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Twelve lessons on biblical manhood I learned from my father

June 15, 2012

By Jeff Robinson

The young paratrooper stood at the open door of the C-47 transport plane. Wave after wave of angry wind currents battered his army fatigues with the ferocity of a category five hurricane. He paused momentarily, double-checked his static line and then leaped into the darkness below. Instantly, the darkness wasn’t so dark any more. As he plummeted toward the earth, shells from anti-aircraft canons whizzed near him, burning up like a thousand falling stars slithering across the nighttime sky, shells that German soldiers propelled into the atmosphere with deadly intent. Explosions illumined the approaching earth below. Drifting intentionally toward the hostilities defied common sense and he was deeply fearful, but the young soldier was on a mission far greater than even he understood in that moment of moments. That young soldier was my father. It was 2 a.m., June 6, 1944, and he was in harm’s way, big-time. The hedge-infested landscape of northern France, largely flooded with water by Germany’s paranoid Fuhrer, waited as dad and his colleagues in the 101st Airborne descended to join the cataclysmic battle known to posterity simply as “D-Day.”

My father, who died in 1991 when a leaky blood vessel burst in his chest, would tell you that God’s mercy alone carried him through D-Day alive. Sovereign grace saw him through the Allies’ Operation Market Garden (which didn’t turn out to be the Allies’ proudest moment). It preserved him through the Battle of the Bulge, where American troops won despite being grossly outnumbered, completely surrounded (it is the Airborne’s job to be surrounded, my father once told me) and deep-frozen in one of the coldest European winters on record. Divine mercy, dad always said, kept him alive to V-J Day and spirited him back to Georgia to marry my mom. And it was mercy all, immense and free, that converted my dad to Christ shortly after they exchanged nuptials. Charles M. Robinson the soldier became an excellent husband and father, faithfully raising three boys to be faithful husbands, fathers and churchmen.

Over the years as I have read God’s Word and reflected back upon his quiet testimony to God’s grace in our home, I have been increasingly thankful for the Godward values he instilled in us. Unfortunately, godly, committed fathers are the exception in today’s culture rather than the rule, but I was blessed by God’s mercy to be raised by one. Though he was far from a perfect man, my father exemplified biblical manhood in many respects and taught me many lessons by example. Following is 12 things that my father’s example taught me about biblical manhood:

  • The right thing is not always the easy thing. Ask any of my father’s friends and they will tell you that humble courage, above all other attributes, typified my father. If he feared anything other than the Lord, our family never knew it. Dad was particularly adamant about doing the right thing, even, or perhaps especially, when it was a difficult thing. But courage should always display itself in a manner befitting the humility of Christ, I think he would be quick to say. My father did not believe he was courageous. When I asked him if he was scared the night he jumped into Normandy, his replay was an incredulous “Of course.” So what made you do it? “Because there was something at stake that was far larger and far more important than my safety,” he said. That’s humility wed to courage. That’s like Christ and I want to be like that.
  • The right thing is not always the popular thing. Like following Christ, making the right decisions will not always win the applause of others, even some who profess undying devotion to you.
  • Greatness is found in humility, not in touting one’s own greatness. I will never forget my father, in the context of teaching me how to play the great game of baseball (the national pastime seems to be imbedded somewhere in my family’s DNA), said, “When you make a great play, hit a home run (I was a singles hitter, so this particular play wasn’t much of an issue) or do something to help your team in an obvious way, act like you’ve been there before.” My father wanted God, not me, to be glorified, even in sports.  Dad was appalled at the strutting of professional athletes and was always put off by those who strutted in life, particularly in the church.
  • Men are called to do hard things. Men are called to make difficult decisions in the home, workplace and church. Men are called to do hard things like taking a wife and raising children. My father saw a tendency among young men toward delayed adolescence in my generation and was deeply concerned.  That God makes men a bit rough around the edges is suggestive, he believed.
  • Husbands are called to protect their wives. Physically, emotionally and spiritually, a man must be willing to lay down his life for his wife.
  • Fathers are called to protect their children. Physically, emotionally and spiritually, a man must be willing to lay down his life for his children.
  • Be good at what you do. That 1 Corinthians 10:31 is such an oft-quoted Scripture verse in my home is probably attributable to my father. Whether you were going to be a plumber, professor, athlete, student, doctor, pastor or custodian, you must never stop striving to grow in your ability to do it with great skill and integrity with a sense of stewardship.  My father was a master builder and approached every project as if it were his last. Every sphere of life belongs to God and all must be done to His glory.
  • Talk is cheap, especially in the Christian life. “There are men who are talkers and there are men who are doers,” he told me. Dad was a “doer,” which is a North Georgia way of saying, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).
  • Father/husband, if there is a financial crisis in the home, you are the solution, not your wife. My father took seriously the husband/father’s role as the chief provider for the family. He would have found the modern-day “stay at home dad” ungodly, effeminate and repugnant. If your lifestyle requires her to take on a career and pushes the children to the babysitter where they are being raised by someone else, adjust your lifestyle to fit the man’s wages. If extenuating circumstances make this impossible, the man should take on additional work so his wife can be faithful to her divine calling as a full-time mother. Dad always said, “You are the solution.”
  • There is no substitute for “being there.” My dad never had to learn such words as “quality time” and “quantity time.” I do not recall a single baseball game (and I played in hundreds growing up) or important church or school event without my dad (and mom) in the audience. We went to church Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday night as a family, no questions asked. That we were being raised as churchmen was an assumption. At home we spent hours talking about everything from God’s Word to sports, the news, good books and the merits/demerits of country/rock/pop/gospel music. In short, his was a huge presence on the landscape of my life and my time with him continues to bear fruit, even as I arrive upon the borders of middle age.
  • Treasuring Christ, not material things, will give you ultimate satisfaction. The Lord blessed my father with material means, but I have no doubt it was never an idol. Whatever wealth he had, it never had him. One of my fondest memories growing up in our household was my parents, under my father’s leadership, providing food, Christmas toys, rent/mortgage money and thousands of dollars in other provisions for the poor of our community, which were numerous. “God has blessed us to be a blessing to others,” he once told me. “We must lay up treasure in heaven, not here.” That’s the biblical prosperity gospel.
  • Authentic manhood is proven by serving others, not by the deployment of bare knuckles. In the mountains of North Georgia where I grew up, a rite of passage into manhood seemed to be participating in and winning at least one fist fight. This was a huge problem for a runty boy like me, who didn’t tip the scales at 100 pounds until the ninth grade. In high school, I used to joke with my friends, “I’m a lover, not a fighter.” My father, who was as physically tough a man as I have ever met, warned me against confusing real manhood with such boorishness. Real manhood is found in sacrificing your needs, wants and desires in service of others as Christ did on Calvary. The real man is the Christ-picturing servant, not the Rocky Balboa wanna-be.

I am following in giant footsteps and I pray that the Lord will give me grace to set an example that points my children to Christ and His Gospel in a compelling and fruitful way. Happy Father’s Day from CMBW!

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