Dad: “If a man who’s bald at his forehead is said to be a great thinker, and a man who’s bald at the top of his crown is said to be a great lover, what about a man who’s bald from the forehead all the way to the crown?”
Me: (looks confused)
Dad: “He thinks he’s a great lover.
Dad jokes – that was one of the primary ways my dad manifested his creativity. Growing up on the receiving end, I was initially entertained. But there eventually came a day where all my muscles could pull off was a poker face.
That’s my dad, part joker (or trying to be one, at least) and part math tutor. He is a genius in math – the man can calculate algorithms faster than a calculator. I don’t know why those brilliant synapses and genes weren’t passed down to me – I’m terrible at numbers and directions.
My dad would sit down with me at my kiddy Lego table, which was no higher than a meter tall, and attempt to teach me maths. I remember him trying to teach me directions with a compass, and even bought 3D blocks for me to better visualise the concept of models in primary school. They didn’t help.
During exam periods, he’d stay home the entire month to coach me. This pattern went on for at least an hour daily until I was primary 6.
He was also my personal lost-and-found representative. Growing up, I was an extremely careless child and would often misplace things. But regardless of what I’d lost, he’d be able to locate it the following day. I don’t know how he managed to search out things I couldn’t, even when we’ve searched the same locations. Somehow his eyes could see things I couldn’t, literally and figuratively.
Though he wasn’t a man of many words, my dad’s actions always spoke volumes. He took on the role of being my chauffeur without asking for anything in return except my companionship. And because he knew how bad I was at directions, he made it a point to send me everywhere, despite my rejections on numerous occasions.
What he lacked in words, he made up in acts of service and his presence – he’d be at every ballet performance, singing and piano rehearsal, rain or shine. I used to wonder how he had so much time.
The comforts he had every right to keep for himself, he chose to sacrifice for the benefit of everyone else.
As I got older, I started to take greater note of the small gestures he’d done over the years – gestures which were so easily brushed aside. His dad jokes, for instance. All he wanted was to put a smile on my face, even if it meant coming up with the lamest puns, and risking looking dumb. He could also find the things I lost simply because he stayed up at night to search for them while I was slept.
It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I was told my dad had slip disc early on in life, which explained why he tended to hunch. This is what got me – he knew all along how bending down constantly would cause his condition to deteriorate further in the long run, and in full view of this, he still chose to sit beside me at my small table for hours on end to teach me, even on the days I was a difficult student.
And the real reason he could afford to spend so much time sending me around to places? He took no-pay leave to have extra time off with me, and even several pay cuts and lower paying positions in exchange for more time.
Being the intelligent mathematician and engineer he was, my dad had been offered high-paying positions that would have allowed him to travel the world and lead a significantly more comfortable life. But because family mattered so much to him, he declined those opportunities every single time.
The comforts he had every right to keep for himself, he chose to sacrifice for the benefit of everyone else, and continued doing so even when he wasn’t immediately appreciated. It’s one thing to give up enticing career opportunities that promise you status, financial security and authority; and another to sacrifice all that and take up jobs that are significantly less glamorous than what you’d expect for yourself.
Though my dad was smart, he did not use his gifts to serve his own ambitions. Instead, he took on the nature of serving others (Philippians 2:7) and led a life of being faithful and committed to his wife and children. As the man of the house, my dad truly learned how to die to self (Colossians 3:5) and take up his cross (Luke 9:23). He learned how to be content regardless of how dire or promising situations might have looked (Philippians 4: 11-13).
And most importantly, he gave himself up constantly for my family, just like how Jesus did for us (Ephesians 5:1). Even though my dad wasn’t always in the best physical condition, he chose to continuously give his time and energy to us (John 12:24), at the cost of his health and vitality – a striking resemblance, albeit on a micro scale, to how Jesus gave Himself up for us, at the cost of His life.
Anyone can be a parent, but it takes someone special to be a father. My dad is many things in one person – part joker, part math tutor, part driver, part engineer. But regardless of how diverse these job scopes are, they’re all unified by one common factor – a sacrificial heart, which I’ve been blessed to see in this lifetime through him.
- How has your father sacrificed for you?
- What does your father’s love look like?
- How can you honour your father in this season?
- What has your father’s actions taught you about God?