By Ashley McIlwain
Call me sentimental, but my Dad is having a landmark birthday, and it got me to thinking about a lot of stuff. When you’re a kid, you think time is standing still. It’s as if everything will always be as it is in those moments as a child. The next thing you know, you and your siblings have become your parents, and your parents have become your grandparents. Everyone gets bumped into the next stage of life, and if you are like me, it happened in what felt like an instant.
Suddenly, I’m looking at my parents realizing that time with them is so precious. To be very honest, it scares me. Living across the country from them, I feel like there is never enough time spent together. It’s all passing way too quickly before my eyes. Yet, if there’s one thing I have learned by living so far from my loved ones, it’s to cherish the memories you’ve made, savor the moments you are given, and anticipate the ones to come.
That being said, as my dad’s birthday arrives, I am left reflecting on the legacy of a man like none other. Most little girls hold their dads in the highest esteem, but my admiration for the man who molded me into the woman I am today goes much deeper than most. You see, my dad is the most incredible man of integrity I know outside of my husband. In fact, I never thought I would find a man to marry that had the level of integrity and character that my dad has. While God blessed me with just that, I don’t take for granted the rarity of either of them.
Having three daughters couldn’t have been easy for my dad. Lord knows he had to have reached his breaking point more than once between waiting for us to get ready, hormonal fits, and the usual girl drama. Perhaps the baked goods and puppy eyes helped carry him through those moments. What I always respected though about my dad was how he was so intent on making sure his little girls felt safe and secure – physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
While I could clearly list off a million and one things I loved and valued about my dad and go one and on about how he embodies the essence of what it means to have integrity, there is one thing in particular that I want to highlight about him. In today’s world, it’s no doubt challenging for men to maintain their mental purity. Obviously sexuality is flaunted on every ad, television show, and billboard in addition to women becoming ever so casual about their choice in attire. It can’t be easy for men to keep their eyes (and mind) on the real prize.
Thanks to my dad though, sexual impurity, as it relates to common pitfalls of men, was never on my radar. Not once did I see my dad glance sideways at a women besides my mom. Never did he have inappropriate or questionable magazines lying around. In fact, he specifically told my mom to quit having Victoria’s Secret magazines come to the house because he thought the content was unacceptable. Television shows were carefully selected based on their content, and if an off-color scene ever did slip through that screening process, he was quick to turn the channel or turn off the movie.
Of course I valued this about my dad (and mom), but I never realized just how rare that was until I went off to college. My eyes were opened to the commonality of and frivolous attitude toward sexual indiscretion. Pornography was suddenly on my radar as I discovered that many of my guy friends indulged from time to time, if not regularly or obsessively. Unfaithfulness, lust, and inappropriate comments and behavior were suddenly common practice. This was despite the fact that I attended a Christian university. The reality of sexual imprudence was thrown at me like a fast ball at an unsuspecting batter.
As time passed and I discovered the unfortunate realities of pornography, unfaithfulness, and lusting as they were related to men and relationships, I came to appreciate my dad’s outstanding character, standards, and integrity in this arena. Don’t think I am unaware of women’s indiscretions, but I am discussing my dad and the standards he taught me to expect from a man. When the world says, “It’s just a normal part of being a man. These are his needs,” I know that’s a crock of crap (excuse my language). My dad not only taught me that, but he showed me that.
It is possible for men to resist the urge to indulge in what the world now labels “normal.” It isn’t normal to check out other women when you are in a relationship or married. It isn’t normal for a man to lustfully stare at women at all. It isn’t normal for men to live in the fantasy world of pornography, which in fact, destroys intimacy and creates serious sexual dysfunctions, addictions, and a whole plethora of other issues. It isn’t normal for men to causally watch scantily clad or naked women in movies and television shows. It isn’t normal to have that magazine with inappropriate and provocative pictures of women around just because “it contains sports.”
My dad taught me that not only is it okay to question the slack standards of the world placed on men, but it’s essential to hold men to a higher standard. He has lived out what it means to remain faithful and pure to his marriage and family in every facet of his life. Not once did I ever question my dad’s integrity because he held such a firm line for himself and his household that it left no foothold for Satan to ever enter his life or our home. It also left me with complete peace, appreciation, and admiration for the man that my dad is.
My parents have been married for over thirty-five years. They’ve raised three daughters together. They’ve been through a lot in their journey. I have no doubt that my dad’s immovable integrity and decision to remain faithful mentally, emotionally, and physically to my mom and our family played a huge part in that. Any guy can look at that magazine, movie, or internet site. Any guy can check out that attractive woman. Any guy can allow his mind and eyes to wonder. It takes a real man, a man like my dad, to go against the grain and protect himself, his wife, his marriage, and his family from the destruction that those things cause.
Dad, you are a man of deep faith and integrity. You have shown exemplary character throughout all that life has thrown at you. I have such a deep appreciation and admiration for you and all that you are. I know that men like you are few and far between, and I am so thankful to God that He saw me worthy of a dad like you. Thank you for showing me what a real man is. Happy birthday Dad! May God bless you in all the ways you have blessed your family and those around you!