I’ve always been a “small” man in comparison to other men in my family. At least, when compared to the men on my Dad’s side of the family. Dad used to joke about it. He said, “It’s them Irish on your mama’s side of the family that stunted your growth.” Dad was a “big” man. He was six feet four inches tall and weighed two hundred seventy pounds on a cold day. He was as hard as iron.
Dad was a hard man in a lot of ways. He was hard as a rock in his physique, a mountainous man with hands of steel. He was a hard man in his work ethic too. He was a no nonsense, put your head down, lean your shoulder into it and “nail it” kind of man. At times I thought he was a bit harsh but now that I look back I can see that he was trying to build character and pass on wisdom to his only son. My dad believed in work and he worked hard out of his love for his family. It was just him, mama, and me. But you would have thought he worked for a family of a dozen. That’s just how he grew up.
But, as I was saying, I was always the smallest man. I was shorter in stature, wider in the shoulder and thicker throughout than most men in my family. I grew into my frame quickly and just quit growing by the time I was about fourteen years old. I felt confident among my mother’s family. I was larger than most even at fourteen and I looked eye to eye with most if not over their heads. But among my dad’s side of the family I felt like a shrimp walking in a land of giants. For some reason, even as a young boy, this bothered me.
One day I was working in the shop, threading pipe to build a support system for a water tank, and the fact that I was the smallest “man” in my dad’s family was really weighing heavy on me. I hated being the smallest. I think that I was about twelve years old at the time. Dad came to check on my progress and although my progress was satisfactory, Dad knew that something was bothering me. He acknowledged my work and told me to go to the house when I finished the threading that I was working on. We’d finish the last two pieces after supper.
I broke into tears. Now, Dad knew something was really bothering me. He knew his son didn’t break easily. Dad was a hard, stoic man and he’d raised me to be strong. He’d not seen his son’s tears in over nine years. He stopped, propped his hat back on his head, and leaned back on the work bench I was working on.
He said, “Son, put your tools down.” Most of the time Dad referred to me as “boy”. When he was in teaching mode he would address me as “son”. When his heart was involved he called me by name. He called me “Joe”. Even at twelve years of age I had discerned Dad’s various levels of communication, as a man communicated in those days.
He said, “Joe, what’s wrong son?” I breathed a sigh of relief. “Joe” and “son” in the same sentence meant we were going to have one of those discussions that mattered. Everything else would wait. At that time Mom called from the back porch, “Supper is ready! Ya’ll come on before it gets cold!”
Dad never took his eyes away from mine. “We’ll be there in a few minutes! We got to finish something!”
“I’m tired of being little Daddy.” I said, not crying, but the tears flowed anyway. Real men didn’t cry, at least I didn’t think so. I’d never seen Dad cry. He was a real man.
Dad took a deep breath and closed his eyes as he exhaled slowly. As he opened his eyes he began to speak. I swear, I thought he had a glistening in his eye. He pointed to an Australian Blue Shepherd dog lying on the floor of the shop, a dog that we used to work cattle with, “You see that dog son?” I nodded. “How much do you reckon that dog weighs?” I had no idea and admitted as much. I could not see the relevance of how much that dog weighed regarding the matter at hand.
Dad said, “I reckon that dog might weigh thirty-two, thirty three pounds…maybe. No more than thirty-five pounds soaking wet.”
I just shook my head. I had no idea what Dad was getting at.
He said, “Do you remember a couple weeks ago when we were working the cattle?”
“Do you remember how that dog caught a yearling bull, 800 pounds, in the nose and HELD it until you could get that bull’s front leg picked up and bull doze it over so that we could vaccinate it?
“Yes Sir,” I replied, “that’s what you taught me to do.”
“And,” he continued, “Do you remember how you HELD that bull down by yourself after that dog released it until the rest of us could get to you and vaccinate it?”
“Yes sir.” I answered, not really knowing where this was all going.
“Joe, you know what all that tells me?” He asked as his steely blue eyes pierced my soul.
“No sir, I don’t Daddy.”
“Son, it tells me that it ain’t the size of the dog in the fight that matters. It’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
“You calling me a dog Daddy?” I wasn’t so quick on the uptake back then.
Dad just smiled and said, “No son, I’m saying that that dog held a beast that out-weighed him more than a hundred times over. But he was not afraid. You TACKLED the beast nearly ten times your size and HELD it DOWN! You were not afraid. That dog has a HEART that is not afraid to grab ahold of a fight that was bigger than he is. The HEART within you is far greater! You didn’t just CATCH the beast like that dog did. You OVERCAME the beast with courage, skill, strength and determination! You put your hands on the bigger fight and BESTED the beast! The size of the fight in you is bigger than anything we have walking on this farm! There are a LOT of BIG men who can’t claim that.”
I couldn’t believe it! Dad didn’t talk like this! I’d never heard it before!
Dad moved and sat down on a welding machine so he could look me evenly in the eye and said, “Look son, you’re twelve years old. I’ve already taught you everything that I know how to do. You’re already walking in and filling my shoes. I was blessed with a weak mind and a strong back. You were blessed with a strong mind and a strong back. There’s not much more I can teach you. I can’t read something and latch onto to what I read the way you do.”
“SUPPER’s GETTING COLD!” Mama yelled from the back porch.
“I SAID IN A MINUTE WOMAN!” Dad yelled back, never taking his eyes off me.
Dad looked at me and I saw a tear fall upon his cheek, but his voice was rock solid. He said, “Son, one day you will be a man. Not a man like me. You’ll be a REAL man!” How could he say that? He was the greatest man I’ve ever known! I didn’t understand. He continued as a tear fell from the other eye. “A man’s stature is not measured by how high he stands above the ground. A man’s stature is measured by what’s in his heart and soul. One day, you will be the greater man.”
“Now,” he said as he stood, towering over me, “we best get inside. Like your mama said, supper’s getting cold.”
We got up and walked together into our modest home. As we sat down to bless our food mama fussed, just a little, about our taking so long to get to the table. Daddy merely looked up and said, “Mama, there are times when men need to talk and this was one of those times.”
Now why did I say all that? What is the purpose of that memory? Well, it showed me a reflection of my Heavenly Father’s love in the love of my earthly father. It was a moment of truth as my Dad tried to impart wisdom to the son he loved. I was just too young and immature to see it at the time. But that’s not the lesson contained within this memory so precious to me.
Here’s the lesson. A father’s love is all emcompassing. I’m not talking about dead beat dads or absent dads, or dads that come and go. A REAL Father! It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are. It doesn’t matter what the circumstances are or what the situation is. We ALL have a Heavenly Father who loves us whether we acknowledge Him or not. We have a choice in this life. Dad taught me to SURVIVE long enough to learn how God could help me THRIVE! I don’t care if you’re addicted to…..whatever it is. I don’t care what sickness debilitates you. I don’t care what you’ve done. You have a heavenly Father who loves you and wants you to be WHOLE again! I know that not everyone is blessed with an earthly father like I had. It still doesn’t matter. God loves YOU! However, you have a choice to make.
You can roll over in self-pity, anxiety, and depression, and die an agonizing death. I tried to do that. I don’t recommend it. You can accept your worldly circumstances and situations and you WILL suffer worldly consequences! Been there done that. You can slip away quietly into the night without a whisper or a fight believing that no one cares, decimated in your loneliness. You can do that and no one on this earth will care.
Or, you can wake up and smell the roses as you squeeze the stems in your fist. The thorns will dig in. It will hurt! Let the blood flow. You will become aware of how alive you are. There is an old saying in military boot camp. “That which does not kill you will make you stronger!” Yeah, that works in boot camp. Out here most would roll over and die in hopelessness rather than fight back. Instead, cry out to your Heavenly Father, “I’m tired of being little!” just as I cried to my earthly father.
Now my Dad could have brushed me off and called me weak, but he didn’t. I WAS weak but Dad gave me courage, strength, and wisdom. I know that not everyone had a Dad like mine. You may not have known your Dad or, if you did, he brushed you off and gave you nothing. I understand. I see it happen every day. But I can GUARANTEE that your HEAVENLY FATHER will take YOUR weakness and lift you upon HIS shoulders with HIS strength and you WILL PROSPER! I’m not talking about you pocket book. Your pocket book cannot prosper until your health prospers, until your soul prospers, until your spirit prospers. When your health, soul, and spirit become prosperous, THEN your pocketbook will prosper! Put things in proper perspective and proper order. Without good health, emotional stability, and spiritual soundness you will not be able to work and manage your income to establish financial prosperity. No one will ever give you that. You must earn it.
How can I say that? Because a father, a REAL father, whether they be earthly or heavenly aren’t concerned with the size of the dog in the fight. They are more impressed with the size of the fight in the dog. Life is worth fighting for. YOUR life is worth fighting for. Whether you have an earthly father or not, your Heavenly Father loves you. Quit blaming your situation and circumstance on HIM. The devil created the circumstance or situation you are in. God can, and will, help you out of those circumstances or situation. IF you allow Him to. All you have to do is cry out and tell God that you’re tired of being “little”. He can make you great. It won’t be easy and it won’t happen overnight. It COULD happen overnight, but you’ve got to develop a little faith enough to believe it can turn around for you.
So, are you going to be afraid of the fight or are you going to be fearless in the fight. It’s not the size of the dog in the fight. It’s the size of the fight in the dog.
Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
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