Thursday, June 12, 2008

Faith Works 6-14-08
Jeff Gill

Things That Aren’t Optional, Are They?

“Would you be interested in the extended warranty?”

You’ve heard that question, I’m sure, and I trust you’ve answered, “Uh, no.”

The big profit generator of recent years in retail has been to invite folks to pay extra for quality and reliability, or at least the guarantee of same.

Some call them service agreements, or a long-term service contract, or maintenance agreements. A prolonged warranty means that if you expect your goods or products to be worth purchasing, you need to pay a bit extra for that benefit. Y’know, for what you thought you were buying in the first place – quality, reliability, and standing behind your product.

You can still get that, but yer gonna pay.

Apparently fatherhood is an optional add-on now. Not that you can’t find fathers here and there, but more and more a father is an extra, almost an inconvenience, for which . . . ok, the analogy breaks down here, since they pay for the privilege of being considered a father under the law. You can do things the old way (dating, marriage, pregnancy, driving your wife to the hospital, fatherhood), but that’s going the way of getting what you pay for up front, instead of being a kind of extended warranty on your kids’ development.

As a dad, I’ve spent a goodly part of the last week driving back and forth to Camp Falling Rock out Rocky Fork way in northeastern Licking County. Summer entrance up top, helping the parking crush down at the “winter entrance” by historic Franklin Lodge, means getting out early and walking down Foxfire Trail to the flag field below Lake Peewee. 475+ kids are a new record for Cub Scout Day Camp (congrats Ric and Angie Eader for an awesome job directing), and with the loss of the Rocky Fork bridge, access is tight, tight, tight.

Coming into camp early, there’s a spot before I get to Falling Rock that has made me start slowing down in awe and delight, before I have press on to get to camp on time. There’s a home that’s being renovated up in Eden Township, and along one end of the ell, after pulling off siding and sheathing and lath and such . . .

It turns out the core of the old house isn’t just old – it’s a log cabin. Looks to me like 1820 or even earlier, yellow poplar logs shaped by broadaxe and square-joined on the corners. The act of fixing up the house has revealed the foundation of the house, its origins, the history.

Strong, solid, stable, the log cabin was there all along, but long unsuspected (I suspect). After the new sheathing and siding, and the passing of a few years, maybe even a change of owners, and the fact of the undergirding structure could be forgotten again.

It’s as we take apart the structure that we have a chance to see the roots, the origins, the reliable sub-text to what has held up the roof and kept out the weather all along.

Recent years and ongoing challenges to the very nature of marriage and family has peeled off boards and yanked siding away to reveal the basic structure beneath.

We step back from the demo work and look at the actual bones of the building and have a chance to ask – What is necessary? What is vital? What makes the core structure?

We have the chance in these rapidly changing days to assess what we think is necessary, having peeled back quite a bit of the façade of marriage and family. Tomorrow is Father’s Day, and before we start nailing up new vinyl siding or trim over the top of what is essential, we need to look at the main support beams and structural members, and figure out what needs primary maintenance.

Fathers are close to the center of the institution of family. You may be able to ornament the exterior enough to forget that those beams and rafters are there, but if you are responsible for long-term upkeep, you’d better keep them in mind.

Happy Father’s Day to every dad who’s trying to hold up his end of the deal. There’s a few stresses on the foundation, but the basic design is sound, and will hold up fine with a little preventative care. A new tie here, a fishing trip there, or maybe a little camping, and things will hold together just fine.

Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him a Father’s Day story at

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