Most of the doors that have opened for me in my life have swung much easier and wider as a result of my father’s good name. Wearing his last name has been, and still is, a humble honor that, in so many unexpected ways, proves to be a badge I don, not a barrier I despise.
For instance, my first ministry stop after college was in a place where they knew my dad. So when they saw my name and connected the genetic dots, the subsequent interview and visit simply went better. When I moved to the Atlanta area, same story—the pastor there knew my father from his time at TTU, and his immediate reaction to my resume was positive. When God led us to Iowa, it was a sovronic set of events that led to a call from a Des Moines-based church, a set of events that initially started because the pastor there was in connection with his old youth pastor from years ago who was, at that time, working with and for my father. All he relayed was “Roger Stiles has a son somewhere in Atlanta and he may be interested.” Long and winding story; good result.
But it’s not just an occupational benefit. It’s a relational one as well. A few years back we were attending T4G together in Louisville, and most of the “What-a-nice-surprise-to-see-you-after-all-these-years” were because my dad would run into people that knew him. And though I may have known them as well, the rise in on-the-spot respect for me was quite evident once they realized I was his son. I’ll take as much of that as I can get.
Even this past week in Phoenix while mingling in in the halls and strolling through the exhibitors present at the SBC convention, when I’d encounter people who knew my father, the conversation always brightened. The interaction always deepened. Always.
I could go on, but there’s no need. You get the point.
Ironically, my father never made a single phone call on my behalf. He never “worked the system” or leveraged his position. Never. There was no “silver spoon” mindset in his thinking, and not once did he, nor I for that matter, ever think anything was deserved simply because of a last name. He simply lived his life so that those who also wear his name will be blessed, not burdened. And blessed I am over and over by six simple letters that follow my first and middle name: S-T-I-L-E-S.
The Gift of a Good Name
All that to say this: I’m increasingly convinced that the best thing my father has ever done for me, something that has had a perpetual effect, is summed up in Proverbs 22:1—
“A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches,
and favor is better than silver or gold.”
A “good name.” “Favor.” My father has graced and graces me still with exactly this: the blessing of his good name. He simply lived and lives to leave a legacy and heritage that I and my two sisters can stand on and under, a foundation of spiritual and physical integrity that far outlasts everything else.
Moreover, this is one of the best ways he “launched” me—through the blessing of his good name. Why? Precisely because it acts like the Energizer bunny and keeps going and going and going and going. Or like a well-placed and well-oiled hinge that enables the doors of opportunity I see to swing much more freely and effortlessly. The beautiful reality is that from the moment I left home till just this past week, I find myself still being catapulted at times simply because my father is who he is—a man with a good name.
That’s why I don’t understand young men or women who do everything possible to get away from the good name of their father. I’ve encountered a number of 20-somethings, talented and smart people both in ministry and business, who, when I mention that I know their parents, they shrink back and distance themselves. They communicate a sense of disassociation to their name, not identification with it. I’d understand that response if they were dealing with a bad name, more of a liability than of a legacy. But they’re not! These are young people with strong foundations who would do themselves a favor if they’d jump from it instead of run from it. My advice to them? See your name as a stepping stone, not a stumbling block. Your father has lived intentionally to pass it on; don’t blur it or bury it due to pride and ungratefulness.
So on this Father’s Day weekend of 2017, here’s a long-overdue tribute to the man who gave me more than I could have ever imagined by simply living for a Name greater than his own. Here’s to a man who continues to bestow upon me something I can wear with boldness and gladness. Here’s to a man who has left me a legacy I can stand on and under with confidence and joy. Here’s to Roger Harrison Stiles for the blessing of that which transcends time and treasure and fame and fortune.
Thanks, dad, for the great gift of a good name.