Published by K-LOVE on May 18, 2021
Genres: Christian Life, Memoir, Non-Fiction
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Grammy Award winner Michael W. Smith's The Way of the Father offers a deeply personal reflection on his father Paul Smith's legacy and its profound effect on every area of his life. Through the life and lens of his earthly dad, the multi-platinum selling Christian artist gives glimpses of a Father in Heaven that anyone can approach and experience.Michael W. Smith, multi-platinum artist, celebrated songwriter, producer, best-selling author, and acclaimed actor, himself a father of five adult children and grandfather of sixteen, calls upon his humble experiences of growing up in a small West Virginia town to share his father's story. Each chapter identifies a quality and characteristic of his dad that came out of an obedient and sacrificial life, committed to serving his Abba Father, including: Finding truth in tragedyLoving unconditionallyPersevering through painBringing righteousness to the worldInfluencing and inspiring generationsDiscovering identity and approval in ChristPaul Smith was a familiar face in the crowd at Michael W. Smith's concerts over the years. A kind and joyful man who would sing, dance, and worship to the singer's countless number one hits, with his countenance beaming brighter than the spotlights on the stage, Paul would often introduce himself to those nearby and talk about how proud he was of his son. From the artist's early days as a struggling musician in Nashville to his death in 2015 (the year his son's album sales surpassed 15 million), Paul was always Michael's biggest fan.
Michael shares how his dad inspired and encouraged him using biblical principles and virtues. Now, Michael passes on these same truths through stories, testimonies, origins of songs, and personal insights from his family life and thirty-five plus years of touring as a Christian artist. He hopes that by sharing his father's legacy, readers will come to find that no matter who our earthly parents have been in our lives, our Abba Father will never fail us.The Way of the Father will likewise challenge readers in their faith journeys so they will one day hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant. You have fought the good fight, run the race, and have been found faithful"--just like Paul Smith heard on the day he was called home to be with his Father.
Even though I don’t listen to the radio that much anymore (you can thank podcasts, audiobooks, and the lack of a commute for that), the K-LOVE jingle will forever be imprinted in my memory from my childhood: “Positive. Encouraging. K-LOVE.” I’ve always had an appreciation for Christian music, but I’m musically illiterate. God gave me talents and the musical realm is not one of them. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that K-LOVE was starting their own publishing imprint—and that a memoir (of sorts) from Michael W. Smith would be their inaugural title.
The Way of the Father is a sometimes-meandering, often-personal memoir in which Michael W. Smith shows the influence—both directly and indirectly—of his father, Paul Smith, on his life and career. The book is pretty much chronological, moving from Michael’s younger years through the death of his dad in 2015. I appreciated the earlier chapters a bit more, as Paul plays a more prominent and direct role in those early years. In reflecting, I think that might be because that’s the stage of life I’m about to be in as a dad. And also because, again, musically illiterate me is more taken in by the simple stories of fatherhood than the “how we got the band together” motif of later chapters.
In fact, on first reading, I felt like the farther The Way of the Father went along, the more it strayed from its initial premise as a book about the lessons Paul taught his son and became a more typical memoir about Michael W. Smith. Still an interesting story, but a bit of a bait-and-switch. As I’ve thought on that, though, I’ve come to the conclusion that I was wrong. Like any good father-son relationship, it evolved over time. Michael grew up, became more independent, and started his career. He left his dad behind, in one sense, but in a much greater sense he took his dad with him as a product of every lesson his dad had ever poured into him. Paul, the person, fades a bit from the narrative, but the lessons that shaped his son live on and influence the story’s path.
The Way of the Father begins each chapter by outlining some lesson from Paul Smith. Michael W. Smith then takes that thread and draws it through some experience in his life, whether on a direct route (such as his Little League stories) or an indirect route (such as the time Bono convinced Christian leaders to use their platforms to care for the impoverished in Africa). You get a behind-the-scenes look at the makings of Smith’s music career and how integral his parents’ support was in it. You see the pride and love that Paul had for his son and how Michael uses that love as an analogy for the love God has for us. Just the premise of a man in his sixties sitting down to write about his father made me want to call my own parents and ask them questions and listen to stories about their own parents.
The Way of the Father is a beautiful tribute to Paul Smith that reflects the Father’s love for his children and shows Michael’s love for his dad.