A Tribute to My Father, on My Last Father’s Day at Bethlehem

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Founder & Teacher, desiringGod.org

Today is Father’s Day. I was thinking about my father as I walked to morning prayer on Friday. I remembered one scene most vividly and joyfully. The moment of his death. I was alone with him in his hospital room. It was March 6, 2007. He was 88. He was ready.

The breaths were coming rhythmically, but the pace was slowing. I have told the story in detail. But this past Friday one picture was in my mind. When the awaited breath never came again, I looked at the clock on the wall and thought: Both hands straight up. Midnight. Both hands lifted straight up.

As I walked to church I lifted my hands and sang the refrain of the song I can hear him singing more clearly than any other — “At Calvary.”

Mercy there was great, and grace was free;
Pardon there was multiplied to me;
There my burdened soul found liberty at Calvary.

It was a joyful parting. His because he saw Christ, mine because I loved him. “If you loved me you would rejoice that I go . . .” (John 14:28).

I love him profoundly five years later. My overwhelming, and ever-deepening affection is: Thank you for pointing me to Calvary. Thank you. Thank you.

I am coming to the end of my pastoral ministry. There will not be another Father’s Day at Bethlehem. As I ponder the wonder of these pastoral years and the stunning gift of this joyful transition, I give my father the credit he should have. He prayed for me every day of my life, while he had his mind. He taught me the truth of the Bible and the glory of the gospel. He built the fiber of conviction into the sapling of his only son. If I have done any good for Bethlehem, I lay it, under God, at his feet.

I am glad that we can make available for the first time in electronic form this extended “A Tribute to My Father” (PDF). I hope it encourages you to be thankful in your own way, and to pray for your fathers and sons and husbands and brothers and nephews and uncles and pastors.