Stories and memories abound in my mind as Father’s Day approaches. I could do an hour of standup comedy relating tales of being “dad” to three awesome children. Certainly there were proud moments, tender moments, and many celebrations through the years of birthdays and special holidays. Reminiscing with my children, however, we tend to dwell on the crazy and funny predicaments we shared.
Somehow all of those special moments were also teaching moments. While there were times that my wife and I intentionally taught a life lesson to our kids, the majority of those tutorials took place without our knowledge. It was in life’s daily routines and surprises and crises that our children were exposed to real time examples of how to (and sometimes how NOT to) face life’s circumstances. It is true that in similar moments I also learned lessons from my kids.
One of the rituals in my childhood was the Saturday night shoeshine party. It probably was not a weekly custom, but I well remember my two brothers and me bringing our “Sunday shoes” to dad on the eve of Sunday church. He had newspapers spread across the kitchen table, with polish, rags, and brushes all laid out, waiting for the boys to present their shoes. And there he brought four pairs of Sunday shoes — his and ours — to a sheen that made us proud.
On Sunday morning dad would make toast in the oven, but not only buttered toast. There was cheese toast, cinnamon toast, sugar toast, peanut butter toast, and probably other flavors I do not recall. Mom would have our Sunday clothes ready, and dad would make sure our ties were straight. I remember when I “graduated” from clip-on ties to “real” ones that dad had to tie for me.
On the way to church it was dad who would supply each of us boys with an offering for Sunday School. It was a rare occasion that he did not have a pocket full of change.
Yes, attending church was among the highest priorities in our family. These “rituals” preparing for Sunday church serve to illustrate the importance Sundays held in our home. We were faithful to Sunday School, morning worship, Sunday night church, and Wednesday night church. Our parents both were always actively involved in church: ushering, singing in the choir, teaching Sunday School, and serving in leadership.
Interestingly, I do not recall either of my parents sitting me down to explain the importance of being involved in church; they simply taught by example. Of course, we were involved in school and sports, but most of our family’s friends were from church. It really was a loving family. I witnessed the impact our church — and a relationship with Christ — had on my parents.
I am confident that being a family man in my adult years would have included active involvement in a local church. I say “would have” because, as it turned out, I experienced God’s “call” on my life to full time ministry, and my choice to say “yes” necessarily included being involved in and raising my children in an environment where church and spiritual things were a daily reality.
The Sunday shoeshine party was one of many, many ways that my dad taught me how to live; how to be a good husband, dad, businessman, and responsible citizen. I only wish that I could tell him “thanks” one more time.
Steven Callis is the minister at First Church of the Nazarene in Douglasville.