In Memory of my Father, Walter Troyan, for Father’s Day
Growing up in a family of four daughters in the 1960s and 70s, naturally my parents were protective of our innocence, safety, and well-being in a world of temptations. My sisters and I were guided with love and concern to make good choices. Our parents wanted us to be ambassadors for God’s team, to bear good fruit, not plastic fruit.
Through the years, I remember numerous dinner table discussions, parental admonitions, and reminders of right and wrong. But the one piece of advice standing out above everything else, coming from my father, was to always ask ourselves, what would Jesus do. If I heard it once, I heard it a dozen times. Not that we didn’t hit any bumps along the road, but this sage advice served my sisters and me well in our teenage years and became our spiritual anchor.
Charles M. Sheldon’s classic book, In His Steps, What Would Jesus Do?, was published in 1896, and it articulated an approach to Christian theology at the turn of the 20th century. In 1989, when Michigan youth leader Janie Tinklenberg read his book, she encouraged her students to ask this same question and discussed Sheldon’s book with her youth group. She noticed that many of her kids were making friendship bracelets for one another and landed on the idea of creating a bracelet which would remind the teens to ask themselves what Jesus would do in a given situation.
The idea of the bracelets took off like wild fire. With some brilliant marketing, the emblem WWJD appeared on baseball caps, coffee mugs, key chains, bumper stickers, jewelry, sweaters, and t-shirts across America in the early 1990s. High-profile stores like Wal-Mart, Hallmark, and Barnes & Noble began to carry the merchandise, and the publishing giant Zondervan issued an interactive devotional WWJD Bible.
It became clear that the message Charles Sheldon portrayed in his book enjoyed a revival a hundred years later, and the WWJD merchandise has not disappeared. In fact, Amazon carries a boatload of WWJD merchandise today!
I doubt my father ever read Charles M. Sheldon’s book. If he did, he never mentioned it, and it was not in his book collection. This book would have been considered very outdated at the time my parents were raising their four daughters. I honestly feel my father’s advice came from him. He had the spiritual fortitude of making his own decisions based upon what Jesus would do, and he was simply passing along fatherly advice to his daughters. He wanted our family train headed in the right direction.
So who really started WWJD? Well, my father did, of course! At least that’s what I believe happened in my own family. He could have taken international credit if he’d thought about marketing that mantra into merchandise. And who knows, maybe I’d be selling things today to carry on a family business! But I digress.
In truth, Jesus himself started this movement when he said in John 8:12: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (NKJV)
Any other parental advice memories from anyone? Any special memories from your own fathers? I would love to hear your comments!
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I’m always looking for more family stories. You know, the kind where family members are sitting around the dinner table casually chatting, and someone says, “Remember when Charlie . . . ” and sometimes that same family story is regaled again and again at family gatherings. I’d love to feature one of your family stories for others to enjoy. You can write it, I can write, or we can do it together! Get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You could be next!