My Favorite Dads
Having just celebrated Father’s Day, I thought I would deviate from my usual writing, get a little more personal, and tell you about two of my three favorite dads. (The third is the man to whom I am married, who is one terrific husband and father, but I don’t have room to write about all three in one article!)
The first is the man who became a father when I entered the world. My dad was born in Pennsylvania, the only child of my grandparents, who had been married for twelve years when he arrived. He was an adored child, loved and cared for by two generations. He suffered from rheumatic fever for an extended period of time when he was a young teen; this left him with a damaged heart, which kept him from military service during World War II. Instead he studied his way through college in three years, graduating from what was then Carnegie Tech with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering at the age of 20.
He immediately began work on planes used in the war effort and beyond. We knew very little of what he did at work, as much of it was classified. I do know that he did the stress analysis on the X-1—the first plane to break the sound barrier, and on the lunar landing training vehicle, used by the Apollo astronauts to train for moon landings.
When he was 21 his father died, and he became the sole support for his mother, who lived in an apartment in his home, with no income of her own, until her death when I was eight years old. When he was in his late 20’s, the church he attended called their first church secretary, a Bible School graduate who had been working as the secretary at a mission in Michigan’s upper peninsula. In a year and a half they were married, and another year later I arrived. In the next seven years a son and another daughter were added to the family.
My dad was what I call a quiet leader. He led our home and family quietly. He was very active at our church, willingly and capably serving in leadership positions when asked. He and my mom were the kind of church members all pastors wish for: supportive and encouraging of their pastors, faithful tithers and workers, very hospitable, and biblically grounded.
Our home was a place of order, peace, and joy, a tribute to both my parents. My Dad showed his love for his family by word and deed, not always giving us what we wanted, but always seeing that our needs were provided for. We were shown by example that our relationship to God and service to His church was vitally important. We never doubted that he loved my Mom, and that he loved us. When my Dad went home to glory at age 71, after a two-year struggle with Lou Gehrig’s disease, our grief in our loss was tempered by our relief and joy in knowing that he was with Jesus, and that he was well and strong again.
The second of my favorite dads became my dad when I married his son almost 27 years ago. My father-in-law was born in Florida, and had one brother nine years younger than he was. He and my mother-in-law were high school sweethearts; much of their courtship centered around their service together in their local church. He enlisted in the Army Air Corps during World War II, and married my mother-in-law the weekend he graduated from flight school.
He learned to fly B 24s, 25s, and 29s, and was assigned as a pilot for a B-29. The night before he and his crew were scheduled to leave for the war in Europe, he broke his wrist in a softball game. His crew left the next day without him; he remained in the States, and, at 19, became the youngest instructor pilot in the war at that time.
After the war the family of now three moved to Florida, where he worked his way through Stetson College, supporting his family and excelling in his studies. Called to the ministry, he served as a pastor, and then realized God was calling him to more schooling. He moved his growing family to Louisiana, where he received a B.D. and a Th.D at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. He continued pastoring, serving churches in Alabama (where their sixth and final child—who would become my husband—was born,) Florida, and Tennessee. In his later years of ministry he served for thirteen years as an Associational Missionary in Florida, where he assisted in ten church plants.
He was a strong leader in his churches, preaching the Word boldly and guiding troubled churches through difficult times. He loved his wife, his children, and his grandchildren and they knew it. He led his family to serve God by serving in the local church. It was a great shock when he went home to be with the Lord suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart attack when he was 68 years old. Humanly we wondered why God would take him home so soon; yet in our grief we rejoiced that he was with the Savior whom he had loved and served so well.
One of the few sorrows in my life is that neither of our dads knew our two wonderful daughters. A greater sadness is that our girls never knew their grandfathers. My husband and I both appreciate what a marvelous heritage we have been given in our homes and families, and in our dads. We have gone to church and heard about Jesus’s love for us since nine months before we were born. We can begin to understand the love our Heavenly Father has for us, because of the thoughtful and selfless love given to us by our earthly fathers.
You may not have grown up with that kind of Dad. If so, I have two challenges for you.
With God’s help, forgive all that needs to be forgiven, and move forward, trusting God to help you understand and receive the love He has for you. And second, if you are already married, know that the cycle can be broken, and that you and your husband can build a home and family built on Godly principles, and provide that kind of heritage for your children. The best thing you can do for your family is to pray for your husband’s relationship with God; his growth and maturity in the things of the Lord will directly affect his spiritual leadership in your family.
If you are not yet married and hope to be someday, wait, wait, wait on the Lord to bring the right man into your life. There is too much joy in living in a God-centered home to squander it by impatience. God’s timing is always right. He may be preparing a quiet leader for you, or He may be preparing an up-front leader. His choices are always right, and worth the wait.
Elizabeth Owens is the wife of Waylan Owens, Dean of the School of Church and Family Ministries, the mother of Blayne, Joshua, Grace, and Mary, and the mother-in-law of Cari. She has served as a nurse, a pastor’s wife, and a professor’s wife, and is in her 18th year of homeschooling. She enjoys reading books and drinking tea – especially at the same time!