This weekend we’re in Adrian, MI celebrating the 90th birthday of my father-in-law, Phil Smith, pictured here between his wife, Norma (right), and my wife/his daughter, Julie (left). What a delight to reminisce with my wife’s family about this great and godly man they know as dad. He is a humble Christian, committed husband, involved father, and loyal Adrian Maple. And now a nonagenarian!
For those who don’t know Phil, perhaps this brief excerpt from chapter 2 of my book Homerun will give you insight into why I call him a chain breaker, and why I tip my hat to this first-class man who gave me a gift I’ve been grateful for every single day since July of 1988—permission to marry his daughter.
Most of us—I’m speaking of men here—have heard the stats about absentee fathers. And we know absenteeism tends to have a generational proclivity, becoming an almost seemingly impossible sinful cycle to break. Fortunately, statistics don’t tell the whole story. At least not for my wife’s father, Phil Smith.
Born in Hudson, Michigan, and raised in nearby Adrian, Phil never knew an involved dad. In fact, my children still get amazed that their grandpa never once heard “I love you” from his dad, and that Phil never received a compliment of any type for his hard work, effort, and accomplishments. Phil often speaks of years of never hearing his father say any words at all; silence was standard operating procedure.
Silence wasn’t the only weapon used. Distance was a mean tool as well. There was never a Christmas gift, never a birthday gift, never even a holiday surprise. Not once. Dad simply wasn’t heard or felt. Sure, he was seen, but he was nothing more than a shadowy figure that seemed elusive and transparent. It’s not surprising that, when Phil married the woman of his dreams in 1955, his dad was a no-show. A sad legacy no doubt, and a tough template to use for Phil’s future family.
But God stepped in and proved more than able to redraw the specs Phil would use as a husband and father. Over the years, Phil faithfully served those closest to him, and he has come to know what it means to have it go “well” for him (Psalm 128:2). With over 60 years of a healthy marriage under his belt, as well as five children, 12 grandchildren, and 11 great grandchildren, Phil understands the power of the Father Factor and the need for men to simply be faithful where it matters most—at home.¹
On your 90th birthday, here’s to you, Phil! Thanks for breaking the chain and showing us by your life that, by God’s grace, there is hope! And it is wrapped up in the word faithfulness. Men, let’s not lose the heart for, nor the art of, simply being there, both physically and spiritually, for it pays great dividends in a variety of ways. Commit to serve faithfully day in and day out so the ones under your roof will feel the impact of a godly man year in and year out.
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