7 Things I Learned From My Dad
by Zach Cochran
Those that know me know the love I have for my dad. I love all my family; I love my mom and get along great with my brothers. They are amazing! In my therapeutic journey, I have discovered this deep affinity, affection, and admiration for my dad. Some counselors and coaches have done an amazing job of helping me name some of the reasons for this. On this Father’s Day week, I want to name some of those things to honor my dad and thank him for giving me and my brothers so much that will affect generations of our family.
To be clear, my dad is still alive and doing amazing. I think we should honor the people we love while they are living and as they are possibly fighting doubt and discouragement.
My dad didn’t let his story determine his life.
My dad didn’t talk to us much about his story. I know he didn’t have a relationship with his biological father, and his stepdad passed away before I was old enough to remember. He loves his mom and still helps take care of her. He never spoke ill of anyone or acted like a victim. Yet, I know there is pain in that story. I know there is a life that he could have lived that looked radically different than the dad I knew. Yet, my dad became a Jesus-loving, church-going, committed husband, dad, and community member.
He did not let the narrative and script of his life define him. He allowed God’s love to define him, and he is able to walk unshackled by that story. The more I grow as a man, the more I am amazed by my dad’s ability to do that.
My dad is emotionally present.
Given my dad’s story, I am even more amazed about dad’s ability to be emotionally present. I look at my life today, and I believe the most impactful asset of my dad is his ability to feel with me. Was my dad perfect? No. Did he get angry? Yes, and rightfully so. But some of my most profound memories of my dad were of him crying with me, saying that he was sorry, and helping me grieve. As I learned more about myself and how generational pain plays out, I am so proud of his ability to do that.
My dad works hard.
My dad started working at Mason Hall Grain Co. at 17 years old. I worked there until college; it’s not a sexy job. As a young man, you start by doing hard and painful work. Today my dad works for the same company as the manager and part owner. He didn’t get there through handouts. He got there by proving himself trustworthy and by busting his tail. As a kid, I watched my dad work hard and love his job. He taught me much about showing up, stewarding my time, and being there for others. My dad is an incredible boss. As I lead a staff team today, I remember how he interacted with his employees with honor, respect, and authority.
My dad doesn’t miss things.
My dad did work his tail off but didn’t miss things. He still doesn’t miss things. Harvest season is busy. He always figured out how to be there. He still does it today. Whether it’s a birthday party or a significant life event, dad will find a way to be present.
My dad loves my mom.
Our mom was dad’s first love, and we knew that. Some of the worst disciplines I ever received were because I disrespected our mom. She is the apple of his eye. Dad taught me so much about prioritizing my wife over any relationship. There have been times of friction in our adult relationships where I have chosen to do what’s best for my family and my wife over a larger family decision, and I’ve told him, “Dad, you taught me this.” My love for my wife, Kaitlyn, is uniquely formed from my dad’s love for our mom.
My dad believes in me.
As a kid, when I felt that I couldn’t do something, my dad would say this non-grammatically correct statement, but it stuck to my bones. He would say, “Can’t never could do anything.” It may not make sense, but I knew what he meant; if I say I can’t do something, I’ll never be able to do it. That instilled in me the confidence to keep going and keep trying.
I always felt a sense of healthy pride from my dad. He didn’t place his identity in my success, but he swelled with joy through my journey. One of my life’s “sticky memories” is after every one of my football games, middle, high school, and college, my dad would come down from the stands, grab my pads, fist bump me, and say something like, “proud of you.”
Those I do life with would likely say that I am not lacking in confidence. I believe our church team can do almost anything we put our minds to. I also find myself being so proud of the people on my team, like a dad. I find myself not letting my 3-year-old give up on a puzzle or game because he can’t figure it out. Those things were put in me by my proud dad.
My dad is a learner.
My dad is an ordinary high school-educated country boy. Yet, he’s one of the smartest men I know. He’s constantly learning and unsatisfied with the status quo. When COVID hit, guess who researched how to start a live stream for his church and who runs the AVL for his church? My dad. While I was playing football, he’d always be curious about our playbook. When my older brother was getting his masters in agriculture, dad was asking him about the books he was reading. The majority shareholder for my dad’s company would tell me when we interacted, “Zach, your dad is the smartest non-college-educated man I know. He tests higher than all our other employees.”
My wife laughs at this because this summarizes a lot of who I am. We own hundreds of books, I have podcasts going when washing dishes, listening to a book while mowing grass, and I am the person knowing the most random historical facts. It’s annoying to many, I know. Yet, I saw this modeled for me growing up; a classroom will not determine how much I know. My dad’s mind is sharp, and his hunger to learn captivated me.
The Father in Our Stories
One of the greatest gifts my dad has given me is how I relate to God. If God is our father through Jesus, my relationship with my earthly father will affect my relationship with my heavenly Father. Because of my dad’s presence, I am more helped to see the Father’s smile on me, knowing he is for me and I can trust him with my life.
I know many didn’t grow up with a dad like mine. That breaks my heart. I am sorry that you didn’t. The hope, though, is neither did my dad. You can change the trajectory of your family through God’s power the way my dad did. Through knowing your story, naming the pain and anxiety, and building your own meaningful story, your family’s story can be different.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
The beauty of the gospel story is that we are not a bride with a father who has withheld a bridegroom to take care of us. He provided one. Jesus was given to us so that we know we will be taken care of. With his broken body and his blood, he met us at the alter vowing with his life to take care of us and love us forever. That’s the story of gospel. That’s your story.
In a world full of self-love and apathy, we don’t need less self-clarity, we need more. If you read this and see no need for self-clarity or self-awareness, then I might encourage you that you are the very person who needs this. I’d urge you to be curious about how you are being experienced by others, to find honest people to tell you how you are doing in loving others, and find tools that might help you on that journey.
It’s alarming how easy it is to forget what we were saved from and that it was not because of our own effort, but only by the grace of God. So subtly can we start to believe that our spiritual maturity simply happened or that we’ve gotten to where we are merely by our effort.
I believe there is an underlying narrative surrounding the value of women that threatens the influencing and flourishing of women in the local church. Beginning to grasp that reality was a painful and confusing process for me. Sometimes this narrative shows up in the most heartbreaking of ways in the local church—like in stories of the devaluing and abuse of women in the church. Sometimes the narrative is less extremely represented through the absence of women in ministry. And sometimes, like in my case, I didn’t think this narrative applied to me at all because of the good ministry situation I was in.