I was reading a post on Facebook, written by a friend of mine, who has just suffered the loss of his father. Randy’s father has struggled with dementia for the last six years; he finally succumbed about a week ago and now the mantle of responsibility for the family moves to the shoulders of Randy. He is dealing with the reality of the situation – after all, those of us who are sons, particularly oldest sons, have been hyper aware our entire lives that, assuming we live long enough, we will someday assume responsibility for the the families that we are a part of. And even with that fore knowledge, it somehow comes as a surprise when the moment of realization arrives that we have become a patriarch.
I remember as a child how I was trained by my maternal grandfather – with the knowledge that as an oldest son, someday I would be expected to put the needs of the family ahead of my own desires for my life. It didn’t seem strange at all to me – I was raised that way. In fact, I always sat to my grandfather’s left at Sunday dinner – seen but not heard, as I learned the expectations of a leader of the family.
When Grandpa died, Dad was still living so there was still a layer of insulation between me and the position that I had been trained for my entire life. I was eighteen at the time and figured that I had years ahead of me to enjoy myself before I ever had to worry about the responsibility I would someday face. But Dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer when I was twenty one; and he died when I was twenty five. Suddenly, I was kind of thrust into the forefront – not something that I was looking for, or felt prepared for.
Six months before Dad died, we ordered new office furniture. My stuff came pretty fast, but Dad’s was all special ordered and made to specification. Wouldn’t you know it that his chair, a gift from me, that was delivered to our office on the morning of his funeral – Monday, June 5, 1978. I instructed the delivery people to take the chair back – we wouldn’t need it anymore. But others in the office accepted delivery, put it in Dad’s office – and closed the door. We attended Dad’s funeral that afternoon. It must have been a month before I even opened the door to his office. By then, there had a been some pretty direct talk that it was time for me to assume the leadership of the company and get us back on our growth trajectory.
I didn’t feel right about it – especially seeing Dad’s new chair sitting there. But then something strange happened. I saw it from a different perspective. Rather than my gift to him, maybe, it was his gift to me – a new beginning – under new leadership. It was that day that I moved into Dad’s office, opened the blinds, sat down in the new chair and started to lead the company. I made many decisions in that chair – and somehow, the fact that Dad never occupied it made it easier.
Almost 40 years later, I still realize how “green” I was back then. It takes time to grow into leadership – even as a patriarch. Today, almost twenty years after Mom passed away, I still think about those early days. Now, as I approach sixty five, an age Dad never attained, I am more comfortable in my role. Our children and grandchildren come to me with problems – and I still wish to solve them. My methods are a little more mellow now, but I think that comes from years of being forged in fire. And I couldn’t have done it without faith; especially since I couldn’t walk down the hall and ask Mom or Dad for the right answer.
Someday, the baton will be passed again. After all, stewardship of the position of patriarch doesn’t last forever for any of us – that responsibility belongs to God alone. He is eternal and there is no question that He is the ultimate patriarch. Paul lets us know, in his letter to the Romans, that God is over all of us, forever, without end. Paul tells us, in Romans 9:5, “Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.”
My encouragement tonight is that God will take care of us forever. No need to worry about whether He will stop caring for us – that will never happen. My prayer is that wherever you walk in this world, whether you are a patriarch or not, you will turn to the ultimate authority for your marching orders. He is the best patriarch ever – and we can gain joy and peace learning from God. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…