“A Father of the fatherless and Protector of widows is God in His holy habitation.” ~ Psalm 68:5
As a daughter of a share-cropping preacher who moved his family to the city when boll weevils consumed the cotton fields he and our mother worked, I was exposed to experiences my daddy never got the opportunity to touch. Rev. L. B. Brown taught himself to swim and to drive a car. He was a laborer, was well-read and pastored churches for three decades despite only having an elementary school education. So on paper, it didn’t look like he had much to offer me as a father, but he did. What he had to offer was the dusty, gritty, unassuming walking path of regular commitment to worship and devotion to God and study of God’s word. He taught me it doesn’t matter how book-smart, popular or tech-savvy I became, I’d have no peace apart from a genuine, transparent relationship with the heavenly Father, through Christ, guided by the Holy Spirit.
Most biblical scholars are of the opinion that Psalm 68 is a celebratory song written for or by King David commemorating the connection between the Exodus from Egypt and the return of The Ark of The Covenant to Jerusalem from exile after being recovered from the hands of the enemies of Israel. The psalm praises God as the One Who goes before Israel, vanquishing her enemies in advance of the battles before her. David reclaimed The Ark, was taught and re-taught his hardened people the life-saving Covenant with God, then restored The Ark’s rightful place in Jerusalem among God’s chosen ones (read 2 Samuel 6). And God made all this possible in response to the hearts of the people turning back to Him, away from idolatry (albeit temporarily, due to our sin nature).
Growing up in a small town in Alabama, we lived in a large house with a wraparound porch, aptly shaded by two large ancient magnolia trees. I witnessed my dad routinely rise at five in the morning and retreat to the front porch with a cup of coffee, a fly swatter, his bible, a bible commentator and sermon notebook. There he would pray, read, study and write for hours with JOY! Despite his devotion (or maybe because of it–another story) my parents’ marriage was tumultuous. Yet my mother’s nagging always stopped just inside the screen door because the atmosphere of worship was set on that front porch. No one disturbed our dad there. Not because he warned against it. He didn’t need to. The Spirit of God was there. It pulled me. It beckoned me to join my daddy there. So I quietly followed him. Most of the time I sketched or read a novel of my own choosing as an adolescent and teenager, but sometimes my daddy shared the joy with which God blessed his heart with me. Like God for the embattled Israelites, my earthly father was clearing a path of devotion and worship before me. He knew I’d have battles to fight within and with the world and he ensured I was taught HOW to fight. He didn’t just preach it, he demonstrated it, through family conflicts, health issues, church drama and racism. I didn’t know it then, but he was fathering me the way Christ fathers us. My dad was helping me to forge weapons and mount a defense against spiritual enemies in advance.
My dad has been gone from this world for nearly twenty years now. It’s taken me nearly this long to realize just how great a general he was in this struggle of spiritual warfare. Armed with the knowledge of the battle plan of worship, devotion and obedience to God, we Believers are victors in advance.
Thank you, Daddy.