If you grew up, as I did, churched in the 1980s, you heard Steve Green songs, I’m sure. My dad would tune in an AM Christian radio station when we were in the car together to hear Christian programming, and very frequently, Steve Green was playing. One of our favorites was “Find Us Faithful,” a song that encouraged listeners to remain committed to faith to serve as a light and example to those would someday follow behind.
When I sang along to those lyrics, sitting beside my Dad, I imagined what faithful acts I would leave behind me. They would be clear and obvious, and everyone around me would know I was someone who loved God. Somehow I imagined a life that would be glamorous in its service (only teenagers could unironically think that a life of service would be recognized and appreciated).
Now, I think I know different. Faithfulness isn’t glamorous or obvious. Faithfulness is quiet and steady. Faithfulness can look like a dish of pasta.
One recent dinnertime, completely uninspired, I threw together one of my least favorite childhood meals. Sometimes we called it slumgullion… but I think there were lots of different names for it. Goulash. Chop suey. Whatever we called this quick mix of pasta, meat and red sauce, I hated it. I don’t know why I didn’t like it, but it every time it appeared on the table I would grit my teeth in between each bite and be thankful that we wouldn’t have to eat it again soon.
After my mother died, we ate it every Tuesday night. Sometimes, for a special treat, my dad would change the type of pasta, but it was the same meal every Tuesday night. Tuesday night was youth group night, so my dad would come home from work, throw together dinner and push us out the door to make sure we made it on time. I never grew to like the meal more, but I grew used to it enough that I didn’t complain about.
Once I left home, I didn’t have to complain. I just never made it. But last week, as I stirred ingredients together on the stove top, I remembered watching my dad make this same meal every Tuesday night. He had lost his wife and was grieving, but his focus was on making sure my brother and I were fed and at church on time. I couldn’t help but feel gratitude for the faithfulness of the man who raised me. I’m sure he wasn’t thinking about his legacy as he stirred the pasta into the sauce, but he was creating one nonetheless.
I did not grow up in a church that observed the traditional church calendar, so I never celebrated All Saints’ Day. However, once when I visited another college I once sat in a chapel service where they remembered all of the people from their community who had passed away in the previous year, projecting their pictures on a screen at the front of the room. I’ve learned since that All Saints’ Day is a time to reflect on what those who have gone on before taught us, on how they’ve been faithful. And I find myself thankful for my father’s legacy of quiet and steady faithfulness.