My dad is 60 today. He is far away from me, and I am tearing up as I realize that afresh. I moved away almost 2 years ago now, and I miss him every day. His spiritual gift is helping others: picking up people at the airport in the wee hours of the morning, vacuuming out the carpets in your car, running to the grocery store for that last-minute ingredient you need, taking you out for Chinese food when your heart feels like it will burst from sadness. When I was younger, I was foolish. I spouted my ideals like they were the gospel truth, because I thought they were. My dad did not always understand me, but he always took care of me. When I was in college, I had a beat-up old Toyota Corolla that I loved with all of my heart. I never once checked the oil, and so one day the engine caught fire. I called my dad late at night in a very bad part of town and tried not to cry. Not only had I ruined my car, I had done it in the most foolish way possible: by ignorant neglect. My dad got up out of bed and came and rescued me, and he never said an unkind word. Instead, he told me that he wanted to give me my college graduation gift early, which was our family's Toyota Camry. I think he just made that up on the spot. He is the kind of dad who gives good gifts, and who gives them early when his children are acting particularly like prodigals.
It is not a stretch to say that my own dad has shaped my view of God, and it has been so comforting: God is reliable, God loves me, and the very moments when I am most scared to approach and seek out his love are the times when he is most willing to lavish it on me. Today I am crying as I write this because I miss my dad so very much. He will come and visit me in a few days and I will be comforted by his steadfastness and genuineness, his ability to be comfortable in nearly every culture and continent. He will probably buy me some Chinese food. And then he will get back on an airplane and fly far away from us once again.
Even if I said it every day, it wouldn't be enough: I love my dad. He ushered me into the kingdom and he made it incredibly easy for me to view God as someone who is good and kind and gentle and utterly reliable. He also made it easy for me to miss him so incredibly much, to cry on his birthday, to be so grateful for the good gifts I have been given.
Happy birthday dad.