I first got to know the man who became my father-in-law when I began to date his beautiful, godly daughter. That was half his life ago, and two-thirds of mine. It didn’t take me long to size him up; Glenn was a man of immense, transparent integrity.
His reputation had preceded him. He was known in our church to be a man who loved Jesus, who loved his wife, and who loved his two daughters. He was also looked on and respected as a leader.
But when his beautiful, godly daughter put me in privileged proximity to him, I discovered what he was really like: he surpassed his reputation. And now, after forty years of firsthand experience, I can honestly say that my respect for this man has only increased.
If I had to sum up my father-in-law’s character in a single word (which in reality doesn’t do him justice), I would choose the word faithful. Glenn is a faithful man, by which I mean he is true to his word. Which also means he is a rare man in this fallen world.
Rare Like Gold
The wise, Spirit-inspired writer was sadly spot-on when he penned these words:
Many a man proclaims his own steadfast love,
but a faithful man who can find? (Proverbs 20:6)
The author is referring to the kind of man who displays an overall consistency between his words and his works, between what he professes to believe and how he behaves, between what he promises and what he performs.
This is the way just about every man wants to think of himself — or at least wants others to think of him. But the truth is, not many men are essentially and consistently faithful.
But my father-in-law is one of those exceptional men. Like gold, he is a rare find. In fact, his is a rarified kind of faithfulness, a kind that exceeds the common-grace variety. His faithfulness is a supernatural outgrowth of his being united by faith with Jesus, his Lord. His faithfulness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
And one of the great benefits I’ve received from being in privileged proximity to such a man is witnessing what this fruit looks like after a lifetime of faithfulness.
Gift of Being Taken for Granted
One such fruit is that my father-in-law is a man you can take for granted. Lest that sound insulting rather than honoring, here’s what I mean: Glenn is a man whose word you can trust. As I explain in True to His Word,
In Scripture, when a person is described as “faithful,” it’s almost never referring to how much faith that person possesses, but to how much faith others can place in that person — how much others can trust him to perform what he promises. A faithful person honors, cherishes, maintains, and guards the faith of those who put their trust in him. (12)
There are few gifts a man can give to us more precious than the gift of our being able to assume his trustworthiness. We might be tempted to say that love is more precious, but at bottom, faithfulness is an inherent expression of love (see 1 Corinthians 13:7–8). It is a person’s love that honors, cherishes, maintains, and guards the faith of those who put their trust in him. This is Godlike love, since Scripture repeatedly describes God as showing “steadfast love and faithfulness” to his people (Psalm 25:10).
That’s the gift my father-in-law has given his wife, his daughters, those of us in his extended family, his friends, his fellow church members, his neighbors, the innumerable people he worked for and with during his vocational life: the gift of assuming his trustworthiness.
Who can possibly put a price on that?
What a Faithful Man Builds
It’s almost poetic that my father-in-law spent his vocational life in construction, because what he’s built relationally with his trustworthy character is strong, durable, and beautiful, like what he built with his skillful hands.
I see it in his marriage. His steadfast love and faithfulness to the beautiful, godly wife of his youth has meant that for 57 years (and counting) Lois has been able to stand on the vows Glenn made to her before God without fear that the floor of his fidelity would collapse underneath her.
I see it in his family. Like every father and grandfather, he gets his share of teasing and suffers the indignities of needing to be tutored on pop culture and new technologies. But he has the loving respect of his daughters, his sons-in-law, and his grandchildren because they all have been the beneficiaries of his steadfast love and faithfulness. They all trust him. This is perhaps most clearly seen when one of them brings some fault or sin to his attention; they do it because they know he can be trusted to receive it.
I see it in the church where he’s been a faithful, involved member for over forty years. He’s still known as a man who deeply loves Jesus, his wife, his family, and his church. And he’s still respected as a leader, though not just for what he does but who he is. Leaders and laypersons look to him because he truly cares for them, listens to them, serves them, encourages them, prays for them — in other words, he extends to them his steadfast love and faithfulness. Therefore, they trust him.
I see it in his neighbors — former neighbors, I should say. Last year, after my wife and I purchased and moved into the home where Glenn and Lois had lived for 44 years, we got to attend a farewell picnic the neighborhood threw for them. And if you could have heard the stories. As I listened, I realized these folks had come to see Glenn as something of a neighborhood chaplain. He not only knew everybody; he knew them personally. He had taken particular interest in each of them; he had come to their aid in need; he had offered his ear, his counsel, and his prayers when they were in pain. Even now, when he comes to the house, his former neighbors start making their way over to greet him. It speaks volumes, doesn’t it?
My father-in-law built many impressive things with his hands during his life. But in my estimation — and more importantly, in God’s estimation — the most impressive things he built were the relationships of love and trust through his steadfast love and faithfulness.
Putting God on Display
As a skilled master builder, my father-in-law knows better than most just how important a foundation is to the structure it supports. So, it’s no small thing when I say that the firm foundation of Glenn’s life, the granite upon which everything else in his life is built, is God and all God promises to be for him in Jesus.
But as a man who loves the glory of God, Glenn would not want this metaphor to be misunderstood. As John Piper says,
Foundations are invisible and are seldom thought about in the daily life of the house. They are taken for granted. They are silently assumed. But God wills not only to be the massive, silent, unseen foundation beneath the walls of our . . . lives; he also wills to be the visible capstone adorning the top and the brightness of the glory that fills the house for all to see.
That’s why, when we met for breakfast recently, Glenn told me, as he has repeatedly over the years, this time with tears, “I just want to put God on display.” That is the heart cry of an exceptional man, a man who has known through experience the steadfast love and faithfulness of God and can’t help but long to extend that kind of love to others in the hope that, through him, they too will come to know the Fount from which it springs.
And Glenn has put God on display, in both word and deed. God has not merely been the firm foundation of Glenn’s life; God has been visible at every level in the entire edifice of his life.
Honor of a Lifetime
The apostle Paul tells us that we must “pay to all what is owed to them,” including “respect to whom respect is owed [and] honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:7). So, it’s only right that I pay what I can of the respect and honor I owe this faithful man. It is an immense and joyful debt of profound gratitude.
But Glenn has a far better payment of respect and honor coming to him. And it’s coming directly from the mouth of the God Glenn so deeply loves and so beautifully displays. It is the exceeding riches of respect and honor God will bestow on all of his faithful children, and it will more than pay off all the outstanding debts any of us owe to each other:
Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master. (Matthew 25:21)