The Biggest Lesson My Father Taught Me

It's been four years since losing my father to Alzheimer's. Even though he was forgetful in his later years, there are many lessons he taught me that I will never forget. I have reflected on them more after his death than while he was alive. The most important lesson that my father taught without either of us knowing it at the time was about the "f-word"...fear.
 
This valuable lesson was something I reflected on before my father's funeral as I was preparing for the eulogy. Typically, before I speak, I prepare with at least 25 hours of study, writing, prayer and memorization. I am now finding that the more demanding the opportunity, the more of that prep time I spend in prayer. My father's eulogy was no different. I prayed and prayed, but I didn't know exactly what I was going to share about him until 30 minutes before the funeral. I have only conducted and attended a few funerals in my life, but the one thing I've noticed is that a majority of scripture we hear at funerals comes from the New Testament with a few Psalms thrown in the mix. The focus is on death and the promise of resurrection.
 
For my father's funeral, I chose to focus on the Old Testament figure, Abraham. When I felt led to share about Abraham, I told my wife Callie, and she said she had just read about Abraham in her morning devotions. This was a confirmation for me.
 
I'm not going to rehash the story of Abraham, but I'll explain how it ties to my father. My father emigrated from Sicily to Western New York at the age of 44. Sicily was more or less a third world area back then, and in some remote places remains marginal today. We've heard the story of people emigrating so frequently, from an inadequate or unsafe place to a land of opportunity, that I think we fail to put ourselves in the shoes of those who've made this journey of a lifetime. We take it for granted that everything is going to be better for these people in their new land. Even when their lives are improved in the ways they'd hoped for, they still have left behind their home and all that's familiar. They have staked their life earnings and possessions and the safety and future well-being of themselves and their families. They have said goodbye to their lifelong friends and family, all for a hope that they will find a place to live, a job, education and security in a new, unfamiliar area.
 
My father wanted a better life for my mom and sisters, who were ten and eleven at the time. He left his comfortable surroundings to come to a country he had never been to before. He didn't know the language. He didn't have an education beyond the fifth-grade level. He had little money in his pocket, but he was willing to risk it all. The bottom line was my dad did not give in to fear.
 
We often make excuses because of fear...
 
Why I never started that business
Why I never finished school
Why I never stood up to bullies in school and life
Why I never applied for my "dream job"
Why I never dared to talk at a funeral or an important event
Why I never visited a dying friend
 
In the scriptures there are approximately 365 times where God says not to fear; that's one mention for every day of the year! When God calls us to do something, our first instinct is often to worry. Choose today not to give in to fear.

Grace,
Pastor Roz