BEING reared in a good solid Adventist home is a great advantage. My father was not a minister, nevertheless our home standards were as high as any preacher's home I have visited. My "three-R" years found me in public school. Home was a definite refuge, for I was extremely sensitive to the "differences" between the world and us. I learned early that "misery loves company." There was a close affinity between two lads and myself. One was Jewish and the other Negro. Although the brands we bore were different, yet the common denominator of not being totally accepted by the human race in general brought me a measure of consolation. I trace my lack of racial prejudice to this experience. I've often wondered whether my attitudes would have been different had I never been exposed to the conglomerate world at an early age.
Sensitivity to God's Will
My father's life centered and still centers in one cardinal theme—the Lord and His church. His actions and life's happenings were constantly interpreted within a religious setting. He was adept at seeing fulfilling Bible prophecies in a newspaper headline or a radio bulletin. His sensitivity to God's will was exhibited in numerous ways. During depression years his job as a teacher kept a fairly regular pay check coming to the home. Lessons of unselfishness were taught by trips with dad and mother to deliver baskets of food to the penniless hungry. The value of a single penny was never overlooked. The gift of a nickel rendered feelings similar to a person today who falls heir to a thousand dollars. One time I begged dad for a nickel to buy a candy bar. He simply looked at me and slowly stated, "Son, I've given you many a nickel. Your bed cost lots of them, and those shoes you have on cost more than forty of them. Compare your rich state to the poor boys and girls who have nothing!" My begging stopped as I pondered how wealthy I really was! Since then, I have learned that my real wealth couldn't be counted by nickels, but by Adventist parents who had sense enough to understand that the principle of true Christianity is self-surrender and self-sacrifice, and this they admirably attempted to convey to me. Purchase of principle is impossible. Principle can only be lived.
Love No Stranger
My parents were deeply in love. They never had to tell me that. I knew it and grew up in its atmosphere. God pity the millions of children reared in a turbulent home where love is a stranger. I never knew a divided home until death, not divorce, separated them. Mother died when I was twelve. But even then you couldn't really call it a divided home. My father simply took on the additional stature of a mother. He didn't remarry until long after my sister and I started our own homes. He figured that he never could find a woman who would equal mother. Somehow a double deposit of love has continually been exhibited in his life since mother died.
The Girl Who Couldn't Understand
One time I conducted a week of prayer at a college where a timid frail girl came to see me during the counseling time. At first she just sat quietly.
She finally got up enough courage to say, "When you talk about the love our Father in heaven has for us, I don't know what you are talking about. In fact, terrible feelings come over me when you use that term Father.
"Why?" I asked.
"Because my father was a drunkard. Night after night he would come home drunk. I've seen him beat my mother up, and more than once he has beaten me. One time he knocked me down the stairs, and I could hardly walk for weeks. So when you talk about God being a loving father I just can't understand it, for the only father I have ever known was a beast!"
When My Thumb Slowed Down
This experience had an immediate effect on me. I realized the blessedness of a home where parents exhibit the love of God. I began to really comprehend how much I owed to the example of Godly parents. More than once the strong bond of love between my father and me has kept me from wrongdoing. Once I started to run away fron one of our boarding academies with an older student who invited me to join him. Not wishing to be classed as a sissy, I went along. We started hitchhiking, but the more I thought about my wonderful father and his love for me, the slower my thumb went, until my hand dropped to my side and I turned around, picked up my suitcase, and marched back to the dorm with my friend following me. That day the concept of the love of Christ constraining and compelling us to right actions took on new meaning.
Where Do We Stand?
Every word and action paraded before our children becomes a part of their lives by the process of mental osmosis. Any discrepancy between profession and action has disastrous effects.
One Christian psychologist tersely stated, "I doubt that there is anyone so impossible for a child to live with as the minister father who 'knows all the answers.' Such a man has very little of the humility about which he preaches. He is far from gracious and kind. He is probably a man who solves his own problems by denying that they exist, even though his family can see them quite clearly. This puts the child into an impossible position. To accept the truth which father preaches requires him to reject the father, for father is a living denial of much that he preaches."—Paul F. BARKMAN, Man in Conflict, p. 74.
I have often thought about my position as father in my own home. Just what kind of impression am I making on my children? Is my example one of strength and power to my family? When they get into a hard spot can their thoughts of me and my love for them help turn the tide against a rash act? A consistent, considerate course of a preacher father and husband is one of the greatest, if not the greatest, contribution he can make to this church.