Few pretensions and disciplined performance

praying

My life has been blessed by some influential models. I must begin by mentioning my own parents. I remember how, even when we children were quite young, each morning my mother would withdraw from the hurly-burly of life to read her Bible and pray. In the years that I was growing up, my father, a Baptist minister, had his study in our home. Every morning we could hear him praying in that study. My father vocalized when he prayed—loudly enough that we knew he was praying, but not loudly enough that we could hear what he was saying. Every day he prayed, usually for about forty-five minutes. Perhaps there were times when he failed to do so, but I cannot think of one.

My father was a church planter in Québec, in the difficult years when there was strong opposition, some of it brutal.… In the ranks of ecclesiastical hierarchies, my father is not a great man. He has never served a large church, never written a book, never discharged the duties of high denominational office. Doubtless his praying, too, embraces idioms and stylistic idiosyncrasies that should not be copied. But with great gratitude to God, I testify that my parents were not hypocrites. That is the worst possible heritage to leave with children: high spiritual pretensions and low performance. My parents were the opposite: few pretensions, and disciplined performance. What they prayed for were the important things, the things that congregate around the prayers of Scripture. And sometimes when I look at my own children, I wonder if, should the Lord give us another thirty years, they will remember their father as a man of prayer, or think of him as someone distant who was away from home rather a lot and who wrote a number of obscure books. That quiet reflection often helps me to order my days.

D. A. Carson, A Call to Spiritual Reformation, 25–26.

Today is Father’s Day—although in my case, it’s the culmination of a weekend long celebration of Daddy. It started on Friday as soon as I got home, with cards and drawings, continued on through Saturday with a daddy-daughters date to the movies and a cake, and concluding today with, Lord willing, a nap.

One of the most touching moments of this weekend came from Abigail, with her hand-crafted Father’s Day card. Her message was simple: “I like it when you play with me. I am shure glad you are my Dad. You are true and I love you.”1 It’s her words “you are true” that got me. Whatever else Abigail thinks about me, she evidently doesn’t think of me as someone putting up some sort of pretense. And apparently it’s a good thing.

So many dads like me are flying blind. Either we didn’t have a dad in our lives growing up, or we did, but he doesn’t hold the same values we do today. So we’re kind of making the Christian father thing up as we go along. That’s where stories and examples like Don Carson’s father are so beneficial to us, and show us what we should be striving for: to be known as people of “few pretensions, and disciplined performance.” For our children to know us as men of the Word and of prayer, and who will gladly get down on the floor and play rather than run away to our books. If my children know me for these things, I think I will have accomplished far more than what could come from writing scores of books.

Show 1 footnote

  1. Her spelling.

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