Growing up I was a good-but-not-great athlete. I loved playing any sport but early on baseball became my passion. I started organized ball at age 8 and played through high school. At about 12 I started playing football and actually was pretty good. As quarterback, I was MVP of my youth teams and the clippings from the local paper made me think pretty highly of myself. As I entered high school there was talk of my ascension to starting quarterback of the varsity squad, but a funny thing happened on the way from sophomore year to junior year. I stopped growing! My height became a liability and my arm strength hadn’t developed. Entering my junior year, others soared past me and I was relegated to the role of backup. So that year, after the agony of summer football camp, I chose to bypass football to concentrate on baseball. It was a painful decision, but I wasn’t eager to put in all that work only to ride the pine!
It was the right decision, but I struggled with feelings of being a disappointment to my coach, my friends, and my dad. I felt that others perceived I was not tough enough to play football, and that bothered me. I didn’t want to be known as a quitter, so I decided to play football my senior year even though I knew there was little chance of getting any meaningful playing time. I was deep on the depth charts but worked as hard as the rest. I never missed a practice, gave it my all, and cheered from the sidelines on gameday.
Practices were the worst. As a backup, I’d run the second team offense against the first team defense and boy did we take a beating. There were two constants from that season. One was me getting my bell rung day after day. The second constant was my dad.
At the end of each practice I could look up and there he was in the distance watching his son. And as he watched I could feel a sense of love and pride he had in me just as if I were the star of the team. That difficult season of football taught me something about him that I have valued all my life. That lesson made all the hits worth it. My father’s love for me was not based on my accomplishments. He loved me because I was his son.
My dad was an ordinary man. A blue-collar working man born in the 1920’s and served in WWII. As many men from that generation, he rarely voiced his feelings. He was not well educated. He was not a theologian. But my dad on the sideline, proud of his second-string son, taught me a lesson that has shaped my image of God more than any lecture, professor, or upper-level college class. He taught me that God, my other Father, loves me not based on my accomplishments, but because I am his son!
Your Father really loves you. And I mean, he really loves you! I pray that this Father’s Day you feel that love and approval not because of what you’ve done or haven’t done, but because you are his child.
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!
And that is what we are!
1 John 3:1