“A Glad Father Enjoys the Fruit of His Labor"
J. Mark Fox
Award of Outstanding Merit - $1,000
J. Mark Fox is the pastor of Antioch Community Church in Elon, NC. He writes a weekly column for the Times-News in Burlington, NC, and has published articles in The Teaching Home, Home School Digest, and The Greenhouse Report. His book, Family-Integrated Church, was published in 2006. Mark has won Amy Awards in 2004 an 2005. He holds a B.A. and M.A. from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and an M.Div. from Luther Rice Seminary. Mark and Cindy will have shared 25 years of marriage in June, and plan to take a trip our west to celebrate with their seven children: Micah, Caleb, Hannah, Luke, Jesse, Judah and Susanna.
Last week I had the opportunity to spend the better part of an afternoon with a good friend of mine. I was flying to Kenya and had a 6 hour layover in Detroit. So, my friend came and picked me up at the airport, we found a little cafe close by, and had a pleasant lunch together. Then we asked directions to the nearest Starbucks, and spent another two hours there, enjoying the fact that neither one of us had to be anywhere that afternoon, there was nothing pressing us, and we could simply enjoy the company, the wonderful smell of coffee brewing, and the laughter of good friends.
We talked easily of old times, swapped stories, joked around, and just enjoyed being together. I reflected later on the plane how much I love this friend of mine, and look forward to the next time we can be together. The funny thing is, though we have known each other for 21 years, our relationship has changed drastically in the last two.
You see, this friend is also my oldest son. Micah attends college about an hour from Detroit, and was able to come down and hang out with his Dad for half a day. We talked about the courses he is taking in college and the things he is learning about life. We discussed the job offer he has waiting for him after he graduates this May. We laughed about college pranks, and we agonized together about the Panther’s loss to Seattle. We talked about theology and about career choices and about marriage.
When Micah dropped me off at the airport and we hugged, it felt as natural and as easy to say “I love you” to my son as anything I have ever done.
What a blessing! I felt like I was sitting down to a banquet of fresh fruits and vegetables that my wife and I had planted in a different season. All of the agony of back-breaking toil in the hot sun was forgotten because the harvest was in and the feast was prepared. The labor was eclipsed by the sweet reward. The fruit was delicious and satisfying.
I am not writing this to point to myself as a good father. Believe me when I say that I have made as many mistakes as anyone. I remember a basketball game that almost came to blows because of my own pride and stubborn competitiveness. Micah’s cooler head prevailed and we were spared what could have been a devastating blow to our relationship. I remember many times when I disciplined in anger. I remember several years of awkward embarrassment between us as he grew into manhood and the hugs were fewer than they should have been, the expressions of love forced at times, absent at others. I remember the times I didn’t do the thing my son needed and the times I did or said the wrong thing. But I am eternally grateful and I give praise to the one who is able to take my meager efforts and my mistakes and redeem them for his own glorious purposes. He has certainly done that in my relationship with Micah. And I trust God will do the same with each of my children.
The Bible says, “A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is the grief of his mother.”
This is one glad father.
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