A Tribute to my Father-in-law

I went on vacation with my wife this last weekend to her parent’s house where she grew up. They live out in the country. We went there because my father-in-law needed some help putting up his horse shed. He’d been injured on the job a few weeks ago and it was impossible for him to lift tools and heavy beams with his injured arm. He wasn’t supposed to, anyhow. He needed me to lend an extra hand finishing the roof and putting up siding.

We started mid-morning. He’d somehow already put up the trusses, and so our first job was to nail 2×4 wood across them every two feet so we could have an anchor to attach the metal siding. It was difficult work because at the beginning all we had to walk on were the trusses themselves, but my father-in-law wasn’t afraid to nimbly skate from one to the other as the 2×4’s were nailed in. And then when all the 2×4’s were nailed in, we started to put up the metal roof.

But the weather came. Rain walked over us, and the wind. We went inside and talked by the fire for over an hour with our boots off and the heat wicking out the November cold. And I learned something from him.

Just as I learned that a man, even though injured, sometimes must do his duty—that at times, the brave thing is to keep working, even through the pain, to keep struggling, though it fall on him—just as I learned this watching him use the nail gun and later, the SkillSaw and chainsaw and the hefting of the siding and the wood—all of it threatening to destroy his shoulder: I learned from him that the courage to bear pain is the same courage Jesus had when He bore my sins away.

My father-in-law resembles the heart of what it means to be a man in Christ. If you’re around him long enough, you see the solemn pride that he carried all through his days in the Army, through severe trial, severe weather—both inside and out; for example, through the nightmarish conditions of 130 F heat in an M1 Abrams tank, which he operated.

You’ll hear him laugh, too. Now that’s someone who’s seen the thick and thin, someone who can laugh and have a good time. I suppose a man who is free enough to laugh is first brave enough to try. Even despite the pain. I don’t know how much pain a man can take before he breaks. I’m not sure any man ever wanted to find out, truly. Except for Jesus.

We vacationed all through the weather, into the afternoon, into the evening, after the sun set, with my wife and mother-in-law pitching in. And we finished the horse shed. That shed is a visual reminder to me of how my father-in-law has been toughened, because he has been broken in Christ.

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