By David Hegg
I am, apparently, a member of a fast-diminishing minority. I grew up in a loving, two-parent home, and my Dad was a great man. He was a godly man with equal parts courage and wisdom, and even though his schedule was hectic, he made it to almost all of my ballgames, every year. He taught me how to read, how to write, and how to plane a board and hammer a nail. Most of all, he taught me how to live, and how to work, and how to love. And in the 18 years since his death there hasn’t been a day when I didn’t thank the Lord for the privilege of being Oscar Hegg’s son.
While I was growing up there were two important things I didn’t know. First, I didn’t know that a great many kids my age around the country weren’t being fathered well. In fact, I don’t think I ever even thought about it. I just assumed that every home was like ours in that respect. I thought dads everywhere played catch after work in their suits and ties, and took their kids fishing on Saturdays in the summer. I also assumed that all dads said what they meant, meant what they said, and took appropriate corrective action when sons disobeyed or otherwise engaged in behavior that was unacceptable. I also assumed that everyone was growing up with a sense of purpose, with a recognition that hard work was a privilege, and that if something was worth doing, it was worth doing poorly enough times until you finally got it right.
The second thing I didn’t know was just how hard it is to be a good father. My Dad seemed to pull it off easily. Looking back I now realize that it took lots of planning and self-discipline to be the kind of father who had time, and took time to play, teach, discipline and love his kids. My Dad didn’t just wing it when it came to fathering. He didn’t just give his family the leftovers. He was intentional about his job as a dad, and while I never would have guessed it at the time, my whole life has been shaped and filled by his worldview, advice, work ethic and love.
And now it’s my turn, or at least it has been for the past 40 years. Eight years or so ago I became an “empty nester” when our last child married a wonderful woman. Three children born into our family, three lives entrusted into our care, three chances to shape those lives as a father, and now, three adults with spouses of their own. And with all the challenges parenting brings, I can truly say that being their Dad has been one of the most significant and satisfying elements of my life.
So now my “fathering” role takes on a different dimension. No longer am I the one in charge. Now I’m on the sidelines, available for counsel, help, tools and time, if they ask for them. Thankfully, we have raised our kids with the mindset that we wanted them to eventually be our peers, our friends. When they were born, they were completely dependent on us, but our goal was to increasingly raise them to be independent thinkers, guided by an internal, righteous, God-fearing ethic, so that eventually they would take their place as stalwart, beneficial members of society. And now we get to watch them determine their own standards, their own ways of living and thriving in this world. As a dad I couldn’t be more thankful for the years they lived in our home, nor more proud of the independent adults they have become.
As a pastor I pray, study, preach, teach, counsel and confront. I’ve been given the privilege to write, speak, read and lead at a level I never dreamed. But by far the greatest thing I’ve ever had a hand in is loving and raising the children God himself entrusted to my care. My children all married well, are gainfully employed in careers that benefit society, love Jesus, love the church, and best of all, still love their parents.
So, on this Father’s Day, here’s my encouragement to all the dads. Guys … we need you! We need you to reflect on the ways you want your children to develop, and then pour your energy into two things. First, be the person you hope your children turn out to be. Be consistent, live out the grand values of diligence, compassion, patience and morality. Go the extra mile, do the job right, stand for what is good and best, and never compromise your honesty, integrity, or love. And then, shepherd your children to learn, take in, and hold to the same values as you send them as beneficial contributors to our society. We both know they represent our only chance to preserve and pass on the ethical standards America needs. To all you fathers … happy Father’s Day!
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.