Sunday is Father’s Day 2019 and I am thinking about a man that most of you do not know named Doug Lyle. The first time I can recall ever having a discussion about Jesus was with my dad while we rode down I-85 somewhere near where Spaghetti Junction is today. I am pretty sure that we had just left church, and I wanted to know how Jesus could be God and also be human. As a typical little kindergarten boy, I thought that my daddy could articulate an answer to that theological question which still defies our minds today. I cannot tell you what his answer was that day, but my father regularly poured healthy, foundational stuff in me concerning the Kingdom when I was young, and I am so grateful. I’ve been pondering for much of this month how God used (and still uses) my father in my life. Dad turned 74 last week and I will turn 49 on Father’s Day. I’m not real sure how that happened to us!? At times, I feel like I am still 10 and dad is still 35. So, this Father’s Day weekend, a little nostalgia has found me.
Doug Lyle would be quick to let you know that he is a sinner – a saved, forgiven and redeemed sinner, but still a sinner who is in process of becoming the fulness that is his as a saint. His faith is more simple now after years on his spiritual journey with the King. He is an unapologetic and vocal conservative who is grieved with what has happened with the country of his younger years. He has earned his right to be vocal as he served in the United States Air Force during the Vietnam War. Over the last decade, physical pain has been a regular part of his life and, as with most of us, those challenges have served to mellow the warrior in many ways. The older I get, the more I realize what a good dad God blessed me with. He wasn’t the perfect father…nor is his son who writes of him today. Dad wasn’t always patient, and did not flow in being easy-going during my childhood years. He was man on a mission back then, and I think he was still trying to figure out exactly what the mission was while he was on it. Dad worked hard, and I still reap today from that field that my father planted deep within me as I also learned a strong work ethic from watching him and listening to him. By God’s grace, I’ve been unemployed for only two weeks since I was fifteen years old, and that is partially because of my dad teaching me that Lyle men were bred to get things done. My own wife and kids are grateful to Grandpa for teaching me that a man must work if his body and circumstances allow for it. Laziness was an intolerable vice in my upbringing, and I am so glad that it was exposed to me by my father as being patently dangerous in the life of a man. Dad knew how to remain resolute when life didn’t always make sense back in those days. At age 34 he became a single parent who refused to leave his kids when his marriage to my mom imploded. Then, a few years later he became a remarried man with two new step-daughters that he committed to love as if they came from his own bloodline. Claudia has always been loving, affirming and kind to me – to this day that commitment by my father to marry her is still the smartest, most fruitful one I’ve ever known him to make. Truthfully, all four of us kids who grew up under Doug & Claudia Lyle’s roof spent some industrious years perfecting the arts of teenage rebellion and deceit. If dad had still possessed his hair during those years, he would have been justified in yanking it out with all the stress his children gave him nonstop for about ten straight years. Dad spent decades in the banking industry and made a good living in the 70’s and 80’s but, inside of him, God began to stir my father for something more. After the better part of two decades wrestling with finding his own place in God’s Kingdom, he walked away from banking and began to invest his life into businessmen via a Christian mentoring ministry that prioritized relationship and leadership. Only God knows how many men have been impacted by dad’s proactive investment into their lives. You see, it is only God who knows because Dad doesn’t keep score and publish his results. It was in those early years of his helping lead that particular ministry that he and his team began to pray for his terribly lost son who was headed towards self-destruction. From some of those relationships there arose committed intercessory prayers that Jeff Lyle would one day be rescued from sin and infused with the life of Jesus Christ. Few people would have invested prayer in me during that repugnant time in my life, but my dad told me after my conversion that He gave me repeatedly over to God, and trusted that His providence would one day lead me to spiritual freedom. Mission accomplished, dad. I have failed to say Thank You enough for that.
Stephanie, Laurie, Leslie and I love you, dad. Truth be known, you were good to all of us in very different ways. You still are. We have your scent on us and sometimes, when we are not even thinking about it, we recognize that we just did something/said something/thought something that you planted in us. By the way, thanks for teaching us to laugh. In the midst of some stormclouded days back in 1980’s Lilburn, there were also great moments of absolute hilarity under your roof. I see that same trait in my own son and daughter, and I tell them regularly that Grandpa bequeathed to them his sense of humor. Also, thanks for not putting up with our rebellious nonsense. We sometimes despised your authority and we frequently dishonored it but we desperately needed it… and you refused to hedge.
Knowing my dad as my brother in Christ has been one of my greatest joys as a man. He took me aside a couple of years after I was saved and made a point to look me in the eye and tell me how sorry he was for a handful of mistakes he made when I was a boy. The conversation was less than three minutes long and, from it, came a lifetime of healing because there was nothing left unaddressed between us anymore. Dad, you taught me to be a big enough man to tell Amy and my children that I am sorry when I fail them. By your example you let me know that an admission of my fallibility is not a death sentence to meaningful relationships. Perhaps more than anything else, you imparted to me an intense determination and refusal to ever quit. I have won countless battles simply because I was able to outlast my opposition by acting in a holy (and sometimes not-so-holy) stubbornness. The older I get, the more brilliant you seem to me. If you ever wondered if sticking to your guns would pay off, please know that it has, and that it still is.
My dad wasn’t and isn’t perfect – c’mon, whose dad was? He has told me that he would love to be able to turn back the dial and do, undo & redo a few things. Perfect dad? Nah, he never pretended that he was. But dad provided me something from his character that many men never accomplish: he was and is consistent in character and, in my opinion, consistently good.
Today I am deeply pleased that I get to call him my father. Happy Father’s Day weekend to you, dad, and to all the other fathers out there who are figuring it out as they press forward in this thing called the life of a man.