[Note: I originally posted the following for Father's Day 2009. It was well received, so I thought I would post it again three years later.]
This September I turn 49. I have now lived at least one third of my life. :) At this time, I, like many men, am taking stock of my life. In doing so, my thoughts naturally turn toward my father.
“Life coach” is a term being thrown around quite a bit today. The concept is built upon an individual who "coaches" another person on how to live his or her life. My dad was a life coach long before the term was used. More than making a good living, more than having fun, I think my dad wanted to be my life coach.
Through the years I have learned how unusual he was. Too many men, I have known, have had poor relationships with their fathers. Some were abandoned by their fathers. Some were separated by their fathers through divorce. Some lived with their fathers but were disconnected in their relationships. So many of these men have had difficulty living mature, adult lives -- a consequence of their relationships with their fathers.
All of the blessings that I enjoy in my life I owe to God, first. After him, my dad would be at the top of the list.
It was 30 years ago this summer I headed out to ACU. I was playing college football at the time. I actually moved out in July to work out a month before two-a-days began.
July, 1979, produced a challenging time in my life. I had dreams of somehow overcoming all obstacles in attaining football greatness. In case you have not been reading the sports pages over the last 30 years, I did not reach my goal. Still, I learned much from God. His chief instrument during those years was my father.
My leaving home placed our relationship in transition. As a teenager, my dad and I spent most Friday nights and Saturdays at our cabin near Sulphur Bluff, Texas. There, in incidental moments, my dad did a lot coaching. With me away at ACU, geography separated us. But dad kept coaching me. He did so in phone calls and mainly, in letters.
I have in my possession a file filled with letters that he wrote during the course of my undergraduate years at ACU. I have photocopied them and given copies to my sister who lives in Seattle. If a fire destroys one set, we will have the other. You carefully preserve that which you highly value.
It is not unusual for me to encounter people who knew my dad and have them tell me how much he meant to them. The latest came from someone I grew up with. Lisa Landers Monday sent me a message through Facebook and told me how much my dad had meant to her. She had worked for him and wrote me that she still thinks about the wisdom he possessed. Whenever someone recounts to me a story like this, it always makes me feel good.
Darvin Edge has blessed a lot of lives, none more than mine. So if you're sitting there as one who did not have such a father, let me share with you mine. I want to share the first page of the first letter I received when I was in college. I say first page because the letter is typewritten, 5 ½ pages long, single-spaced. It is full of advice and wisdom. Before I do, let me share with you a little more of the context.
As I told you earlier, I went to college with dreams of football glory. I prepared hard for two-a-days. I was in spectacular shape. However, the morning of the first practice I was in for a shock. There were thirteen quarterbacks in our camp. Even though at that time ACU was a NAIA school, the level of competition was quite high. Some of the conference football players had gone on to play professional football, including some from ACU.
That first day reality began to sink in, and reality stank. It wasn't long before I began to see that not only was Mark Edge not number one in the coaches’ heart, he might not even be number 18 in the team’s game program. As you might imagine, I became quite discouraged. About this time, a letter arrived from my dad. The letter was dated October 7,1979. As I have mentioned, daddy wrote this on his typewriter. I have edited the punctuation a little to convey to you what he communicated to me:
The school of hard knocks sometimes ain’t no fun. I hope I can soften the blow somewhat for you but one thing is for sure, I can't eliminate the school. Life is a series of ups and downs. We are fortunate that one of your first challenges is football, something that is not very serious.
You are going to have problems that cause you concern and worry as long as you live. Look at it this way: the only way you can grow, learn and mature is by these challenges. How you handle these will determine what type of individual you are. It is how you react to them that will determine your character.
If you will see that there will be one after another as long as you live, then you will be better able to see that you will just have to settle down and not get uptight with them because as soon as you dispense with one of them, there will be yet another. So learn to relax and figure out the best way to cope or handle them and do your best.
If it is meant to be that you master whatever it is, it will happen. If not, learn from it and you will be better able to handle the next problem because it will come.
You have to learn to handle anxiety. Do not let it eat on you. You cannot change the outcome one bit by being anxious. Don't get to wanting something so badly that you are willing to get uptight to get it. I do not mean that you can't get excited about it, but I mean "do not get to desiring it so badly that you worry about it.” That is when you get to wanting it too badly. If you believe in Christian providence, then give it a chance to work.
Do not anticipate what you believe is best for you. If you do your part, the outcome will take care of itself. Keep the faith – never doubting that the results will be good for you. Take advantage of this rare opportunity to learn how to cope with pressure in something that is not all that important -- football. If you wait to learn this lesson until you get married and are in a much more serious situation, then it will be much harder on you. I wish I could take away the pains of learning from you but you must go through these by yourself. That is the only way you will learn.
Take advantage of it.
It's funny, some of the same character flaws I had back then I have today. I still am tempted to allow anxiety to eat on me. I still find myself wanting something so badly that it eats away at me.
I still have difficulty practicing the Christian discipline of changing myself by becoming more Christlike -- the only area of life I have been empowered by the Holy Spirit to control -- because I am so distracted by the illusion that I can change others, or even circumstances.
Daddy's words speak yet to me from the grave. If you stayed with me thus far, I hope those words have blessed you as well.
Happy Father’s Day.