Caleb is one of my favorite characters in the Hebrew Bible (we even named one of our sons after him). He did not have a book dedicated to him but his story is scattered throughout the Hebrew Bible. His life and actions are discussed in minute sections of the sacred text, yet his life, character, and personality are well represented in the verses that mention him. His story lives on in the lives of many. He was not only a father, he was a Spiritual Father.
Father’s Day is a time I enjoy. I know that people complain because the “Card Companies” make money on this day. I know that some share stories of how the memories of absent or abusive fathers throughout the world have brought misery to children on this day. I have heard that father’s sometimes “get stiffed” on this day. We all have heard the stories, and for a few years I belly ached about those memories from my father or those men who had hurt me in my life. However, as I finally decided to grow up, I have come to enjoy the day, mostly because I have a wonderful wife and three great sons. The day falls usually within a week of my birthday which leads me to suggest to my family that I get the whole month of June--but it falls on deaf ears. They ask me what I want for Father’s Day and I reply, “Just love and respect…that’s all I need.” They laugh and say, “What do you want that we can get you.” I know they love me and I am proud of them. I am a lucky man.
My father did the best he could as an adult survivor of childhood abuse and having lived in a family with alcohol, drugs, and some levels of crime. He had two families with whom he tried to give attention but struggled to connect with his children. Being an atheist/agnostic (depending on his mood) and having a son who converted to Christianity and became a minister and theologian; may be why I sensed he was disappointed with me. There was a time when he would not come into my home, he never heard me preach and was not present when I was ordained as an Evangelist, and we rarely discussed anything about faith, my family, or why I did what I did. I finally accepted this at one point in my life and realized I needed Spiritual Fathers if I wanted to be a good parent and husband.
While I can name many men in my life who modeled masculinity, faith, or family values for me, Caleb is one of those characters whom I look to for guidance. I guess that is what you do when you need a model—you search elsewhere. Sometimes that is necessary, and it becomes a blessing in our lives.
Caleb and Joshua were two of the twelve spies who scouted the land of Canaan for Moses and the Israelites. Ten of the spies were intimidated by the large people and warned the Israelites not to go into the land. Caleb and Joshua believed in the people and their God. Unfortunately, the people were persuaded by the ten and wandered for years in the wilderness. Despite this Joshua succeeded Moses and became their next leader while Caleb followed and became a great soldier. Caleb was courageous and faithful as a young man. God even said, four times, that Caleb had a different spirit and “follows me wholeheartedly” (Numbers 14:24; 32:2; Deuteronomy 1:36; Judges 14:14-16). He didn’t wait until he retired to become “religious,” he didn’t spend his youth flowing with every wind and wave of indecisiveness, he didn’t wait until he was old to express his convictions. He was already a model of courage and faithfulness as a young man. He was known as the “guy who followed God wholeheartedly.”
When he was eighty years old, after Moses died, he told Joshua not to “give him a retirement party,” because he would continue to “work for his inheritance.”
Just as Yahweh promised, I am alive forty five years later, since the time God spoke to Moses…here I am today, eighty five years old!...Now give me this hill country…
Notice that as an old guy he was still a good follower. He didn’t retire, he didn’t cut back a few engines and coast through his “golden years,” he didn’t take a break from practicing his faith—he continued to lead. Even more he felt stronger and more courageous than he had as a young man. This old guy displayed greater courage, faith, loyalty, and a heart for God—even after his AARP card was 30 years late.
I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.
Later, he led a charge in battle and offered a place in his family for a brave soldier (Joshua 15:16; Judges 1:12). Othniel took the offer and became his son in law. Something tells me everyone who knew Caleb wanted him for a father in law. Even more his youngest daughter (Acsah), who married Othniel, like Caleb was not afraid to ask her father for land. She didn’t need a husband to ask for her—she, like her dad, showed faith and courage in following God.
Caleb is a man of courage, faith, loyalty, and Spirit. He continued to lead as an old guy, and his story lives on in the Spiritual Fathers who touch our lives.
I have been blessed by the Caleb’s in my life. Men (old and young) who chose to mentor and love others who were not their biological children are the Calebs we know today. They don’t say, “Not my kid—not my problem…” or “I got my own kids, you are on your own…” rather they willingly offer love and support to those of us who need fathers. They say, “there is room at my table for those who want to join us in our spiritual battle/journey. My father-in-law was a Caleb. My two brothers-in-law are Calebs. I am thankful for the church leaders, other ministers, and leaders in the community who were Calebs in my life. I even remember younger Calebs who reached out to me in high school or college and knew I needed male guidance. Men who were patient, caring, and helped me to grow up and be a good man. They offered acceptance on or off the field/mat/track, in or out of worship, and with or without the text.
Now that I am an old guy there has been the tendency to speak my mind and be the cranky old man. However, no one listens to that guy, and they definitely don’t want to be like him. I have been reminded by my Calebs that “Caleb” is a better model of an old guy and one I need to continue to emulate with my family and other men and women.
Thank you to the Calebs in my life. Your story may be short but your Spiritual influence is eternal. I hope our Caleb, and other sons, has a model in me.