Skip to main content

October 3 catches me unexpectedly every year. It is a bittersweet day. On the one hand, I am so thrilled that my father is where he has always wanted to be—with Jesus, whom he cherished all his life and with his beloved brother, his mother, my mom, his family, and with the majority of the congregants that he ministered to in his lifetime.

All the aches and pains he endured on earth are over, and no doubt he has the restoration of the full head of dark curly hair he mourned the loss of on earth.

However, on the other hand, there is no one like my dad. He was strong, protective, always gracious, kind, loving, truthful, fun, and filled with faith. I never once doubted my father’s love. I was always welcome and wanted in his company—always!

Every outing with my dad usually contained an approach by some stranger who recognized his distinct voice or face. They would share how much my dad had impacted their life for Jesus. Dad’s reaction was always the same.

He would hang his head slightly, his characteristic smile brimming across his face. Shaking his head softly from side to side, he would say, “Praise the Lord.” He truly treasured every encounter.

One of the questions I was asked most often as a child and then a young woman was, “What is it like to be the daughter of “Pastor Chuck Smith?”

Well, that was always problematic for me.

First of all, I did not have a criteria for comparison—my dad was the only dad I ever knew. Secondly, although I knew he was renowned as “Pastor Chuck Smith,” my relationship with him was as my dad! That relationship was unique, intimate, and personal.

I did not love him because he was famous, had baptized me (which he did three times—which is a delightful story in itself), I had listened to him on the radio, or because he garnered power as the pastor of a megachurch. I knew him well, spoke with him daily, and was blessed to be the recipient of his prayers, affection, affirmation, and acceptance.

As my dad, he was my hero, my confidante, my lead in serving Jesus, venturing out in obedience to Jesus, and the pure joy of serving Jesus! I simply never rebelled. I never wanted to break fellowship with my dad or bring any grief to his heart.

My thoughts brim with wonderful memories of times, conversations, escapades, and surprise explorations with my dad. Not a day passes that I do not think about my dad and mom. I have their photographs all over my house, on my phone, and especially in my heart.

One of the many memories I cherish is when I was nineteen. Because of a speeding ticket I procured on my way from college to Magic Mountain, I was due to appear in court in Ventura. This was no light speeding ticket. I was well exceeding the limit, and the officer who pulled me over was gracious enough to cite me as speeding at a lower speed so I would not receive a mandatory three-day jail sentence. I felt the full brunt of my guilt. I had confessed the ticket almost immediately to my parents. They were nonplussed. I was surprised. They had made plans to go to Hawaii the day after my court visitation, plans which included me.

My dad volunteered to drive me to Ventura. I expected a lecture. There was none. Instead, Dad told me stories about growing up (I always loved Dad’s narratives of his childhood) in Ventura. We drove around Ventura, putting visuals to his stories. The time drew near to go to court. We parked, stood in line at the clerk’s desk, and then received our appointment time to appear before the judge.

I was shaking as we entered the courtroom. Dad sat next to me and held my hand. I was so comforted by the strength, warmth, and tenderness of that loving hand! Soon enough, the bailiff called my name, and I had to stand alone before the judge. Dad had wanted to stand with me, but court procedure forbade it. So, Dad took a seat as close to the front and to me as possible.

The judge excoriated me, and I deserved every word he said. He told me that he had half a mind to throw me into jail just to teach me a lesson. He told me that I had endangered the lives of those in the car with me by such reckless speeding. He was right on all counts. I deserved the condemnation, the humiliation, and whatever fine he chose to meet out. With one last harsh look at me, the judge announced the sum of his fine, brought down his gavel, and dismissed me.

I turned toward my dad, tears streaming down my cheeks. Dad was preoccupied, engaged in some task. When I got closer to him, I realized that he was writing the check—the whole amount for my infraction. When he looked up, his face shone with his characteristic smile.

“We got this,” he whispered, as if he and I had received the ticket together. As the courtroom door closed behind us, Dad exclaimed, “Baby, let’s go to Hawaii!”

We turned in his check at the window and walked to the car. The whole way home, he talked about all the adventures and fun we would have in Hawaii (and we did). That was so Dad! He was so gracious, so kind, so loving, so forgiving.

Neither Dad nor Mom ever brought up my ticket again. On the plus side, that was the last driving ticket I ever received. I learned my lesson by grace. In fact, I learned just about every lesson from Dad by grace and love.

If there were a legacy that Dad left and would want anyone claiming association with him to follow, it would be the legacy of grace, love, and truth. I have tried to follow in that legacy, not by judgmental words, self-righteousness, or condemnation of others, but by asking the Holy Spirit daily to pour into me His grace, love, forgiveness, and truth.

Cheryl currently oversees the Joyful Life women’s Bible study at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. She also hosts a weekly podcast called “Women Worth Knowing,” highlighting women from all walks of life, past and present, and the lives they led for the Lord. Cheryl is also a frequent speaker at women’s retreats and conferences around the world.