“I’m so sorry,” she said, shakily. “I feel like I shouldn’t have left you out there to do that.”
She had just stepped into the bathroom for the bedtime rituals when one of our younger children stumbled to the door of our bedroom and was gloriously sick—on me, on the laundry beside the door, the surroundings generally. Knowing Melanie was in a dicey state already, I had called out to her, “You stay where you are—we’ll take care of it.” Two of my sons scrambled for towels, trash bags, all the stuff needed to get the situation at least stabilized, and in a few minutes we got the sick child off to a different bathroom, the first load in the laundry, and Ground Zero restored to a more hygienic state.
It made me think about my father, who passed away while I was in college. Dad was a strong man with a weak stomach. My mother used to tell me that if my sister or I were sick, or even needed a serious diaper change, Dad would take care of the cleanup without hesitation or complaint, and when the crisis was over, excuse himself to the bathroom and be privately ill. Mom tried to spare him that indignity whenever possible, but the thing that she remembered and shared with us was that, even so, he went ahead and did it.
I’ve often thought that most Christians are not likely to face lions in the Arena – we brace ourselves up for that – but more often, we’re pecked to death by chickens. My dad never took a bullet for any of us, he never took newsworthy public stands or did remarkable feats of heroism, but he lived a life of quiet faithfulness to the needs of his family. I’m sure he would have run into burning buildings for any of us, but he answered the call of marriage and fatherhood by doing the routine, boring, even nauseating stuff, just as a matter of course.
The old Western-movie cliché is “Sometimes a man’s gotta do, what a man’s gotta do.” I learned from my dad that most of what a man’s gotta do is not the stuff of movies or newsreels, but the simple willingness to sacrifice his own desires and comfort for the needs of someone else. I hope my sons are learning the same lesson from me.