Richard Exley Ministries

The Gift of Yourself

As I recall my own childhood, the thing I remember most is the special relationship I had with my dad. Thinking about it now, several memories come to mind -- the time Dad helped me build a clubhouse when I was maybe ten or eleven-years-old, the first time he took me deer hunting, and all the times he played catch with me in the evening after supper. Still, no memory is more special than the time he took my brother Don and me fishing at the North Sterling Reservoir.

We borrowed Uncle Denny's boat and set out for the reservoir in the pre-dawn darkness. When at last we reached the lake, I could hardly contain my excitement. What could be better than trolling for trout in Colorado? In a matter of minutes we had launched the boat, and while Dad connected the gas line and primed the engine, Don and I began rigging up. Don selected a green and yellow flatfish while I fastened a hot pink daredevil on my line. Distinctly I can recall the mist rising from the water to swallow our boat, waves lapping gently against the bow, the smell of the morning.

I watched as Dad tugged on the pull cord, disrupting the early morning stillness with the abbreviated cough of the outboard engine. It took two more tries before the trolling motor settled into a rattling chug and we began letting our lines out. Within a matter of seconds I had a strike. A fourteen-inch rainbow did a tail dance about twenty feet behind the boat before throwing the hook. Although my excitement was tempered with disappointment I couldn't wait to try again. (click here to continue reading)

Before the morning was done I had caught a nice rainbow trout and two largemouth bass. Still, the thing I remember most is not the fish I caught, or the beauty of the sunrise, but just the chance to be with Dad. And this was just the first of many such trips. Somehow, year after year Dad managed to take us on vacations he couldn't afford, in order to make memories we couldn't afford to be without. Needless to say, my life is the richer for his commitment.

Not infrequently a busy man is tempted to feel that the time spent playing with his children is wasted. Nothing could be further from the truth. Think of your own childhood. Aren't those special times spent with your father a continuing source of strength and encouragement even today? And if you were not fortunate enough to have such a relationship with your father, don't you still feel the loss? In truth, there is nothing you can give your children that will be more lasting or more deeply appreciated than the gift of yourself.

It is said of James Boswell, the famous biographer of Samuel Johnson, that he often referred to a special day in his childhood when his father took him fishing. The day was fixed in his mind, and he often reflected upon many of the things his father had taught him in the course of their fishing experience together.

After having heard of that particular excursion so often, it occurred to someone much later to check the journal that Boswell's father kept to see what he had said about the fishing trip. Turning to that date, the reader found only one sentence: "Gone fishing today with my son; a day wasted."

For the elder Boswell, it seemed a day wasted. For his son, it was a day to be remembered, one which shaped him for the rest of his life!

What am I trying to say? Just this: Life's most valuable lessons are seldom learned in times of formal training. Rather, they are passed from one generation to the next during a shared experience, a mutual project, or a special camping trip. At the time we are seldom aware that anything rare or lasting has happened. It is only later, when we look back, that we realize that something of real significance has occurred.

In light of that fact, let me encourage you to take time to do fun things with your children. Remember, many of life's most profound experiences are unplanned. They are simply the product of time spent together in an atmosphere of love and trust.

This article has been excerpted from 

“The Making of a Man” by Richard Exley
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