Father’s Day 2014, Remembering that Ideas and Ideals Still Matter

For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. They shall spring up among the grass like willows by flowing streams.” – Isaiah 44:3-4

Yesterday my eight-year-old had his first ever competitive swim meet. Swimming is apparently a big deal here in Maryland and I certainly want to encourage him to be a good swimmer (it can be a life-saving skill). The meet was a mad-house (though apparently well-organized underneath the chaos), and I set about getting him to the right places at the right times for his events.

His first event was the 25m free style, finishing 2nd in his heat. While there were four heats total and only four swimmers in his heat, he took it as a minor victory. He finished 2nd after all. Then came the 25m backstroke. Not so good. He finished sixth out of eight in his heat and came unglued. He had it in his head that he would win one of the races and be able to tell his entire Cub Scout troop about it later in the day at the picnic. Dreams dashed I tried calm him down by taking a walk away from the pool.

Somewhere along the way I decided that it would be a good idea to share the story of my high school basketball career. My father (my hero) had been a college basketball player at Shorter College in Rome, GA. While I was partial to the calm, lazy feel of golf in middle school, it seemed like basketball was the right route to take. Not that my father pushed me, he didn’t. It’s just that he was a basketball player, there were no fans (or, more importantly, cheerleaders) at the golf matches, and my lanky frame hardly seemed right for football.

So, when the 7th grade tryouts came about I went out and did my best … and got cut. I figured I needed to work harder. So, I practiced continually. Ball-handing drills, shooting, running, lifting weights. At the 8th grade tryouts I was much better … and got cut. No worries, I had this hard-work thing down, so I pressed on. Then the 9th grade tryouts (the JV squad!) … I got cut. I worked harder still until the 10th grade tryouts. I made the team! … and never played. So I worked even harder. Eleventh grade tryouts. I made the varsity team this time … and never played. Well, not “never” – when we were up 30 I’d be in the game.

Undaunted I pressed on, and poured everything into being a starter my senior year … and it happened. I started every game that year for the Newton-Conover High School Red Devils. We went 23-3 and were at one time ranked #1 in the state (though we did not win the state title). We won the Catawba Valley Classic, the Christmas tournament with all of the local schools. We tied for the regular season conference title and then won the conference tournament convincingly. Great days.

Was it time well spent? I think so. I mean, I could have been learning a computer language or studying investing books … or I could have been playing video games. In the end, I poured a ton of time into something that I really wanted – and got it.

(Side note: my father was always my biggest fan. He never missed a single game, ever. Even when I was a bench-warmer on the JV squad, he made every single game.)

The story didn’t really mollify my eight-year-old after his apparent “failure” in his first-ever swim meet. The concepts of “six years of hard work before glory” (and I use “glory” loosely) didn’t really appeal to him. Still, the time walking and talking did settle him down. We collected our things and headed home, then off to the picnic where burgers, chips, cake, kickball, and rocket launching made the day a hit.

A few days back I was having a conversation with a friend about politics, economics, world affairs, and the state of things in the United States. We discussed how the Right (at least Christians on the Right) has been co-opted by this need to enforce morality on their neighbors (ostensibly out of fear of reprisal from the Lord for allowing immorality to persist in the nation). We discussed how the Left (at least Christians on the Left) has become enthralled with the notion of setting every social ill right by forcibly taking the production of hard-working people and using it for themselves … and how they plan on sealing the deal by importing another 10-20 million votes from south of the border.

There was a palpable sense of despair. Is there hope that freedom could come back? Is there hope that this nation could throw off the “I’m on ‘team God’ and I’m here to make sure you live your life the right way” philosophy that is so pervasive, and actually let “free” people be free?

I really don’t know – but I certainly have hope. Hope that we’ll see a throwing-off of the current, broken system? Perhaps not anytime soon. But hope that years from now, perhaps for my kids or their kids, there will be freedom again.

And so we press on, hoping that in some small way continuing to press the message of freedom will make a difference. It is Father’s Day after all – and we all want a better world for our children.

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