The Child is Father of the Man

I hope you are enjoying this continued story about my father and his family. Throughout Dad’s life, from childhood to deathbed, Dad tended to bubble with a kind of joy, a Jesus-joy. It made him delightful to many and peculiar to others. William Wordsworth’s poem, “My Heart Leaps Up” reminds me of my father’s heart — established in childhood, shaping the man and his life.

My Heart Leaps Up

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

In my first post of this series (October 5), I explained that Dad wrote when he was 78 years old “that his memories ‘forever breathe within my brain’. By His recording of them, they can also breathe within my brain, bringing their life to me. I will waft some narrative your way.”

Marion Thomas, age 81. Picture taken by his oldest grandchild, Amanda, when she was taking a photography class in junior college. Note the knit cap. He often wore one in his latter years when he was cold.

Shockingly, I’m 64 years old now. (Every age and milestone seem stunning; “eternity”, rather than time, must be written within my heart – Ecclesiastes 3:11.) My parents’ journey through time creates a trail-blazed path for me to follow through my old years, this last season.  “The Child is father of the Man”, that is, my childhood experiences shape me, to the degree I let them shape me, clear to my dying day. So it was with my father, whose boyhood set his life in motion.

Dad wrote, “The purpose of my life is to get us all Home safe!” (Emphasis included.) “I never get over it — What happened to me when I was just a boy — ten years of age. I heard the wonderful story of the One who loves us enough to die for us! The Lord Jesus Christ became my Savior too!”

He continues, “As a pastor I was always an evangelist.” (You should know that Marion became a church planting pastor in multiple locations, so sharing the gospel wherever he was, including in his sermons, and helping people put down roots in Christ were his focuses.)  “I never had an evangelistic campaign. Every Sunday was evangelism – an altar call in the churches I pastored! Many came to Christ in our meetings. People brought unsaved loved ones and friends to our services. They expected people to get saved — Glory to God! What joy I had to lead them to our gracious Savior! ”

“The child is father of the man,” observes Wordsworth.

Oh, I found it! A picture of the house! The character in the story! The house that Jason and Helen built, lived in for about ten years, and then lost to creditors in 1928. Note little Marion near the porch. This picture was taken before the front steps were put in. I’ve always liked this style. The low roof and wide front porch feel like open arms welcoming you. “Welcome! Please, come in!”

What happened to Marion at age ten, besides the devastation of his family losing their home and farm? It was one Sunday morning. Sitting there on the wooden pew in the Eagle Creek Church, Marion was swinging his feet. I remember Dad telling this story numerous time. Marion heard what he had heard before, but this time it was different. Pastor Anglemyer’s plain explanation of the gospel — the love of God; the need of mankind created in God’s image yet marred by sin; the gift of Jesus, God’s beloved, one and only Son who gave his life to pay for human sin; the gift of salvation to cleanse and redeem anyone who would received it — this gospel rang deep and true in Marion’s heart. It wooed  him.

Sitting next to his mother near the back of the sanctuary, he pondered this gospel and this invitation to say “Yes” to it. Then his mother, Helen, leaned over and whispered in his ear, “Marion, what are you going to do about this?”* Marion had already been thinking, considering, and longing to respond to Jesus. Yes, he knew that now was the time to respond. He stood up, a small, sandy haired ten year old boy, his wide, blue eyes looking down the long isle where Pastor Anglemyer stood at the front. But it wasn’t Pastor Anglemyer who was urging him. It was Jesus, for whom he was already responding, opening his heart to Him. Marion stood and walked forward.

Marion never forgot that this was the day that his life changed, when he understood that he belonged to God, that there was no condemnation for him in the love and freedom of Jesus. Such a joy rushed over him and never left him his whole life.

Now, Marion’s story is Marion’s. You and I may come to Jesus in other places, under amazingly varied circumstances and ages. But our response is “Yes” to the gospel, to Jesus who reveals Himself through the holy Scriptures. We come to Him in or out of a church building. No “altar call” is necessary. We come to Him in our hearts.  We come to Him for love and cleansing and healing and belonging and life (Matt. 11: 28-30; Romans 10:9-10 &13). We don’t understand how much and how all we need Him. That’s fine. We know we need Him and we come.

Marion lived for Jesus. How? Whatever he did, he had loving and serving God by loving and serving people in mind, especially by sharing the gospel. Oh, he was human. He got upset at times. He was impatient at times. But he was tethered securely to Jesus. His mind was established in “invisible things”, which informed how he treated “visible things” (Colossians 3:2).

As a creationist, he “drank in” (his words) God’s handiwork in nature and science and his gardens. Remember that after losing the farm, his family moved into a little house next to Grandma and Grandpa Baughman, his mother’s parents. There, he spent much time with his grandmother, who loved her rose bushes and gardening. Here, the love of gardening took deep root in his heart and this love blossomed his entire life. Oh, he learned the love of growing crops from his dad, but from Grandma Baughman came his awareness and love of beauty and flower gardening.

I could write numerous posts just on his gardening, landscaping, truck gardening, and garden sales.

“The child is father of the man.” As the daughter-child of this man, I believe my love of beauty, my attention to the elements of design – shape, color, line, texture, light and composition — my love of words and expression – are all a love-heritage from my father. “The child is father of the man,” and the man is father of his children. I treasure the heritage given to me.

Preaching on the beach along the gulf coast near Tampa, Florida before he baptized some new believers. This was his last church before retirement.

My sister and I grew up during Dad’s church planting days, when church planting was not understood and was not cool. My parents’ depression era simplicity, tenacity, frugality, and generosity were woven into their ministry.

Dad with three of his “preacher boys” he nurtured in Anderson, South Carolina.

If I would have been a boy, I would have become a preacher, like dad. As a woman, I am a teacher, like dad. Like Dad, I’m admiringly attentive to beauty, wherever I see it, to “drink in” the seemingly little things. Like Dad, I’m driven to write, to serve through words. My heart wants to be simple, like Dad’s, undivided. That, I’m not, but Dad has left me his singular life-line. When my grip loosens, “things invisible” (God’s Spirit and my parents’ prayers along with that great cloud of witnesses) grip me.

My mother and father admired their two daughters, expecting them to go beyond, to attain more in Christ and for His kingdom than they did. Well, I doubt that we are. We are left with this challenge. We both love the Lord. Even though my father has been gone for fourteen years and my mother for ten years, my parents feel very close to me. I’m still being parented by them. My childhood “fathers” me, that is, it parents or leads me.

My parents provide pictures and patterns of how to follow Christ and how not to follow Him. I do the same for my children, grandchildren, friends, and acquaintances. It’s very humbling. We’re good examples. We’re bad examples. But everyone knows, I believe, that we want to be good examples.

Maybe your childhood offers you a “father” that does not lead you to life and liberty, a father who did not follow Christ or followed painfully inconsistently. Still, your childhood wants to be your father — your leader, your pathway through life. Carefully and prayerfully, you consider, you sort, you discern what qualities and patterns to continue to accept and imitate and what (not who) to resist or reject, and from what to recover .

The Apostle Paul helps us here: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (I Corinthians 11:1). We don’t have to be trapped into following unhealthy or destructive patterns. And we don’t need to feel we need to be perfect examples. The freedom and burden is on us to sort and discern. Not easy. The delight is to hold fast to the good, to savor and enjoy it, to build upon it.

My father’s childhood led him to God.

Marion and Miriam with their mother, Helen, in 1922 sitting on the steps that were not yet added to the house in the earlier picture. Helen is just 23 years old, but looks tired. Hmm.

Whether in childhood, youth, mid-life, or later life, may we each come to Jesus. We discover our stories are entwined within Him and redeemed by Him. With our lives and hearts safe in the arms of Jesus, we find release, healing, and even joy. We are safe and didn’t know it! Marion learned this early, so that all of his life, resting in Jesus, his heart kept filling with joy. In this and in many ways, I’d like to follow his example.

I think Marion, who wrote probably hundreds of poems, could have written this Wordsworth poem, infusing it with “invisible”, spiritual depth and child-like faith:

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky….



Mom and Dad dressed for Old Fashioned Days at their church in 1987. Dad loved the fun of this. Though retired, he preached that morning, overflowing with joy .








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