A ‘Father’ at 62

Being a father in the Presbyterian sense, at its most basic, means being an elder elder,

Being an ecclesiastical father is filled with frustrations and delights as well. But opportunities abound. Opportunities to step up. Opportunities to teach, exhort, admonish, encourage, challenge, contribute – all in keeping with the station of life and season of ministry in which the Lord has us.

 

Sounds implausible, doesn’t it. A father at 62. But that’s what I am. It’s even more remarkable because I am a father at 62 without a child to show for it.

And I’m not alone. In fact, there will be a convention of men just like me gathering in Mobile, Alabama this month.

For years I have attended the PCA General Assembly to hear speakers rise to address the group of church officers. “Father and brothers,” they would begin.

When did it happen that I got transferred to the “fathers” category? I am still getting adjusted to tuning in to the speaker until he gets to the “brothers” part of “fathers and brothers.” It reminds me of my youngest who graduated from Grove City College last month. It was only a few months ago that I was moving him in for his freshman year. Blink of an eye.

What does it mean to be a father, in the Presbyterian sense not the paternal sense? At its most basic it means I am an elder elder, gravity relating to more than the seriousness of the subject matter being debated on the floor of the Assembly.

Presumably, a father should be wise, seasoned with years of experience. I suppose that works to a degree, although it seems like there are things I should be able to remember that I don’t. They are there in the memory bank, but the counter doesn’t have as many withdraw slips. I’ve been around the block and I feel it.

But there is something special when fathers and brothers get together, that is if there is an appreciation for what each brings to the table and that each is at the table at the call of Christ. The brothers are not the upcoming generation and the fathers are not the outgoing generation. Together we occupy the active roster of Christ’s servant-leaders for kingdom service.

Being a biological father is filled with frustrations and delights. I’ve got four kids. I know. Now my kids are producing kids. I get to relive it.

Being an ecclesiastical father is filled with frustrations and delights as well. But opportunities abound. Opportunities to step up. Opportunities to teach, exhort, admonish, encourage, challenge, contribute – all in keeping with the station of life and season of ministry in which the Lord has us.

Sometimes as a father I want a do over.  That applies both biologically and ecclesiastically. I wish I had spent more time with my kids in one way or another. I also sometimes wonder what it would have been like to take a different path ministerially. Perhaps, I even harbor some envy of the “brothers” because of the paths before them that I also had when I was one of them.

That sort of thinking has a couple of problems. One, it takes issue with the providence of God. Never a good thing. Two, it puts my mind in the past. Maybe that’s the way it works with elder elders. But that sort of revelry is like texting while driving, because our Lord still has us on the road.

I’m looking forward to my time at General Assembly, not the travel getting there but the time being there. There will be a lot of sitting and eating. The worship, the seminars, the resources, even the business hold certain delight. But I especially like the sea of servants, singing together, sitting down together for the work of the church, catching up, comparing notes, networking, maybe even a little consoling. That consoling is not extraneous to GA. GA is about more than the business of Christ’s church. God is at work at many levels, something both fathers and brothers will take home with them.

I like it that there are older fathers. I love seeing Kennedy Smart and Frank Barker. It makes me still feel like a brother. I’m still wrapping my mind around being one of the fathers, but the more I think about it the more I realize there’s something special about it. It has something to do with Jesus, actually everything to do with Jesus.

Stan Gale is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America, and is the author of the book,  Why Must We Forgive?  This article appeared on his blog and is used with permission.