Some images are like a sledgehammer to the gut.
I want to draw your attention to the face of the young man on the far right. In this snapshot I took while watching this ceremony, there are no specific feelings (positive or negative) associated aside from what I would describe as a dull ache.
My father was, to some, a great man. He was accomplished and dedicated the latter part of his life to ministry (specifically jails and prisons). He sat on councils and boards and was a pretty damn good leader in public. To me, he was a decent man who helped more than a few people. I loved my father.
But I was also terrified of him. I wish I could say he never gave us reason.
When I see this young man beam with near-uncontrollable pride it stirs up some jealousy. I would love to have my countenance change into something like this when memories of my time with my dad come to the surface. But there are a few factors making our situations different.
1) My dad never gave his life by using his own body to hold a terrorist in a four-point restraint so that only he would absorb the blast as the terrorist reached for the detonation button.
2) My dad never received the Medal of Honor.
3) Finally, truth be told, I don’t know a thing about this kid’s father (yet, his son’s smile says so much about him).
Even still, I feel the pangs of sorrow having not felt that way about my own dad.
Some of that lack is because he behaved differently around his family than he did his congregation or out in public. Which is fairly normal but he also treated us differently. At the same time, some of my regret comes from how I treated him.
It’s all water under the bridge now so all that’s left to do is hold onto the good memories and work to treat other leaders how I should have treated my father all along (despite his hits and misses).
The good news is that even as I stared with envy at this image, I came to realize that we all have a Father whom we can be proud of. He doesn’t need our Medals of Anything (I’m not at all minimizing the celebration of this hero — we need more of this sort of news). He just wants to get us all Home again.
So, rather than studying the face of a proud son and lamenting what I never felt, I can look forward to enthusiastically celebrating both my Heavenly Father and my earthly one when I get home.