BY SHARON VAN ARNEMAN
As my Dad prepares to celebrate his 80th Birthday this Easter Sunday, April 17; I find myself thinking back to my growing up years with him. Probably no one has singularly impacted my life quite as much as my Dad. I was three going on four when he got saved, so I am privileged to have received a rich spiritual legacy from him. In fact, he is doubtless one of the main reasons I came to faith in Christ at a very young age. God’s Word was the rule in our home, and even as a child, what impressed me most about my Dad was his consistent life. He was the same person at home, at church, at work and on the street. That is not to say that he was perfect – but my purpose here is not to focus on his flaws, but rather on the positive ways he impacted my life growing up.
MY DAD DIDN’T JUST SEND US TO CHURCH, HE TOOK US TO CHURCH. We all know Sunday to be the Lord’s Day – and in our home, it was revered as such. Going to church on Sunday was never an option for us kids. Attending church together as a family was a given. My Dad wouldn’t even allow us to participate in an activity on Sunday morning if it would mean that we’d have to miss church. He didn’t make an issue of folk having to work on Sunday when their occupations mandated it; but where one had a choice; he believed attending church should take priority.
MY DAD PLACED A PREMIUM ON QUALITY. Growing up, we kids hated it when our Dad took us school shopping. He didn’t seem to care one bit about stuff being pretty. He’d buy us those “ugly” leather shoes that seemed to last forever. We wanted the “cool” pretty shoes that were in style, and the fancy book-bags some of our friends had. But no! “These things are not strong,” he would say – and that was that. Too young to understand the value of quality, we’d whine and gripe behind his back, feeling stuck with shoes we knew we’d outgrow sooner than they would “mash up”.
MY DAD WAS A VERY GENEROUS MAN. My Dad cared deeply for the poor, even if it meant giving away his last dozen eggs to help feed a hungry family. When people came to church and didn’t have the means, he’d do whatever he could to help them. He’d buy them clothes or he’d go through his stuff and see what he could find to give them. It was just never enough for him to say he’ll pray for you, without going that extra mile to see what he could do to help lighten your burden.
MY DAD BELIEVED IN ME. One of the best gifts my Dad gave me was that he believed in me; he trusted me; he had faith in me. I remember overhearing my parents talking about me one day – I was in my early-teens then. My Dad was singing my praises, saying how I was growing up to be a young woman of character. That did something to me! You don’t ever want to betray the trust of parents who believe in you. That may be one of the reasons why it was an easy decision for me to not follow bad company, to stay in school and study hard, to not do drugs and alcohol, to save sex for marriage, to keep God first in my life and to serve in the ministry – among a host of other transformative decisions.
Now a wife, a mom, and a nana to the cutest little grandson, I remain deeply grateful to God for a Dad 80 years strong, who has proven the truth of Proverbs 22:6 over and over again: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”