I remember the day my dad was shopping with me for a special dress. We had moved to a new town ahead of the rest of the family, so in a mutual state of neediness in Mom’s absence, I was his escort to a fancy dinner, and he was my shopping buddy.
Standing in the busy department store, I slid the hangers along the metal pole. I would hold one up and check for his initial response. A squinchy nose meant: “don’t even bother”, while raised eyebrows and flattened frown indicated:”perhaps, perhaps!”
I have two distinct memories of that day. The first was what Dad said when I walked out of a dressing room with a colorful tea-length dress on. “Oh, you wear that one well!” My father was always very careful with words. I knew he purposely chose NOT to say what most might, “That dress looks good on you.” He chose to make it about me. “I” wore it well. He complimented me, not the dress.
The second memory is of the conversation that followed. I tried to make a comparison of men to dresses. Some men garnered a “don’t even bother” first impression. While others seemed nice enough at first glance: “Perhaps, perhaps.” And eventually one will be just right for me in that my loveliness is enhanced by the relationship.
Instead of extending the metaphor like usual, Dad offered a bit of a rebuke.
“You just seem to be going about this ‘boy’ business all wrong. Statistically, every male on this planet will ultimately be your friend – a brother of sorts. One special man will be your husband. I see you combating the odds. You treat every guy like he might be your husband, and very few like brothers.”
He was right. How many last names had I paired with my first – scripted in cursive on spirals over the years? How often had I allowed my emotions to run rampant and race the relationship across the threshold of healthy friendship?
I thanked Dad for his honesty, but chided him a bit for not offering this age-old advice just a decade or so earlier.
Though I had not yet learned the discipline of treasuring platonic friendships, I had spent my whole life enthusiastically enjoying the company of my three younger brothers. My brothers had always provided the purest source of camaraderie. They would poke fun at me relentlessly, be brutally honest, and then unconditionally committed. They told me they love me… and their kind words, quality time and acts of service lead me to believe them.
Today, 20 years into my relationship with my husband, I see even more clearly the wisdom my Dad shared that day. He was right. Only one man has my heart, but several have my back, so to speak. I thank God for the brothers in my family. And I thank Him for brothers in the faith – these men who are friends of my husband, husbands of my friends, partners in ministry, and worthy opponents in the occasional bout of “Words with Friends”.
How rich an existence with access to such provision and protection!
My husband, Philip, is a loving brother to many. He is a good listener and “king of the side hug”. He has rescued stranded motorists, fixed cars in parking lots … he even removed a snake from a mini-van once! He treats others like he wants to be treated.
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. James 1:27
I am not a widow or an orphan, but my dad has been in heaven for 18 years and my husband is sometimes called away to work for weeks at a time. Dads cannot be replaced, but the void of their affection and care can be lessened by a sensitive word or a kind gesture from a Godly man.
I had a pastor, once, who spurred me on and encouraged me just like my dad had always done. “You have a great sense of comedic timing … you should definitely write more.”
One Father’s Day, I sang a solo in church, and an older, portly gentleman, put his arm snugly around my shoulders and tearfully shared what a blessing my song had been and surmised how much my father would have enjoyed it.
Once, while Philip was away, we had a storm blow through that ripped a hole in part of our roof. Philip’s best friend was over at our house immediately, climbing onto the roof and patching it the best he could in the rainy darkness.
Another time my boys – who were preschoolers at the time- were missing their nightly rough-housing with their dad. They had become so rowdy, I could hardly stand it. I took them to the church playground to let off some steam. Our pastor and his family were there also. He purposefully and repetitively threw my boys into piles of leaves and wrestled with them against a mountain of gravel until they were squealing and panting – good and worn. In total relief, I whispered to his wife, “I just can’t rough-house like a Dad can.”
There is an older man in our church who often stops me to look me in the eye and say, “I sure love who you are.” as though he were delivering a message straight from my dad.
My dad appreciated me – no matter the dress I wore or the boy I liked. And he left me a legacy of love and a powerful truth – flowing straight from the Heavenly Father’s will: brotherly kindness.
I want my sons – like so many other Godly men in my life – to be highly skilled at brotherhood. Statistically, every girl on the planet will need them to be her brother. Only one will ultimately be his wife. Godly brotherhood – “unstained by the world” – is a life skill and a relational calling. Men should prepare to serve and protect; and learn how to step in and provide. This is true religion and pure love.
Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart. 1 Peter 1:22