For many years now... Dad has picked me up and taken me to the airport during the majority of his sixties and seventies. He has always been an eager beaver to wake up at a time when it doesn't make sense to most of the world. In fact, this is the most logical time of the day when people are sleeping, to come pick me up in our home in Oklahoma City and drive me to the airport. Frankly, as much as I love being with him, I always figured it was his "getting older" state of trying to help and I could never have been so wrong. I misread what was happening.
It was always a scurry to fly somewhere from a place which has been my base most of my life and after you have flown millions of miles, travel is not really a blessing anymore, but it is a major hassle to me. No, I don't fly private as much as I did when I was a younger man and frankly, I really like huge planes anyway. Travel means you have to go to work and requires pressure, sacrifice and absence.
Routines became normal for a while, but traveling almost every single week for decades was part of a "lot" many would deem wonderful, but somehow it seemed more punitive to my heart. This was my own selfish problem of which I have come to understand even more in days of recent. So getting up in the morning, making sure I didn't forget anything, getting the house picked up and being ready for Dad's headlights on the garage have been a journey in and of itself. There didn't seem a lot of happiness associated, but my father's headlights which made me smile as he never overslept, no matter what time he was asked to meet around 3 or 4.
Dad always was quiet, respectful and kind to me. He would say, "Howdy howdy and then ask what he could do to help me upon his arrival or my departure". His next statement would usually be funny either about my clothes, the weather or the road conditions. He would then say, "I left as quiet as I could so to not interrupt your mother's sleep as she was up late." My father has always respected my mother deeply and his service to everyone else just reminded me of his unconditional love for me. After 57 years, he had earned the respect of many since his parents went 74.
After getting the bags strategically placed, he positioned himself immediately in the passenger side to let me drive knowing I would find the best route possible and unlike his father, never gave me instructions on how to drive, how fast I was driving or any other typical "back seat driver" gestures most of us are accustomed to hearing. He was patient and seemed to have something much bigger on his mind. There was always a quiet agenda that did not happen in an ordinary fashion. However, normally the same thing would happen, a phenomenon.
He first let me talk and if I didn't talk he would gently begin to ask me questions. Realizing I never even knew my dad was a human until I was 35 was a sad statement of selfishness anyway. It was always about me and never about him. Once I caught on, I realized my father had feelings and so many things going on in his life, even situations in his late seventies were complex and all I had to do was ask probing questions to find out more about this gentle giant of a man who was serving me. His answers were always brief and painfully honest.
Then, he would say, "You know son, I have been thinking about something". One day I figured out what it was he had been thinking about and why. Dad had an airport sermon and he strategically would wait until we get almost half way there to share with me what he really wanted to say. Now considering it takes almost 25 minutes from Warwick V to get to the airport, this meant the length of his sermon could be shared in just a few moments, but I needed to not wag my mouth, and just listen to what was on his mind for a moment. By Hefner Parkway passing Hefner Grill, the short sermon would begin.
My dad doesn't say a lot, my grandfather doesn't say a lot an neither did his father or his father before him. When these men have always spoken, everybody listened. When they were thinking about something, it was because they had something really important to say, something out of the normal routine of conversation. Their focus was always on two things, the way people lived or the way people treated others. How should we interact, communicate, articulate and emulate life so we might leave a lasting legacy of love was thematic. Faith was integral to this sermon.
The closing principal of the message ended with Christ, what He did and making the most important thing, the most important thing. Dad's airport sermon was gentle, soft, spoken with kindness, absent of judgement and tender. He never spoke very loudly and sometimes I almost strained to hear him. He observed the deer by the side of the road, looked for and listened for wildlife, admired the creation and most importantly, quietly admired God. His life was poetic in how he approached me, just like a small road side animal he would be careful to address.
Now Dad and I never went hunting or fishing but a few times in our lives so our social lives have been pretty small compared to some. I had become the "Cats and the Cradle" in every part of my life's journey filled with busyness and even more. Dad knew this and would gently keep nudging toward the receptive insight he felt was needed. Was the drive for me or was the drive for him? Was he talking to himself or wanting to impart knowledge to me? It didn't matter, he was being my friend and we were in community for a few short moments in an innocent drive to the airport. His sermons had great impact and still do as I look forward to them even now.
Can I tell you how many times I flew out each morning after his sermons just wondering what had happened? I would be looking out the window of the flight thinking all day and all evening about what he just had said? Can I share with you how sometimes I would even be frustrated at his words, felt even offended by some of his gentle ways and would "war" in my own about truth? What was happening to me and why was I fighting this so much... This little ride had me in a complete disarray of emotions and those few sentences were like spears!
Then it hit me... I was in the presence of God. My father was using my heavenly father to convict me of wrong doing, of taking a trip in the car to point me toward His son even more. The spiritual warfare which has consumed my entire life had been growing and Dad somehow knew this and gently had a few words to share. I have been thinking a lot about my children and wishing I could drive them to the airport, but I can't. We live in different places now. I have been wishing I could impart a little bit to others and this blog is a way I can go on a little drive with you, hopefully to remind each of you of the things which are most precious.
Thank you. Thank you for sending me little airport sermons in your flowers, in your cards and in your notes with your very lives. Thank you for not giving up on me, even when I wanted to give up on myself. Thank you for looking at my recent stroke with eyes of love and giving me hope when living in self pity would have been so easy. Thank you for waking up early and driving me to a destination which makes me think and act differently.
Do me a favor. Wake up early and begin serving others. Be gentle in how you share. Be provocative in your small way to impact others, but ladle everything you do, with tender love. Don't be judgmental toward others, but instead filled with mercy and forgiveness. Wake up early, and do something for someone today. Find someone who needs another ride.
Hey Dad, I am getting up early again and I need you to take me to the airport. Do you think you can help? Yep, I already know the answer to my question and I am ever so thankful for a great silent man to give me a lift.
Kevin McAfee is a filmmaker who writes for the purpose of inspiring others to make a difference in the world through faith in God and using the visual language of film. His blog shares the hopes of impacting culture, because his heart is in media missions and the church.