If you’ve been ignoring my Facebook and twitter for the last two weeks you may not know that my dad passed away last week. Since then I have spent a lot of time thinking about him. I’ve been thinking about the man he was. I’ve been thinking about what made him so impactful that there was a line of people paying their respect Saturday for four and a half hours.
I wouldn’t want to be so bold as to compare my dad to Jesus as the title might indicate. My dad was very human. He had a temper. He had moments where he could be very selfish. He had a knack for using inappropriate language and racial slurs in front of my children. He even voted for Trump, and didn’t even have the decency to stick around to see what would happen.
But, like Jesus, my dad was a humble carpenter. Besides building things for a living, making things was what made him feel alive. Like the God he was made in the image of, he could take a piece of clay, wood, or paper, and speak creation into it. Out of it would come wildlife or mountain men or Native dancers. On a more practical level he made homes, buildings, and took old structures and brought new life into them.
The most surprising thing I realized when thinking about my dad was that he is a closet progressive. My dad always voted republican, watched Fox News, and spouted conservative rhetoric. That is why we ended up not talking about politics. But he lived his life as a progressive.
What does that mean? I’ll start with a story Jesus told. A father asked his two sons to go perform a task. The first son quickly says yes, but gets busy about his day and never does it. The second brother says he can’t, but ends up going out and doing it.Jesus asks who did the will of the father, the one who said yes and did nothing, or the one who said no but still did it.
So, while many progressive churches and Christians talk a lot about following Christ’ example but not doing much. My dad however has taken in the poor and homeless, visited the sick and in prison, provided meals, shelter, and friendship to those others had closed the door to. So my dad was conservative in that he didn’t like the government taking care of these things, but he never failed to take care of them himself. And don’t get me wrong, we were poor. I never had a new name brand clothing. We never had video games. We didn’t have a lot, but what we had he was willing to give away.
My dad was also a teacher. At least as much as his creativity, his willingness and desire to impart wisdom and knowledge in those around him made him the man he was. Sometimes those lessons came from his own experience and mistakes. Sometimes they came from observations. But spending time around my dad always resulted in an opportunity to learn something.
My dad taught me to shoot a gun and a bow. He taught me how to build a fire. He taught me how to build things, though I never quite had his skill. Then he taught me to love. How to love my mom, my wife, my kids, and my neighbors. When Jesus tells the story of the sheep and the goats and says the difference is what was done for the least of these, my dad taught me what it means to do for the least of these.
So was my dad like Jesus? Well if you tilt your head a little and squint you might see the resemblance!