Thursday, October 27, 2011

Portrait of a Father's Grace

In the introduction to The Four Loves, CS Lewis makes a distinction between two different kinds of love: gift-love and need-love. He says, “Gift-love would be that love which moves a man to work and plan and save for the future well-being of his family which he will die without sharing or seeing.” Need-love is the same love that motivates a child to run to his mother when he or she is hungry or needs a hug or has some other want.

When I think of this concept of gift-love, in my mind’s eye I see my thin, young, strong, black-haired father, who, after a long day’s work is asleep in the brown recliner with his face covered by Time Magazine. His skin is bronze and his scent is the combination of sweat, cigarettes, and the paper mill where he worked. Usually, he would be wearing gray Dickies’ pants, a t-shirt and be in his sock feet, after removing his outer shirt and steel-toed work boots upon arrival at home. He toiled all day and then retired into the recliner where he would read until he could no longer hold his eyes open. This was a common scene.

His face was thin and a little gaunt, a little like Abraham Lincoln’s, complete with high cheekbones and acne scars from his teenage years. He was a handsome man whose face filled out as he aged.

I watched this thin frame give way to the middle-aged paunch as his hair grayed and then thinned. His personality mellowed at the same rate that his hair thinned.

He had a logbook that he updated with a detail that would make an accountant proud. In this logbook, he detailed his work hours for the week, rate of pay, and then the information from his pay stub with separate columns for each deduction. This was one way that he insured that his pay was correct. After his death, I looked through this book and saw that he rarely worked a forty hour week. A shift electrician, he worked sixty to eighty hours a week, sometimes for as much as six months at a time without a day off. He was paid well for this time, but he had to work to carve out time for relaxation.

His favorite hobby was fishing. He was able to buy a nice boat that he fished in as often as his responsibilities allowed. Unlike the person in C.S. Lewis’ example, he did get to share in the fruit of his labor. But like the person in the example, he didn’t live to share as much of it as he had earned.

He provided for his family during his life. This provision extended beyond his death. 

I remember when I was an adult, he said this to me. “You know that you are welcome to anything that I have. If there is something in this house that belongs to me, and you need it or want it, feel free to help yourself to it.” This was nothing but pure grace and he was full of it. Whenever I read the scriptures in which Jesus talks about having access to anything that belongs to his Father in Heaven, I think about these words from my father. I do understand this concept of gift-love. In my mind’s eye, it is the picture of my father on earth and in heaven..


copyright 2011 by Kathy Robbins

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