I don’t often write about my story, but this topic—a topic I trust you will see relates to Christian leadership—was on my heart this past week as we celebrated Father’s Day. My first memory is being a frightened three-year old as my father wrecked our home in a fit of anger. Now almost sixty years later, I remember that event as if it happened yesterday. I can still show you where the lamp is broken, the picture frames are knocked from the mantle, the chairs are overturned, and the door window is shattered. I also remember where my sister and I hid that day until our mom arrived home.
Alcohol was a factor that time, but my father’s anger remained long after he gave up drinking. Many are my memories of his losing control, hollering loudly, throwing something, and then quickly moving beyond the event as if nothing had ever happened. It was strange, actually, how rapidly his rage would erupt and then disappear. For years even as a pastor, I struggled with loving my father as I knew I should.
I do have other memories, though. I remember his showing me how to bait my fishing hook. To this day, I can hear his voice when I’m playing baseball, “Keep your eye on the ball” and “Stay down when you’re fielding that grounder.” He taught me how to shoot a gun and play pool, both that I do left-handed (as he did) even though I’m predominantly right-handed. I always wanted him to be proud of me, even when I didn’t know how to love him.
There is so much more I wish he’d taught me—so much that I’ve learned (or am still learning) from other men in my life. How to tie a tie. How to love my wife as a Christian husband. How to deal with peer pressure. How to say no to pornography. How to live by a budget. How to fix my own car. How to build a bookcase. How to be a godly man.
I try hard to focus on the good memories these days. You see, my father became a follower of Christ a few years before he died – and we saw the power of the gospel firsthand. My father told us he loved us. He hugged us and told others how proud he was of us. His anger dissipated. He began to read the Bible, almost as a child devouring the stories for the first time. The tough man became the grateful child of God. I suspect it sounds odd, but I learned to call him by the affectionate term “Dad” only after his conversion.
I miss my dad today. And, to be honest, I miss what could have been had he been a Christian as I was growing up. I am deeply grateful my dad followed Jesus, and I know I will see him again. I still wonder, however, how life would have been different if my father had prayed with me, taught me about Jesus, challenged me to live faithfully, and walked beside me in faith. My memories can’t go there, though, because I have no such memories.
Here’s my point. We are all memory makers, whether or not we think about that responsibility. The generations after us catch much more than we think, and they often remember more than we wish. Sometimes they don’t like what they see in us even while they want to be like us. They want to be loved, protected, and taught. They need to trust they’re more important than our jobs, our goals, our dreams, and our dollars. They want to know they don’t need an appointment to fit into our calendar. Our children and grandchildren need memories they will want to create for their own children.
Leader, you are a memory maker for somebody. Somebody will have good or bad memories because of the choices you make today.
Good memories don’t just happen. In God’s grace and under His leadership, we create them.
So, leader, if you need to do so today, push away from your desk. Close the computer. Turn off the phone. Cancel an appointment. Go, make good memories with the next generations. I assure you, they won’t forget.