Outside it was only late afternoon, but already dark in the mid-December sky. Tremendous amounts of snow silenced our our neighborhood, downy banks lining the streets. And as the sky cleared, bitter cold set in. This snow would stay a while.
My dad bundled us up, zipping us into snowsuits and tieing our boots to ensure our feet would stay toasty through the long walk he had planned. Out we ventured into the dark. Stars lit our way, aided by the occasional streetlamp. Through the snow we trudged, crunching along the street. Dad led the way, two girls and a dog shuffling along behind him.
Eventually the road ended, and we came to the top of a hill. The windswept slope hid pockets of snow that came up almost to my waist. In my attempt to descend the hill, I only sunk deeper, struggling in the white sea. As a child, this was thrilling but inefficient. We were getting nowhere in a hurry. Scooping up my little sister, Dad stepped forward, in front of me, with his big boots. And as I followed in his footprints, the journey home became easier for me.
Without him ahead of me, the drifts would have swallowed me whole.
Years later, now grown with children of my own, I found myself sitting in a lovely little church, listening to that same man give a sermon. It wasn’t fancy. It wasn’t a packed congregation or a showy display of doctrine. It was just my Dad. Simple, understated, trustworthy. The same person who led the way through the snow. The one who you depend on to be there when he says he will. The one who keeps things in a stable perspective.
As I sat there listening to his heart-felt words, the lesson of that snowstorm came back. And I wondered, where would I be without my father? Where would I be without his faith? When I was born, he did not follow Christ. He did not know a savior. Miraculously and through the use of a few wonderful believers, both of my parents came to know the Lord in my childhood. They committed their lives to honoring the Lord and raised me in the Word. A few years later as an older child, I gave my own heart to Christ.
But what if I hadn’t? What if they hadn’t? What if my father had no faith? Who would I be? Who would I love, and what would I hate? And what of my own children, sitting there beside me in the pew listening to their grandfather? Would they have the opportunity to find peace with their Maker?
This weekend my Dad celebrates his birthday. For some of us, birthdays are just another day. An arbitrary number that passes after another trip around the sun. But for those of faith, the years are a legacy. It is the time we have to do something with what has been done for us. To change. To teach. To pass onward the truth. To give and love and extend grace. To humbly step forward into the snow.
It was with this in mind that we named our children, each bearing the name of a father before them. A man who impacted our family, making us into the people we are today. The lineage of grace. As my Dad blows out his candles this year, I will give thanks not just for his life, but for his obedience. Not only for walking with the Lord, but for teaching me to do the same.
Looking back now, I see his footsteps in my life. My own feet swim in the imprints he has made. And with little ones following me, I feel the enormity of task at hand; the large shoes I have to fill. But I celebrate his life with gratitude. I have a father of faith. The snow may pile up, but he went before me, making a path for generations to follow.