The conversation began after my nine-year-old son and I had loaded our bikes into the van and were heading home after an invigorating ride on the trail that runs along Stones River. Spring was finally asserting its dominance over the lingering chill of winter, pushing the temperature up into the 60′s and inviting the trees to sprout their blossoms.
We had the windows down, the sun roof open, and the music turned up. I was singing along, oblivious to the mounting embarrassment of the person occupying the passenger seat. Until…
Timothy looks over at me with an expression that reminds me of the tiny thread separating him from childhood and the tween years, and says, “You know how it’s always weird when you see other people playing music really loud with their windows down? Well, that’s what we look like right now.”
Oh, the humanity!
At least we were in this together.
That little conversation got me thinking: Am I going to be a Dad who sings?
As a kid, I spent a half hour or so every morning in the van with Dad and my younger siblings heading to school. Some of my musical preferences today hark back to the soundtrack of our morning commute. From the guitar-driven jazz of Acoustic Alchemy to the vocal talents of Harry Connick, Jr… Mom and Dad’s music was the backdrop for my childhood memories. The Eagles, Chicago, The Carpenters, and Billy Joel all made appearances – at various times and in varying degrees.
Looking back now, however, I see that the biggest impression on me was my dad’s stack of Hosanna Praise Worship tapes and CD’s that gave voice to his worshipful heart. Worship leaders and composers like Ron Kenoly, Marty Nystrom, Don Moen, and Randy Rothwell headlined these albums. Most of the music was recorded live, with an enthusiastic crowd applauding and singing along.
No, you won’t find too many of these songs in churches today. I can’t remember but a handful of the titles. A few were exceptional and well-crafted; most were not. But the passion of the performances was infectious.
And the one thing that stands out to me is this: Dad sang.
We certainly weren’t a charismatic family. We weren’t the type to raise our hands in church. We didn’t dance in the aisles.
But I never remember a time I sat with my parents in church that they did not sing. Not once.
Outside the church, Dad sang too. In the van, he may not have lifted his hands off the steering wheel, but he lifted the roof with his praises. He wasn’t a soloist or a choir member, but he was a worshiper.
Dad didn’t see himself as being “above” praising the Lord. He didn’t see praise and worship as something unmanly. In fact, I remember how many of those songs celebrated the power of Jesus Christ over the principalities and powers of this world. The impression the songs left on me was that Jesus had achieved an important victory, and He was worth singing about and cheering for. Jesus was the Conqueror, so praise the victorious Lamb!
Dad never had to tell me I should sing along. Much of what I learned wasn’t verbal instruction. I knew Jesus was good and powerful, not just because the Bible told me so, but because Dad sang about it so much. The impact wasn’t in him telling me that Jesus was everything; it was him singing it. For that example of faithfulness, I am, as one of those old songs said, “forever grateful.”
Today, the roles have changed. I’m the dad in the van, and our kids are learning the songs we love. The artists and composers have changed. The songwriters and singers are different. The musical styles have progressed.
But one thing I hope will stay the same: I want to be a dad who sings.
So, dads and moms, let’s not underestimate the power of our worship when our kids are looking on. For it’s not just what we say that counts. Sometimes, it’s what we sing.
Trevin Wax is managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources, husband to Corina, father to Timothy, Julia, and David. You can follow him on Twitter. Click here for Trevin’s full bio.