Over the past couple of months I have had the amazing opportunity to work side by side with my Dad on a couple of construction projects for my small business. I am always super less stressed when he works with me, simply because his life experience makes navigating how to get a job done much easier. The process of “figuring it out” goes much smoother when he helps! It is also just a plain privilege to get to spend time with him and it causes me to reflect on the many years of working alongside him growing up and I am reminded of how much of an impression he has left on me.
My dad and I are a lot alike, we are both very imperfect, we both view the world in a very “black and white” manner. But many of our similarities have to do with the lessons that my dad has taught me over the years. And by that, I don’t mean he set me down and gave things to me as lessons, but I mean those things he taught by example, by emphasis and by discipline – things that have stuck with me and shaped me, both what I am and what I one day aspire to be. And as I reflected today on the lessons he taught me, there were five that stood out as fundamental and formative in my life.
- Scripture is the highest authority – While my dad and I disagree on some points of theology, we disagree precisely because he taught me all throughout my life that the Bible is the final determiner of reality. He never said those exact words and he didn’t sit me down and give me a class on the doctrine of revelation, but the way he handled Scripture, spoke Scripture, and approached Scripture throughout my life spoke loud and clear “This has the ultimate authority in our lives.” His reverence for the word of God was the greatest gift he gave me, it is a grace from God which gave me “wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15)
- “You do what you gotta do” – Another way of saying this could be “do your duty”. Again, my dad never said those words, but his pattern of life and approach to work and caring for his family always said, no matter how hard things got “you do what you gotta”. For most of my life, my dad had no hobbies, he didn’t spend money on himself, he didn’t feel a need to be constantly entertained. This doesn’t mean he didn’t have things he enjoyed, things that made him smile, but his life was marked by doing what needed to be done and without a whine or a complaint. He is the hardest worker I have ever met, a hard worker who then feels no need to unwind in some frivolous way. We had times of great want and times of great plenty over the years, but through it all, without a gripe, my dad would simply get out there and do what needed to be done. And he does so to this day.
- Don’t live for the approval of man – One of the disappointments of being in ministry was seeing so many holy men that I admired bogged down in the opinions of others. I have found myself in this place too often! But my dad communicated through his life that what God thinks of us is what really matters. The thought of my dad trying to strut and preen for the applause of his fellow man is almost laughable. Now I am not naive enough to think that my dad has no human or prideful influence on his performance in life, but it is remarkable to me how little of that is there and how simple that has made many aspects of life for him. My dad communicated to us a fear of the Lord and a concern for eternity that bred an awareness that the Eye that sees all is the one that counts and this was huge for me when I came to Christ and it has echoed down to today. The fear of God that I was taught led to an awe that the God who knows my every thought loved me and sent his Son to suffer to bring me to himself.
- Don’t whine about hard work -or- hard work is a good, noble thing – This is almost the same as my second point, but it bears repeating with an emphasis on work. My dad is in his sixties and he still can work harder than most men a third of his age. He will put in the hours, he will strain the muscles, he will wear himself down – not to get rich, not to earn man’s approval, but to simply do his duty in providing for his family. Beyond his wage he does not ask to be applauded, he does not ask to be pampered, he just works, showing through it that work – hard work – is a good and noble thing.
- Love is best shown through a life of sacrificial service – My dad has not been perfect. At times he could be rigid and harsh over the years. He has not been one for “sappy” language. But. None of us children in his home ever had the slightest doubt regarding the intensity and steadfastness of his love for us and the reality of it has only strengthened as we look back. And his love has been always expressed through sacrificial service. Doing the things mentioned above, working so hard, not seeking to be pampered or to make a name, but year after year showing love by doing the hard, and the messy, and the mundane with little thanks and little reward, over and over and over again simply because he was devoted to us. I have come to believe that this is the best and loftiest kind of love. It is a love that has echoes of the gospel in it, or one further, pictures of the gospel. So many of his shortcomings are shuttered by the depth of conviction that I have of his love for me which he has shown over a lifetime of sacrificially living to love his family in the deepest way possible – doing his duty no matter how hard it got. I see men who are affectionate, kissy, always joking and saying the right words – but they are lazy, worldly, immature, petty, selfish. The love my dad has always shown us is real love, because the grit behind it, because it has substance.
Much of who I am, the good and the bad, are traces of my dad. Like him I am a sinner. Like him I am saved by Christ. And it is my hope that one day my children will be able to look back and say that like him I loved them by sacrificially doing what needed to be done day after day, working hard without man-pleasing to the honor of my Savior and Lord revealed in the Scriptures.
God bless, Jay Jennings. For I have been blessed through him.