Thanks, Dad, for never giving up

Tommy Holt

“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck” (Proverbs 1:8-9).

Too often, we don't realize the wisdom in our parents' advice until we get older. This is one man’s story of how time changed his perspective on his father’s instruction and the difference a dad can make.

Dear Dad,

In the 29 years since you died a lot has happened. It would have been great to celebrate victories and talk through defeats with you. The toddling granddaughter you knew is a brilliant young woman. The grandson you hadn't met yet is a successful husband and a man of accomplishment. You would enjoy knowing them as adults. They would enjoy your quiet, lead-by-example wisdom.

As I get older, three things you taught me along the way frequently come to mind.

1. It’s all about people.  (John 15:16)

You built friendships by investing your energy into others’ lives with no expectation of payback. Life didn’t bring you a lot of worldly success, but you found victory through investing the one thing you were solely responsible for: your character.

Maybe you taught me this Godly truth intentionally, or maybe you just lived in a way that I could learn by your example. Your persistent and patient determination despite adversities made, and continues to make, me a better man. Occasionally I drive to the road the county named for you after your death and think about the impacts you had on people that nobody would have predicted.  

2. Perseverance is powerful and personal. (Romans 5:3-5)

Like many young people, sometimes I wanted to quit.  It would have been easy to be frustrated with me and give up or give in.  Instead you helped me learn to make my own choices as I became ready for important decisions and learned to be accountable for my consequences.  You fought for my future even when I didn’t appreciate the battles you were in — often with me.  

There were times I thought I was the most important thing around me. I know what that must have felt like to you and what it took to hang in there, in spite of other things in your life, to do the right and difficult thing for me.  

3. Fathering is a journey of faith.  (Luke 15:2-24)

You didn’t know how I would turn out. I was a first-generation college graduate, married with a child, and a good job. But I was still a mess, focused on worldly stuff, and far from God. You couldn’t know that your life, and ultimately your death, would drive me to my spiritual knees just a few months after you were gone and into a life-long journey with Jesus.  As I look back, it is clear that in many ways you lived and then you died for me. I’ve learned the sacrifices a father is willing to make for a child he loves.  

Proverbs 1:8-9 says the world sees you through me. I’m honored to wear your “garland” and “chain.” Sometimes I wish you were here. You could see pictures of your grandchildren over the years.  You could feel satisfied that your efforts with me were not wasted. We could talk of life and our journeys.  

You lived a life built on the idea that you could make a difference for good in the lives of other people. I am a living example of the positive impact of your life.  Through all of us that you invested in, you made the world a better place.

Thanks, Dad.

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