Few relationships are so formative in a woman’s life as her relationship with her father – for better or for worse. That makes me both humbled and grateful that I have a good relationship with my dad. We’re close. We share a similar love for hamburgers, hip-hop music, and theology books. We like hanging out together.
More than that, though, he’s been my greatest teacher and one of my biggest influences. Especially when it comes to my faith. He’s not perfect, but he’s steadfastly pursuing holiness and in that, he’s taught me much. As I enter adulthood and consider how he’s shaped my life, here are six lessons Dad has taught (and continues to teach) me about pursuing holiness.
1. How to be a servant-leader
Leadership without love is tyranny, and that brings devastation, not devotion. Biblical leadership is rooted firmly in humility. It’s the kind that’s willing to stoop low and wash feet, ask for forgiveness, take counsel, listen well, and look out for others’ needs. Dad has made me realize that true leaders are committed servants.
But this kind of leadership seems strange to my generation, strange to this culture, strange to me. We’re more inclined to view leadership as the uncontested, unchecked ability to get our way – to be served, obeyed, and adored. But biblical leadership is radically different from that. It instead comes from a recognition of God’s supreme authority and willing submission to him. Dad seeks to lead like Christ led, which means he must serve like Christ served.
And as God begins to give my generation strategic and specific opportunities to lead – in the culture, in the church, and in our homes – we need to pursue this humble leadership too.
2. How to stand up for what’s right
It’s not an overgeneralization to say that one of my generation’s greatest struggles is a fear of man. It’s my personal struggle. We’re frustratingly ardent people pleasers who desperately depend upon acceptance, approval, and applause.
But Dad works to model a different way for me – a willingness to stand up for truth, even when that’s hard. I’ve needed him to patiently and repeatedly step in and ask me: “Am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?” and then to remind me, “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:20).
Servants of Christ stand up for what’s right even when it costs us. Truth trumps popularity. Faithfulness wins over fads. We don’t have the freedom to sacrifice convictions on the altar of “friendship with the world.” My generation will be bolder, more focused, more productive, and more passionate Christians if we learn this.
3. How to disagree well
As much as I fear man, I equally hate conflict. And many in my generation feel the same way – we’re so uncomfortable around any whiff of disagreement that it’s to our detriment. But many others swing too far the other way and chase conflict like a drug – especially when guarded by the impersonal wall of social media.
Yet there is a godly art in handling conflict and disagreement well, and it’s neither avoiding it nor pursuing it. It’s embracing it only when necessary and interacting with intentional empathy. And I’ve learned how to do that from Dad. Of course, he doesn’t always get it right, but he works hard to navigate the line between petty argumentation and healthy discussion. There is a unique witness in disagreeing graciously, and if my generation wants to unashamedly stand up for the cause of Christ, we must learn how to do that.
4. How to practice the spiritual disciplines
Both of my parents have had a massive influence on me spiritually. But when I consider how Dad has been my family’s spiritual leader, I marvel at all the ways he’s informed my spiritual habits. How to read the Bible, how to pray, how to share the gospel, how to memorize Scripture – these things were taught and visibly demonstrated to me from the time I was young.
My generation needs a robust spirituality if we’re going to engage this world for the kingdom of God. We need to be taught how to dig deep into God’s Word and study it accurately, to hide it in our hearts and depend on it, to pray rightly and regularly, to evangelize patiently yet passionately, and to enjoy God.
5. How to discern God’s will.
As a young Christian, I’m consumed with one gargantuan question: “What is God’s will for my life?” When my generation looks at all the potential paths we could take, it feels numbingly confusing. Which way should we go? What should we do? Is there one magical path we must choose? If we choose wrong, is our life over?
But Dad has taught me that discovering God’s will is less like shaking a magic-8 ball and more like just doing something. It’s harder than it sounds, but it’s not mystical, fuzzy, or fatalistic. It’s first knowing who God is (through his Word). Then it’s knowing who I am (in light of his Word). Finally, it’s looking at where I’m needed, what my gifts and talents are, where my desires lie, and asking, “Where can I serve God faithfully, and how can I serve God faithfully?”
And then it’s embracing where you are as the place God has put you.
6. How to ask for forgiveness.
Dad knows he’s not perfect, that he’s as deeply sinful and flawed as every human being. But that means he’s keenly aware of his need to repent and ask forgiveness of others when he wrongs them. That includes me – and through his example, I’ve realized the need to ask for forgiveness too. Every father needs to learn the art of asking for forgiveness, as does every daughter, as does every human.
The Greatest Lesson My Dad Taught Me
Yet there was one human who never needed to ask forgiveness because he never wronged anyone. One human who perfectly modeled how a child should act and how a parent should act. One human who was a perfect servant-leader, who stood up for what was right even when it cost him his life, who disagreed fearlessly and flawlessly, who practiced every spiritual discipline without fail or falter, and who embraced God’s will joyfully. One human who got it all right. And that was Jesus.
Ultimately, that’s who Dad seeks to point me toward. Dad knows he doesn’t have all the answers, all the patience, all the love, and everything that I need. But Jesus does. Jesus is the one every father, daughter, and millennial should aspire to be like. He’s the one who teaches us the truest path. He alone is the one we must follow.
And that’s the greatest lesson my father has taught me. Thank you, Dad.