Monday, July 11, 2011



Dad and his wife are going to be missionaries. Tonight, my brothers and sister all went to one of his pastors’ house to see them off and pray for them and give them our love and support. This isn’t an article where I’m interested in preaching the gospel or calling people out for living lives that aren’t in alignment with Christian values. I haven’t been to church in 5 years, and I haven’t said a prayer in just as long, but tonight I couldn’t help it; tonight, I couldn’t help but be inspired.

Most people were praying aloud and everybody was nodding and speaking out in affirmation of each other. They were offering prayers that were articulated and calculated, and the silences were filled with “praise Jesus” and “glory to God” and all other manner of Christian vernacular, which could probably be recognized to the outside observer as nothing more than filler designed to keep the spiritual tone and help the listeners make a connection to the prayer. I didn’t pray in front of the group, and nothing particularly eloquent crossed my mind. My prayer was simple, “God, bring them success. If anybody should get your blessing, it should be my dad.” Tears started quietly streaming down my cheeks, and when I looked up, my papa bear was sitting with his eyes closed and head bowed in reverence with a smirk.

And there I saw a man who was about to flip his entire world upside down. The man to whom I credit all that is caring and descent in me was standing at the front with a subtle smile coaxed out by excitement and optimism and content. I saw it there in his face: this is what he knows he was put on this earth to do.

Let me give you some background on what my childhood was like because to fully understand why I was so moved, you'd have to know a little bit about it. We moved to Colorado from Michigan when I was 5, and for the first couple of years we lived with my Dad’s Mom. When we moved out, we went to live in a tiny house, and we lived there until my freshman year in high school. We grew up, the four kids and Mom and Dad, in that house, which was about the same size as my apartment in college. It was 100 years old and less than 1000 square feet. Mom and Dad loved us very much, and they worked very hard. My dad was a carpenter, and my mom worked different jobs including overnights in a factory that made tools. She tried to stay home with us during the day as much as possible, and money was tight. What I knew about my Dad growing up was that he worked a lot, he went to church a lot, and he loved his babies very much. What I didn’t know was that he and my mom weren’t happy in their marriage. They weren’t happy for a really long time, like virtually the whole time they were married, and in my junior year of high school, they got a divorce.  Dad worked very hard at the marriage from what I gather, and even though he didn’t think he was feeling the right feelings about it, he stayed and worked and provided for his family.

After my parents divorced, my dad met his current wife, and they were married soon after. Well, as it turns out, marriages just plain aren’t easy. Especially when the two who are married have both been involved in long marriages that weren’t right for their needs. Both had walls and baggage and issues, and learning about someone and loving them despite their shortcomings is pretty tough when have your own crap to deal with. My stepmom and my dad would fight, and there were times when their marriage’s longevity wasn’t looking very promising. Once, it got so bad that Dad was even staying with my grandmother for a while. Nobody was sure if they'd make it, and it took a long time for them heal and forgive and accept each other. My dad says that the men’s group at his church had a huge role in teaching him about understanding his wife, and loving her the way she needed to be loved. He says that without their help, he couldn’t have made the changes he needed to make to be a good husband to her. I bet he’s right, but there’s something that stands out to me about my dad that he can’t give anybody else credit for.

My dad is one of the most committed men I’ve ever met. It could be his faith that drives him, or it could be his discipline or even the fear of loss, but whatever it is, it pushes him to take BIG steps. How many people have you met that, in their 50’s, would take the leap and sign up to move to a foreign country to contribute to other people? How many people do you know that, when faced with a failing marriage, lose their damn pride and grow as a person? How many people have you met that spend 30 years fighting with a struggling business to try to give their kids a life? Not a lot. Most people make excuses and avoid sacrifice. Most people are quick to rattle off the list of what they're entitled to, but when faced with the prospect of changing their life or their character to actually get the things they want, they just can’t make the leap.

My dad taught me patience, love, decency, discipline, gentleness and caring. All of those things and more are virtues that I'm lucky enough to have seen by the example my dad set, but the thing that I can’t help but dwell on is the example of commitment and all the hard work, sacrifice, and change that has to be endured to finally get to the place where you can say that you’ve done something. Tonight I wasn’t crying because I was so moved by Dad’s sacrifice, I’m used to that. Tonight I was crying because I’m going to really, really, really miss him. I was crying because I got to see, right in front of me, the fruit of his labor all coming together. I'm crying because my dad has been an example to me, and right now as I'm starting a new business, I feel  grateful not for what he’s told me, but what he’s shown me.

On the topic of commitment, I see people every day that talk the talk about changing their body or their lifestyle. I see people who say how bad they want it, and how unfair it is that they struggle with their weight. On rare occasion, I see someone who is truly committed to making the changes that they need to make. I know when that’s the person I'm dealing with because, like my dad and his wife, they're willing to take BIG steps to make a change.

After a life of hard work and sacrifice and struggle, my dad asked himself more than once, “Why, God? I’m diligent and faithful, so why do I struggle?” The difference between him and most people is that he didn’t spend a lot of time feeling sorry for himself. Lots of people ask, “Why God? Why do I struggle with my weight? Lots of people don’t have these problems.” If that’s where it stops for you, then you’ve lost the battle before it's even begun. We all have our burdens, and we all have our struggles. The people who overcome are the people who keep working. It took my dad 30 years of adult life to able to realize his dream, but through it all, he kept working. Then, when the timing was right and he and his wife were ready, he took a big step and pursued his passion. The reward that he got for his faithfulness wasn’t a bunch of money or external recognition. My dad got that little smile that he can’t wipe off his face, and even though it may look like it’s all because of this new adventure he’s about to embark on, I know it was 30 years of life that brought him here.  

Wherever you are in your life and your fitness journey, remember that where you are today and where you’re going tomorrow is what matters. Maybe some people can lose weight quicker, or they never had to fight with their weight at all. Maybe those people are even trying to give you advice on how to do it. Hopefully, they're doing it because they care, but I'm not particularly impressed with someone who’s never had to fight the fight. I draw inspiration from people like my dad who, in the face of struggles that seem insurmountable, continue to pursue and are willing to take the big steps that it requires to make a positive change.

Dad's finally getting to do what he wants to do, and the amount of work that he has put in to becoming the man that he is is staggering. It's not to say he's arrived, either. He's just getting started, but his commitment will bring him success, and his humility and sacrifice open doors for him that most people will never even know exist. He's going to get to live his dream, but it's still not coming easily. He'll struggle and fight and ask God "why", but he'll be successful because he, unlike most, is willing to do whatever it takes.

His example of commitment is hopefully reflected in my life, and I draw inspiration from it every day. Maybe, by sharing this story, others can draw inspiration from his courage and dedication, and it can inspire you to make the changes that are neccessary in your own life to achieve something that seems too difficult, whether it be in your fitness or otherwise.  I love you Dad and Shelly, thank you for being there. Wherever you go, they’ll be lucky to have you.

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