Monday, April 30, 2012

A Letter to Joy: On Outside Influences

'binoculars, North Adams, Massachusetts' photo (c) 2011, Mat Tyrrell - license:
Dear Joy,

I still smile when I remember that conversation we had a few nights ago about our respective Myers-Briggs profiles.

The jury’s still out as to exactly what yours is (the mystery of which I find attractive). But me? I am a textbook ISFP (introverted/sensing/feeling/perceiving).

When we read the ISFP profile together, I felt violated by Drs. Myers and Briggs. It’s like they’ve been stalking me my entire life—following me to school, to parties, to work. To the bathroom. (This coming from someone who is highly skeptical of personality tests.)

What on earth does this have to do with “outside influences”?

Well, a hallmark of an ISFP (i.e., me) is that they are passionate observers—almost to a fault. When we ISFPs walk into any new situation, we immediately find a quiet corner, rest our chin on our thumb, squint, and scan everything going on around us. Then, when we’re sure it’s safe, we speak. But not a minute before.

This strong observational bent bleeds over into how I carry my mantle of husband and father. So much of what I do has been patterned after people whose lives I have “scanned” for a time from a distance. It’s in my DNA to study the greats. Some may say that makes me a wimp. I would argue that it makes one wise.

By God’s grace, I haven’t had to look far. My parents are oak trees of faith. Smooching oak trees, in fact. Their mutual affection for God, and for each other, has made a permanent mark on how I carry myself every day. No, they’re not perfect; no one is. But their influence on me has been oceanic. Much of what I do and say is the output of my life-long observance of their life and ministry, and 43-year marriage.

Having godly parents and parents-in-law is about as common as a Cubs World Series win. But your parents have also had a huge influence on my life since the day I met them. Actually, before I met them (how can I forget your dad’s first email to me, asking how I dealt with anger?!).

Each set of parents has influenced me in completely different ways. My dad is a tireless worker with his hands, with permanent dirt under his fingernails. Your dad is a ruthless reader, with volumes of early church history under his belt. They come at life, and their roles as husbands and fathers, very differently, yet the same. Both have given me so much good godly stuff to passionately observe, and to model myself.

I could name many authors whose words have helped shape who we are as parents and spouses over the years. Like that lunch we had with Ted Tripp. Or that book we’re reading right now by Elyse Fitzpatrick.

But my life-on-life observations of people right in the room have made the biggest difference, and had the most profound impression on my life. It’s been other parents who are living and loving in the mess. It’s been pastors who’ve sat with us for hours on end, bathing life-and-death moments in whispered prayers.

I realize that some may have to go to greater lengths to study the greats. We all can, and should—and there are plenty of good places to look. But thanks be to God, I’ve never had to look too far.

Your note-taking fly on the wall,


On Mondays, Joy and I join Seth and Amber Haines as they fight the good fight for their marriage. They call this weekly series “Marriage Letters” and pray that it encourages you in the hard work of marriage. You can join us with your own letter to your spouse, whether you both write or blog or not. Amber hosts the link-up on her blog, so we hope you’ll share your letter there!

1 comment:

  1. I've just figured something out. I have a daughter named Joy, whom I love more than life. And she is married to a man who is...ta da! - a whole lot like you. Quiet, funny, steady, loyal, loving, capable, highly intelligent. That must be why I have immediately resonated with all that i've ever read from you!

    This piece offers great insight into who you are, Scott - thanks for sharing it in this public space. LOVE the pic with your folks.


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