"Get up and walk it off." How often have I heard that phrase before? Outside the daily call of "It's time to go the barn," those were perhaps the most used words in my father's vocabulary. It wasn't that I was accident prone or had a propensity for hurting myself, but life on the farm--or life in general--grants us ample opportunity for bumps and bruises. For me, it seemed as if every time I got kicked by a cow, fell down, dropped something on my foot, or incurred an injury of any kind, Dad would first check to see if I was losing blood in quarts (as opposed to cups?), give me a quick once over to see if my affected limb was pointed in the right direction (or thereabouts), and finding no cause for advanced CPR, would pronounce those prescriptive words of healing that can only come from a man trained in the fine art of surgery with a Barlow jack-knife and a pair of needle-nose pliers. "You'll be alright, just get up and walk it off." So, despite a band aid of tissue paper and electrical tape, or hobbling with a limp, I would get back on my feet, get back on task, and always felt the better for it.
Perhaps there are bumps and bruises, hurts and pains that are less obvious, or circumstances and trials that aren't quite so easy to "get up and walk off." Disappointment or discouragement with family, friends, or co-workers, long-held and worked for dreams for a future that go unrealized, or perhaps simply the burdens and stresses of life risk crushing our spirit.
All of us at one time or another have felt the pang of personal disappointment and emotional pain. My father experienced those times. As a farmer tied to cows and land, he was often disappointed by the actions of those whom he counted on. I can only imagine the crushing blow to the dream of farming with his sons snuffed out by low milk prices, high interest rates, and as much as I hate to admit it, the selfish and impetuous decisions of a headstrong eldest son. Just the unbroken labor of life; going to bed exhausted and beaten--rising with the sun to face anew the same labor, disappointments, and discouragements is capable of crushing the spirit of any man. Either way, sometimes working through pain--physical and emotional-- is the best treatment and the only way to heal. That's what my father taught me, and I'm glad he did. It has served me well.
BUT THERE IS SOMETHING ELSE...A GREATER LESSON
Above is a picture of my father. It was taken many years ago on a bright spring day. Perhaps it was a day like many others, full of hard work, frustrations, and disappointment. In fact, I'm sure it was, and not just because I was there. I can tell by the worn leather gloves covering callused hands; the sweat lined brow of a dirty cap, and the oil-stained sweatshirt and pants. Perhaps someone neglected to shut the barn gate, the cows got out and stamped holes all over mom's yard and flowers. The corn planter broke and 3 days of rain are on the way. Maybe the bank said no to the year's operating loan. The hired man called in too sick to milk tonight. Oh, and by the way, this annoying newspaper reporter wants to take a picture now. (Really! the reporter showed up in-announced to a take pictures for an article on my sister Donna. She was the reigning county dairy princess.) This was a day that began early and will end late. A lesson in perseverance for sure.
You know, I believe the best lessons my father taught me came at the oddest moments. Like this one, when he wasn't trying to teach me something, but simply standing patiently to have his picture taken.
Take another look at the picture. I hope you see what I see every time I look at it.
Dad's joy-filled, optimistic, "I wouldn't quit farming for anything...tomorrow will be better" smile.
That's my dad. Despite the circumstances, trials, and disappointments, he always had--and still has today--a smile; always enjoys the company of everyone he meets, finds humor in--well--most everything, and always...always...stays optimistic in the day of which God has blessed him.
The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 5: 3-5 "...but we rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint."
Whether Dad knew it or not, he displayed that verse in a very real and positive way to me, and I suspect to everyone who knows him.
Scripture is full of those who 'got up and walked it off," who in spite of sin and abandonment, suffering and persecution, persevered and finished strong with "hope (optimism) that does not disappoint."
So when life begins to get the better of us and our hope fades and optimism wanes, let us "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..." Jesus was ridiculed, rejected, beaten, whipped, spat upon, kicked, and knocked down, yet he got up and (here's the good part) for the JOY set before him, endured the cross." (Hebrews 12:2
"Thanks Dad!" I hope you have a great Father's Day. I won't make it home to see you. I'm in ministry now, and it's an everyday kind of thing. Apparently I have to work on Sundays? Doing God's work brings lots of trails, pain, and disappointments, but an abundance of satisfaction and rewards. Just like farming. Anyway, thanks for the lessons on perseverance despite pain. Thanks for teaching me character in the midst of adversity. And thanks for showing me what optimism look like even when you didn't know you were teaching me.