A father, his son and a dog
By A. Ray Lee
After a long day of administrative activities and ministry I had sat relaxing in a recliner when our family dog walked into the room followed by Clint who was on his way out for the evening. I called to Jacque and he eagerly jumped up beside me. Clint, observing what had just happened, said with an accusative tone, “well dad I see you have finally gotten the obedient son you want.” Not waiting for a reply he hurried to join questionable friends.
Over the months our relationship had grown somewhat stormy as Clint sought to deal with the pressure of being the son of a busy pastor by leaning further away from the life style I had urged him to follow. My preacher attitude had been little help to him. His words stung me to the quick as it suddenly dawned upon me that I had a better relationship with the family dog than with my son.
Mental pictures flashed through my mind. I missed the closeness we had once shared. Clint has always loved dogs. We went together to pick out a puppy for him when he was six years old. One beagle from the litter ran immediately to him. I smiled as he said “I’ll take this one daddy.” As he grew into boyhood we shared Little League together as I managed his team. I recalled the question he had asked when he scored a run in a tight game. “Did I do good?” We had spent happy days hunting together. I was there when on his 12th birthday he took his first deer.
But as the years passed I had become more and more occupied with the challenges of being the pastor of a growing church. We had shared less time together as I was often out at night ministering to the needs of a young congregation and trying to reach and influence prospective members as was the expectation of demanding church leaders. In the video Darkest Hour the king asks Winston Churchill, his new Prime Minister, if he had been close to his father in his youth. Churchill had wistfully replied, “My father was like God-busy elsewhere.” In retrospect I understand I had often been busy elsewhere when needed.
Thankfully there is more to our story. As Clint reached adulthood and I became less of a controlling force and more of a concerned father we eventually became friends. Without any suggestion from me he followed my footsteps into his own ministry. As he has faced the challenges of what that entails I have been able to encourage him without trying to make him over in my image. I am immensely proud of him.
Now as I have entered my latter years of ministry he has been a great encourager to me. Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”