By Lauren Fink
Sometimes it took some coaxing. But my whole life, I have heard my father’s voice and followed it.
“Now don’t pull the hook out. Push it through, so it doesn’t rip his flesh.” On the mountain lakes of Northern Arizona along the Mogollon Rim, he taught this little girl how to trout fish, most often using corn on a tiny treble hook. I walked behind him on piney trails – in sun and in snow – sometimes down steep hills to a canyon lake, or across smooth red rock jutting out onto the glassy water.
He showed me how to keep tension as I reeled in a fish, to throw back the small ones, to gut the big ones, to fillet the really big ones, and to fry them in butter. Side by side on the lake shore, or bumping along a narrow mountain road that snaked above a ravine, we talked and shared. He answered my difficult questions about God, faith, heaven, and salvation.
He answered my difficult questions about God, faith, heaven, and salvation.
As I grew, my questions got harder. Once we debated a passage from Plato’s Phaedrus while fishing – I held my book in one hand, my fishing pole in the other. And we’d keep talking over green chile burgers at our highway café and on the drive back down to The Valley.
“Please don’t ever do that again.” I was 16, and one Saturday night I chose to leave work at the restaurant and hang out with a guy from church instead of going home. Oh, and I was grounded that week. But Mom was out of town! And Dad and my brother were at the car races.
So I did what I pleased – and lost track of time. I finally drove onto our street at 1 a.m. to find my brother standing in the driveway. (I still mustered a sarcastic “What?!” at him, though secretly impressed at his concern for my disappearance). I stepped inside the house, expecting the worst.
My dad saw me, ran to me, hugged me, and choked out those words. He was so deeply disappointed at my brash disobedience. He was so glad I had returned. I went to my room in quiet distress, feeling the unbearable weight of hurting the heart of my father. And I never did something like that again.
“Please don’t ever do that again.”
“Mr. Horrock is the best thing that could have happened to you.” It was sweltering in D.C., and I walked down K Street, hiding tears behind my sunglasses, and pressing my phone against my sweaty ear. My first day as a news intern at The Examiner was disastrous because of a difficult assignment, a nervous 20 year-old (me), and most of all a cranky, demanding editor who called me “Kid.”
On the phone, Dad had a different take. Succeeding under an “irascible” editor would sharpen me. I would work hard to win Mr. Horrock’s respect and admiration. I’d answer his crassness with decency, his demands with eager work, and his crankiness with joy and patience.
I listened to my dad’s invigorating voice. And I believed him. Tedious days followed. But in August before I flew home, Mr. Horrock took me to lunch at the Press Club, and introduced me to other editors – by my name – as a young star reporter.
I listened to my dad’s invigorating voice. And I believed him.
“You can’t make him like you. You can be his friend, and see what happens.” We were barefoot in September, washing my dad’s red truck in our driveway when he told me this. I was 22 and heartbroken. My college crush – whom I brazenly told my roommate I would marry – was 1,000 miles away. My chance was gone.
Dad reminded me that for years he prayed for my future spouse, and was still praying for him. I listened, prayed, and waited. In January, that Michigan boy called me out of the blue, and kept calling. He asked to date me from 1,000 miles away. And in that same red truck in May, he asked my dad if we could marry.
Dad said yes, and talked about my virtues, but added that “at times she will disappoint you.” This was his way of preparing my husband. Dad knew it wouldn’t always be easy for me to hear my husband’s voice and follow him.
Dad knew it wouldn’t always be easy for me to hear my husband’s voice and follow him.
“I love you, Laureeneedeenee.” In my father’s attentive way, especially as a child, I felt he lived and breathed just for me. And with equal vigor, I lived for him. Whether a Cribbage game, a football punting lesson in the park, a ‘date night’ of Mexican food and ice cream, a yell through ear plugs as our favorite sprint car driver crossed the finish line, his signature hoot on the sidelines of my college volleyball games, or helping him harvest collard greens with my children, I soak up everything he pours out.
In my father’s attentive way, especially as a child, I felt he lived and breathed just for me. And with equal vigor, I lived for him.
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God.” 1 John 3:1
My father loves me unconditionally. And like a familiar melody, his devotion helps me see and believe the beautiful tune of God’s unconditional love. My father showed me faithfulness. I saw him ask forgiveness. I saw him hunched over his Bible. I saw him on his knees in prayer. I saw him red-eyed and blowing his nose at church. And I saw his God whom he loves. My father’s voice didn’t just lead me to a good life. His voice led me to the Good Shepherd.