My Dad

dadI am working on my sermon next Sun with the theme of Father for Father’s day. Then I began thinking about my dad.

Love. My dad died two decades ago in the mid-90s. My predominant memory of him is that he loved me dearly. When I was little boy he wrestled and bound me tightly so that I could not extricate myself from him. He released me only when I started crying loudly. He took me weekly to watch movies, especially Westerns. He bought me many toys. Once I wanted a whistle at a store. The seller would blow each whistle to test which whistle sounded the best and the loudest. But because he did this my dad ushered me away. He refused to buy me a whistle that someone else had put their unclean mouth to. This is a seemingly miniscule event. But somehow this is embedded in my memory as a story that my dad loves me and cares for me to the smallest detail.

Disillusion. My dad was my hero. I felt that he was the best, the greatest, the strongest and the most fearless man. But that image took a hit when I was a teenager. He felt numbness in one hand and weakness in one leg. He was diagnosed with cervical spondylosis–a slipped disk in his neck vertebrae. Surgery was recommended. His surgeon was reputed to be excellent. But he was cold, technical and uncompassionate. When he explained the procedure to my dad, he said matter-of-factly, “There is a 1-2% chance that you will become a quadriplegic.” This statement devastated my dad. He became very depressed. He couldn’t eat. He couldn’t sleep. He threw up. He lost weight. He was overcome by the fear of death. This disillusioned me because I painfully and reluctantly realized that my dad was not as tough and fearless as I thought he should be. It set me on an inner quest to consider why men fear death.

Blessing. My dad’s love for me never ever wavered. As a traditional old-fashioned Chinese man, my dad did not like mixed marriages. He did not like that I, his youngest son, would not be marrying a Chinese girl as he had hoped and expected. He was very disappointed. But because he loved me he gave me his blessing to marry an American woman without any reservation or protest or objection.

Regret. If I have a regret about my dad it is this. When he died of a cerebral hemorrhage from a recurrent subdural hematoma, I did not attend his funeral. I was in the U.S. attending a summer Bible conference when I received the news of his death. I wish I would have gone to his funeral to grieve with my mom and my older brother. But in the 1990s I thought that it would not please God to attend a funeral, since I would have to leave Chicago where I was carrying out many 1:1 Bible studies every week.

My memory of my loving dad moves me to tears. He never ever hurt or wounded me. He loved my mom. He worked hard as a responsible and honorable teacher and principal of a primary school. He is friendly, hospitable and very sociable. He welcomes anyone and everyone without discrimination or prejudice. Being Asian, he never said he loved me, and I also never told my dad that I loved him. But I never ever questioned his love for me. Even after two decades of his passing I still love him and I miss him.

Do you have any stories to share about your dad?


  1. Thanks for sharing Ben. Father’s day is June 15th, so coming up soon.

    Anyone who read my first book knows this but I’ll share it anyway. Your story about your Dad, Ben, is very eerily similar to my story.

    And I just have to say THANK GOD that I can enjoy another guilt-free Father’s day without all the peer pressure and guilt-tripping to honor Korean ubf missionaries as my spiritual father…. I hated Father’s day for so many years because we shepherds were supposed to send Father’s day cards to our spiritual fathers. ugh.

    • This is perhaps from misunderstanding and wrongly or badly applying 1 Cor 4:14-15.

    • …and extending the 5th commandment (Ex 20:12; Dt 5:16) to apply to one’s “spiritual father.”

  2. forestsfailyou

    My father passed away when I was just 4 from a drug overdoes. My adoptive father passed away when I was between my freshmen and sophomore years of high school. The thing I remember most when my adoptive father passed away was not the typical “I hate you God for killing my dad.” but rather a peace knowing he would no longer suffer. People think pain and suffering has no purpose and death is the greatest evil in this life. But these are all wrong. Pain and suffering exist to tell us something is wrong and keep from hurting ourselves. I was relieved when my father passed away so he would no longer suffer. My biological father had a fierce temper and he would cheat on my mother. I did not know that until recently. My adoptive father was a humble man of integrity. Sometimes I regret not treating him better. My biggest regret with my adoptive father came 3 months before he passed away. I got caught stealing from a Walmart and he had to come get me from the loss prevention area. He was so ashamed of me. All he said was “To think that my son is a thief.” We never talked about it again. He told my brother he didn’t have much time but never really spoke to me afterwards. I hope that he would be proud of me.

  3. My buddy, Dr. Ben, how I empathize with you. Even as the eldest born of my dad, I see similarities between your dad and mine, who too was a primary school teacher and principal.

    Yours was Chinese mine African, yours was not sure of his beloved son marrying a foreign woman, mine didn’t want his son even marrying from a different tribe, even though we were both Kenyan (my dad loved my choice , my wife dearly).

    As first born he loved me (to death) but never even once told me so. I didn’t have to tell him I loved him either; that would have been unafrican. But it was granted through actions and quiet innuendos.

    My father succumbed to prostrate cancer at the age of 86 after I relentlessly helped him fight it through modern medicine and highly qualified doctors like you. The man though small in stature yet commands a great deal of respect because people trusted him for his integrity, love for all people, dedication in serving others and his God without reservation even as a pastor (later in life).

    Because I was not there during my dad’s last years and battle with the disease that finally took his life, I am constantly sad when I think about him. The sooner the Lord takes that from me the better.

    Yes I miss my dad. But I am reminded I am next and hence I should continue to hope in the Lord Jesus and not in the memory of my dad as great as that is. God gave me a special dad he belonged to him and so do I. The judge of the whole world is able to do justice and dispense grace without making mistakes. I praise God and the Lord Jesus as the greatest Father I ever had and for all They mean to me. Amen.

  4. Hi Dad, it’s funny because I can describe you by simply copy/pasting many of the phrases you wrote about your dad!

    “he wrestled and bound me tightly so that I could not extricate myself from him. He released me only when I started crying loudly.”

    “He never ever hurt or wounded me… Being Asian, he never said he loved me, and I also never told my dad that I loved him. But I never ever questioned his love for me.”

    But a few exceptions:
    “He took me weekly to watch movies,” even R-rated ones and he would cover my eyes at the scenes I shouldn’t see (yikes!).

    “He bought me many…” slurpees from 7-Eleven, but he questioned my mom buying us so many toys for Christmas.

    “He loved my mom,” although at times I wondered if he really did since they always seemed to be making each other upset. I still get bothered when they argue. It makes me tense and I don’t like being around it. But I know deep down they love each other in their own special way that I may never really understand…

    “He worked hard,” although he didn’t like his actual profession as a medical doctor and repeatedly got himself fired. But he always worked hard at ministry-related things, and I know he liked the books side of medicine because I have many memories of him sitting at the table with a huge medical text, reading and underlining it so that he could learn new things. I’ve inherited this love for learning from you, dad.

    • I lost 20 jobs in 20 years because I didn’t like my boss lording over me! Your mom and I are increasingly loving each others’ “highly annoying idiosyncrasies” (our favorite phrase from John Piper). Sorry about the R-rated movies, such as Terminator 2…

  5. MJ Peace

    I love reading this. I’ve really come to the conclusion that a lot of people’s issues/problems boil down to mommy/daddy issues. People say you have to love God before you love people. I say, you have to love people, before you can love God. (1 John 4:20) Basically, they go hand in hand, but I have more respect for atheists who love their family than “believers” who don’t. I thought this was an interesting/related clip:

    The only thing I wanted to say about my dad is that there is no doubt that he loves my mother. I’m not trying to say my dad is the best of the best and faultless. But this is the characteristic I appreciate most. My parents enjoy each others’ company immensely and are each other’s best friend. Like, you said, “The best way for a Father to love his children, is for him to love their mother.” My Dad, being an Asian Father, is not the most verbally expressive (though he does say, “I love you” much more now;)) but he puts his wife and children first in everything, in work, in ministry, in leisure time. I am very thankful for him and I pray for the men of this generation to grow as good fathers because that’s what changes society and the world, healthy families and God of course.

    • Very well said, MJ! That video is tearfully amazing.

      As you correctly point out, loving God and loving others does go hand in hand. At some point in our lives, we may need the focus of exploring our love for and from our Lord who is living. At other points in our lives we may need to drop the God-speak and just love and be loved by the people around us.

      Either way, surely it is true that neglecting people in the name of “giving glory to God” is wrong (John 9). This all speaks to the question: What does it look like to live as a citizen of the kingdom of God?

      KOPAHN theology taught me to put “God” first at the expense of family and friends and neighbors and enemies. But I find the Christian teachings to be just the opposite, in spite of any denominational differences. The core Christian teachings about living in the kingdom of God is always about loving your family and being family centered, and submitting to the Lordship of Jesus (who is alive).

      Our church is doing the “Kingdom Man” series for 6 weeks. I am still outside the gates, so I feel no motivation to join (I’ve not yet recovered from KOPAHN enough to take on some Tony Evans teaching :) But a big emphasis is to step up and be a father and a husband. In short, God’s mission is you and your family.

    • Totally agree with you, MJ.