In order to go to basketball tournaments, I played the flute. Actually, I loved music as long as I can remember, and I had no idea that being good at playing flute would garner me a seat in the “all-conference band.”
But there I was, a meek, shy, not-sure-what-to-do freshman with my flute heading off to Sisseton for the band rehearsal. Since we were to be “ready to play” at 8:30 a.m. it meant leaving Corona at 7:15, long before the buses brought us in from the country.
When I came down the steps about 6:30, there stood my dad at the stove, making my oatmeal with raisins and scrambling a couple eggs with a few crumbles of bacon, just the way I liked them. He’d already set my place at the table, so I could just sit down and eat.
As I ate, he talked about the cold, but sunny winter forecast, the teams that would compete against our school in the tournament, the new baby calf he’d checked on before starting my breakfast.
When I went to brush my teeth, he went out to start the car to pre-warm it against the sub-zero morning chill. By the time I had my flute, my uniform and my coat, plus a bag with pants and a blanket in case the bus stalled, he was waiting to chauffer me to the school.
On the way, Dad would point out the breaking dawn, the paint-box of color spilling into the pre-dawn sky. All without complaint or reminding me that his milking time had been delayed in order to help me.
I thought about this while wrestling with the concept of faith alone in my Galatians Bible study.
“But aren’t there some rules that we follow?”
“Can we just say we have faith and then not live to show it?”
Paul spends eighty percent of Galatians explaining to the new Christians why faith is enough. We are no longer under the law. And if we were, we’d be in trouble because we can’t keep the law. Don’t fall back under pressure of “Do’s and Don’ts” list. That is not what Christ died for. He died to give us freedom.
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5;3
“Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” James 2:17
Yes, it is faith alone that puts us in right relationship with God. He does not hand out a list anymore, like the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy were given to Moses and the people of Israel. The need for animal sacrifices was done away with when Jesus spilt his blood for each one of us.
God calls us to the debt of love, of action, of bearing fruit in our lives. Being people known for love, joy, peace, kindheartedness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. (Galatians 5:22, 23)
And so I thought of my dad. Until he retired, I don’t think I ever heard “I love you” out of his mouth. And the first few times he said it, the words marched out like soldiers in formation. Little by little, those three words came more often, and each time they flowed a bit easier.
So, during the last two weeks of his life, with only enough strength to sit a few minutes in the chair to look out his hospital window, we loved Dad back the way he’d taught us to—with actions.
We’d grab every opportunity to stop by his room, from pre-dawn hours to just before bedtime.
We de-winterized the Studebaker he’d bought for Mom on their 25th wedding anniversary, and which he always took her for a ride in on June 6, their wedding/her birthday date.
We gathered around his bed and sang the old hymns he loved.
And we listened as he whispered one last time “I love you.”
Knowing it was real love that had sacrificed his agenda for our sakes.