by Pastor Dan Miller
Editor’s Note: This article was reprinted with permission from Dan Miller’s book Spiritual Reflections.
I recently found a new friend. Audrius lives a quarter-turn of the planet from here; but like me, he is a father who loves his children. And like me, he struggles to withstand the challenges hurled at him by the prevailing winds of a morally twisted world and the natural bent of his children’s hearts to capitulate to their moral environment.
Audrius has a fourteen-year-old son who brings him much pride and a few gray hairs now and then. That “quarter-turn of the planet” bit lands this particular teenager in a country which does not provide transportation to public schools. Lacking this basic amenity so many American teens learn to scorn translates into a forty-minute walk to school for young Paulius.
Eighty minutes of mandatory walking per day proved understandably disagreeable to Paulius. A bicycle, he proposed to his father one day, would prove wonderfully beneficial. Audrius naturally agreed with his son, but patiently explained to Paulius that such a purchase was not within the means of a father whose annual salary is $1,800 (annual, not monthly, and I did not miss any zeros).
A lesser man might have responded to his son’s proposal with forlorn resignation—“we are the have-nots of the world, woe is us”—and bred the same spirit in his son. But Audrius is a wise father and suggested, rather, that Paulius pray. As I heard this story retold in broken English, that particular piece of parental counsel did not secure my immediate respect. Anyone can ask God for a bicycle or a miracle or the moon. But my interest was piqued when Audrius explained that he had counseled his son to pray, not for a bicycle but for a job.
Lest you mistake this line of counsel for a less than robust display of faith in God’s power to provide, please understand that the country these men inhabit suffers a thirty-five percent unemployment rate. Annual salaries typically range in the $3,000 to $4,000 range (again, I did not miss any zeros). To pray that a fourteen-year-old would secure a job in such an economy was a courageous display of faith in God. To encourage that same boy to seek a job in order to earn the desire of his heart is nothing less than a stroke of wisdom.
Shortly after this parental coaching, Paulius came home from school one day with a beaming face, announcing that a teacher had inexplicably hired him to perform after school computer work. That job led to others, and after many late walks home from school, Paulius eventually earned his bicycle.
Paulius’s commute to school is much easier these days. But more importantly, he rides to school on the wings of his father’s worldview and is the richer for it.
Not every lesson has been as easily inculcated, however. One day, Audrius noticed Paulius’s downcast face. Several unsuccessful attempts were made to discern the source of his son’s discouragement. Finally, Paulius admitted that he suffered the influence of a troubled conscience. He had succumbed to peer pressure on his way home from school and one day had stolen candy from a grocer. Audrius listened with a heavy heart and patient love.
“You must make this right,” he counseled his son. With gentle persuasion he encouraged Paulius to confess his sin to God. This having done, the boy was relieved to put the ordeal behind him. He had admitted his wrong to his earthly father and now to his heavenly Father. All was well. But his dad was not done with him just yet.
“You must make this right,” Audrius repeated. An incredulous son insisted that he had done just that. He had confessed his crime to God. God had forgiven him. His conscience was clear. “But you must now speak to the grocery store manager,” Audrius explained.
Stunned by the horrifying prospect of such a meeting, a naturally timid boy made an agonized trek to the grocery store. With his father at his side, Paulius confessed his crime to an astonished manager who admitted to having never fielded such an avowal in her twenty-year service as store manager in a land where theft is a way of life.
Paulius emerged from the grocery store greatly relieved. But his relief turned to bewilderment when his father yet again counseled, “You must make this right, son.” Paulius listened in stunned silence as his father noted that a couple of Paulius’ friends had witnessed his crime and, it could be safely assumed, had spread the word to other classmates. And so, with his father again at his side, Paulius stood before his public school classmates and confessed his crime to them in a land where theft is a way of life.
In the book of Proverbs, the wise father calls upon his son to embrace the “way of life” and to eschew the path of death. In this context, he admonishes his progeny:
My son, keep your father’s commandment,
and forsake not your mother’s teaching.
Bind them on your heart always;
Tie them around your neck.
When you walk, they will lead you;
When you lie down, they will watch over you;
And when you awake, they will talk with you.
For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light,
And reproofs of discipline are the way of life. (Prov. 6:20-21)
How rich that child whose parents realize that purifying the conscience is far more important than saving face. How rich that child who receives moral training from parents committed to the development of character no matter the cost. And how very rich that child who can one day return thanks for such a heritage, no matter how few zeros follow dad’s annual salary.
|Dan Miller has served as senior pastor of Eden Baptist Church (Savage, MN) since 1989. He graduated from Pillsbury Baptist Bible College (Owatonna, MN) with a B.S. degree in 1984. His graduate degrees include an M.A. in History from Minnesota State University, Mankato, and M.Div. and Th.M. degrees from Central Baptist Theological Seminary (Plymouth, MN). He is nearing completion of D.Min. studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL). Dan is married to Beth, and the Lord has blessed them with four children.