By Rose Pauly
Today is September 11. It is a day of infamy, a day people remember. Thousands lost in a few hours to violence, to the evil intent of humans driven by hatred and destruction. We mourn, we fear, we grieve, we immortalize. Questions incessantly pound like the distant drumbeat of an unknown foe. What does the future hold? Where is our world headed?
Today is also my dad’s birthday. His 80th birthday. As I reflect on my dad there is something profound that emerges out of the ashes of the world’s chaos. In contrast to the devastation that defines this day for many, stands a man who has lived his life loving well.
I used to take it for granted.
The father who wrapped me in his arms as a little girl and let me know I was treasured and safe. The father who loved adventure and constantly toted his family to the beach, the lake or the mountains for a lively excursion. The father who loved God and taught his children to love Him too.
I remember going on a camping trip with just me and Dad. Mom braided my hair and pinned it on top my head so Dad wouldn’t have to figure out what to do with the long strands. I stood on the front of his motorized scooter as we rode several hours to the mountain camping spot. My seven year old legs tired quickly as we hiked the trail, but Dad was patient. I felt so important and valued. Dad wanted to spend time with just me.
As a young girl, the face I saw in the mirror was homely and somewhat gangly. My hair was thick and unmanageable, and, before braces corrected the problem, my front teeth protruded awkwardly. Freckles dotted my nose and my nail biting habit helped neither my nails nor my teeth. But inside I felt beautiful. I never noticed the ungainliness of my appearance because dad thought I was beautiful. I was his cherished daughter and life held contentment and security.
My dad loved deeply and my dad loved well.
He still does. His life has been defined by his great love…his love for life, his love for mom, his love for his children, family and friends, and his love for God. He didn't let the circumstances around him change who he was. Cynicism couldn't attach itself to his heart. Resentment, bitterness and revenge had no hold on him. He refused to walk in self-pity or retaliation. Strong yet filled with grace for others. Courageous yet patient. Handsome and talented yet overwhelmingly humble. Traveling through hardships and challenges yet holding to faith. This is my dad.
Growing up as my dad’s daughter , there was so much of life to engage in: camping, backpacking, skiing, tennis, mountain biking, motorcycling, swimming, boogie boards, ping pong and chess. He taught me to embrace life with vigor and enjoy every day as a gift. Yet, behind the adventures and activity, I treasure the heart that he passed down to me. Refusing to let disappointment derail. Choosing to see the best in others. Working hard and not giving up. Giving generously. And yes, loving deeply. His source of love, he unashamedly expresses, is his walk and abiding relationship with God. It is this heritage he has passed down to me.
He has given his daughter pure gold.
Today is September 11. The questions still swirl like the leaves of fall in an uninhibited whirlwind. What does the future hold? Where is our world headed? I don’t have the answers and know none of us does. But what I DO know is that our world is greatly enriched by men and women like my dad. Men and women willing to love in the face of hatred. Men and women willing to be undeterred by the forces of greed and violence around them. Men and women willing to give generously for the good of others. Men and women that recognize the powerful influence of a life lived for God.
Breaking though the fear and the uncertainty of our day come words of scripture, words from the ultimate Father, the Father to the fatherless, and the Father who is always true and faithful: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3
Broken humanity needs this love. A pain riddled world needs to know the message of Romans 8. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The love of a Father will carry us through.
By Rose Pauly