by Carrie Russell
June 13, 2014
FRC Action’s Josh Duggar talks about the importance of a father.
FRC Action’s Josh Duggar talks about the importance of a father.
My father loved life with exuberance and wanted to help everybody else love it as much as he did. He sought out bargains on ponies, snowmobiles, and motorcycles so his five daughters could experience new adventures in the world that so enamored him. Knowing that a family requires the nourishment of joy and fun, he set work aside for two weeks each summer to bring his family to a cottage on Bass Lake. He recognized that God loved the world and was pleased with those who sought to experience all its joys and delights. But a depth of wisdom matched this exuberance. He was a listener and a pragmatic advisor for everyone he knew. Down to earth and in love with his family and his world, he knew how to offer good gifts and love.
As a man of faith, my dad wasn’t vocal, but he lived out a commitment to Christ for years without wavering. He readily admitted that he didn’t understand the depth of biblical stuff; instead, he lived what he believed. When I think of the fruits of the spirit I think of him. I think of a man who practiced love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self-control. As kids we could count on him being home from work every day at 4, and we knew that he’d take us to church every Sunday. He provided all of his daughters with a Christian education, knowing that he was investing in long-term formation. He made these daily choices without complaint or comment; they were a given. I am thankful for this every day.
He knew how to do the important stuff — praying at dinner, coming home on time, taking his family to enjoy the lake — over and over again. Father’s like him know that what matters in life should be practiced, recited, lived out each day. He was a Christian tradition in an Irishman’s body, someone I could always count on to joyfully live the commitments he made.
Rob Schwarzwalder is the kind of guy you hope to work for when you sign on at an organization like Family Research Council. He’s a man of deep faith and conviction. He’s stubbornly gracious with his interlocutors, often affording to them unrequited courtesy. To his friends, Rob is encouragement personified. Think of the character Faithful in Pilgrim’s Progress, and you’re about there.
I’ve had the pleasure of working for and with Rob at FRC for a number of years now, and he’s someone I’ve come to admire and value as a friend and mentor. Rob has embraced the character of his heavenly father, who has adopted us all into his family (Eph 1:5), by becoming an adoptive father himself.
Rob was gracious enough to answer a few questions about the adoption process, and to share what he’s learned about fatherhood along the way.
CM: Rob, for some men, fatherhood catches them off-guard. Not unwelcome, but perhaps unexpected. You had the experience of becoming an adoptive father, which entails a significant process, and a kind of fierce intentionality. Describe your reaction when you got the news you were going to be a father?
RS: We had had a couple of fall-throughs in which the birthmothers who had committed her child to us changed her mind, so I was somewhat guarded. Actually holding them at the adoption agency and then driving home with them in car seats behind my wife and me was surreal (but joyous!). My wife had prayed for twins for about 16 years, so of course our hearts were full of praise.
CM: How can family and friends best encourage those couples struggling with infertility and perhaps going through the adoption process?
RS: Don’t give trite, dismissive advise (“Well, you’d probably get pregnant if you’d only relax”) and listen a lot. Encourage the couple with the fact that Jesus was adopted (his Davidic lineage came through His adoptive father Joseph) and that all Christians are the adopted children of our Father. So, adopting places you in good company. -J
CM: Do you have a favorite Father’s Day memory?
RS: Going to an Outback Steakhouse and watching my then-two year-olds come close to obliterating our table with grease, sauce, napkins, etc.
CM: How has fatherhood changed you?
RS: It has filled a vast empty place in my soul. It’s forced me to recognize the depth of my selfishness and also that I have reserves of physical and emotional fortitude that surprised me; and it has made me more fervent in prayer than I otherwise might have been.
CM: What fatherhood/parenting myth would you most like to see suffer an ignominious death?
RS: Two, actually: That you are doomed to repeating your father’s mistakes and that you must always be the source of complete wisdom and even-temperedness – saying, “I don’t know” and apologizing after getting angry count for a lot. That’s not to excuse anger, but to remind that anger is almost unavoidable – the key is to strive against it and, when you fail, take responsibility for it.
CM: What do you and your children enjoy doing together? Favorite pastimes or hobbies?
RS: All kinds of things – hiking, watching movies, church activities, throwing the baseball, wrestling, etc.
CM: If you could give new dads a piece of advice or a bit of wisdom that’s been helpful to you, what would you say?
RS: (1) The best gifts you can give your wife and children are your love for Jesus Christ and your time; (2) everyone who has ever had a child thinks he’s an expert, so take un-asked for advice with a grain of salt; (3) read Christian parenting books with discernment – there is no mechanical template for raising children, only principles that must be applied with wisdom and grace per the needs of the child; and (4) boys need to wrestle and rough-house – accept no substitutes.
What greater joy is there than to share about one’s dad in honor of Father’s Day? I can think of none greater, particularly since I know many are not blessed with a father in their life or one they would care to honor.
I would describe my dad in this way: faithful, steady, and has a great smile. This description may not carry much pizazz for an occasion of honor, but to me it typifies who my dad is and why he is so special to me.
Let’s start with the obvious – his smile. My dad’s smile is the best. It radiates joy, brightens his whole face, and makes his eyes twinkle. What makes it even more special is the fact that his dad, my grandpa, smiled the same way, as do my uncles, Dad’s brothers. It is a trademark “Frieling man” smile. Perhaps that is why it is so endearing to me. When I see my dad smile, I can subconsciously say, “Yep, that’s my dad.”
My dad was the anchor in my family as I grew up. His quiet, even-tempered personality combined with his love for his family made him a steadying influence in our family of seven. Aside from the unfortunate tango with a wasp’s nest, Dad could usually keep his cool and display a level head, even when tempers flared and siblings fought. He was always there when you needed him. As a child, I know his steady presence in my life gave me security, comfort, and confidence. As a teen, his presence (and questioning) kept me on the straight and narrow. To this day I know my dad will be there when I call, ready to help.
Finally, and most importantly, my father’s faithful walk with the Lord has provided a powerful example to me of a “life well lived”. I cannot recall any deep, theological conversations with my dad, but I do vividly remember getting up in the wee hours of the morning for school (or so it seemed in high school) and finding my dad sitting in his recliner quietly praying and studying the Bible. He has a servant’s heart and an unshakeable faith that can only be found in a close walk with God. Our family has experienced many joys and sorrows over the years, and my dad has faithfully trusted in the Lord and prayed through each and every one. Nothing warms my heart more than to have our now grown family gathered, all 27 of us including spouses and grandchildren, and have my dad lead us in prayer. What a legacy he is creating, and what a blessing I have been given to have this faithful, steady, and yes, even smiling, man to call father. Happy Father’s Day, Dad, you are the best father this girl could ever ask for.
I can still remember when Pop woke me up before dawn. Big news in the world: Stalin had died. I was just seven years old, but my dad interpreted the world for me. He had spent 17 years in the Merchant Marine; he sailed to every continent, visiting 47 countries in all. Whenever there was a story about a rare rhino in Africa or an unusual Boa in Brazil, or a shakeup in Russia, Pop could explain it all. He had been there.
Like most World War II vets, he never bragged about what he had done in the war. Only much later did I learn that he had made several dangerous crossings of the U-boat infested North Atlantic. There, if your ship went down, the other ships in the convoy had strict orders not to stop. Pop told us about the time his ship was sunk by a U-boat sixty miles due east of Durban, South Africa. With the ship sinking, Pop ran back to get his camera and took the only pictures of the lifeboats. Only a decade after he was gone did I learn from a surviving shipmate that Pop had run around the deck of the stricken freighter unlatching the pelican hooks that griped down the rubber boats. Had he not done that, his shipmate told me, most of the crew would have died. They could not have survived 18 hours in those frigid waters. Instead of talking about his role as a lifesaver, Pop always told us how nice it was to be put up in a five-star hotel for six weeks and to be able to play tennis daily with the South African women’s champion!
From the day Pop returned from the sea in 1952 until the day he died in 1998, we knew where he was every night of his life. He was the one we turned to when neighborhood bullies threatened. He taught me to defend myself and only call on him if my tormentor brought a gang or a knife to the fight. But if I had to call on Pop, the whole neighborhood knew to watch out.
My father taught me what it meant to be a man. Today, 48% of first-borns in America are born out-of-wedlock. Who will teach those dear children what it means to be a man?
“Run faster! She’s right behind you!” I can still hear your hoarse voice piercing my consciousness as I round the final lap of my 3200 meter race. Tears and sweat blurred my vision. My legs screamed almost as loudly as you. But there you were—believing that I could beat the girl just over my shoulder. You’d offer a hug and a Gatorade regardless of what medal I received, or if I medaled at all. But you believed I was capable. You drove me to excellence. Your fierce and stable support has carried me through much longer, more arduous races. When I was a kid, you pointed me towards writing and art contests and poured over college literature with me. More recently, you’ve nudged and prayed me towards the next good thing. I never would have worked on Capitol Hill, made that spontaneous trip to England, or launched into my counseling degree if you hadn’t been my coach and advocate.
You started wearing tri-corned hats well before they were “cool”—or at least well before the tea party brought them into the public eye as an icon for conservative principles. I seem to recall a particularly awesome photo of you balancing a long wooden pike as you volunteered for the Jamestown militia. I was both mortified and awed by your reenactment, as only an insecure grade-schooler can be. But your love of American history and respect for public service has steered me towards many brown National Park Service historical markers and many difficult policy debates. You taught me how to vote, to write letters to my Congressman, and especially to how pray for wise and godly leaders. Your love and concern for this great country still inspires my work today.
You and mom always put bread on the table—and not just any bread but the homemade, sprouted, make-you-a-healthier-person kind of bread. I loved my childhood—having a full house, cheap vacations, and living in a busy metropolitan area. But, looking back with adult intelligence, I am humbled by the long moments when you lost sleep, worked that extra job at ShopRite, and made other unannounced but painful sacrifices to keep our family afloat. I admire your discretion about workplace, family, financial or church stresses—the way you protected me but helped me grow into a wiser, more adept adult decision maker. Your humility and gentleness is precious to me.
So… happy Father’s Day to a very special coach, patriot, and provider! You are very dear to me.
Your little girl