as I thought.
As I learned how to discuss theological issues more graciously and articulately, the best thing he ever passed on to me was this – “The person who controls the definitions, controls the argument.” It sounds simple, but it revolutionized the way I formed theological assumptions, arguments and conclusions.
For every sport I played, my dad had one solid piece of advice: “Bend your knees, watch the ball, and follow through.” Soccer, tennis, basketball, volleyball, you name it… this mantra works. And I never touch a ball without those words going through my head. As a family, we can’t play a single sports game without getting some form of advice from my dad – and as much as it can irritate me in the moment, usually he’s right. So while I’m not a star in any sport, I have a decent grasp on most games, which is a very good skill to have.
Father of the Princess
It’s true, I’ve been a princess ever since I was born. As a premature baby, my dad nicknamed me Princeselina, because I was a tiny tiny princess just like Thumbelina. As the only girl in my family, there have many been times when I have milked that nickname for all its worth (although I like to think that as I grow older, I tend to assert my alter-princess-ego a little less than I used to). But my dad has always treated me like a princess – from the father-daughter dates we had over Chinese food when I was little, to the rich conversations we have as two adults now, I have always felt cherished and loved by my dad, who still calls me Princess at least once in every conversation we have.
I think my dad and I could brainstorm future life plans forever. While my mom just wants to get to the decision stage of the process (a quality I respect very much about her), my dad and I are happy to ponder all the options for a while. He patiently bears with me through all my hare-brained plans, processing the pros and cons of each one… “You want to start up an organic bakery in Turkey? Well, that could be interesting. Of course your other idea of being a professor of anthropology in Central Asia would be really good as well.” It’s always affirming to talk to my dad, because for every permutation of a five-year plan that I have, I know he has just as many ideas floating around in his head as well!
Okay. So my dad isn’t really an astronaut. But because he worked at NASA for nine years, people often assume he was an astronaut. And I don’t always let them know otherwise. It was cool having a dad who worked at NASA, especially when that meant he I got to see the Clean Room and eat astronaut ice cream during Take Your Daughter to Work Day. He was a great
astronaut NASA employee, but still decided to sacrifice that and serve somewhere meaningful, in an area that fit his passion and calling perfectly. From my astronaut-turned-missionary dad, I learned that 1) full-time ministry isn’t just something for people who couldn’t make it successfully in the business field, and 2) it is always worthwhile to give up what the world deems valuable (stability, job security, financial gain), in order to gain what God deems valuable (a life in full service to Him). And that, in my opinion, is quite a legacy.
So here’s to you, Daddy – I love you!