His name never brought many hits on an internet search, but his name hits me with the full force of life itself. In the search engine of my life, words like “name” and “legacy” place my father as the first entry.
My father was always bigger than life to me, but he pulled me so close that I could never escape the loving gravity of his character. He cast a shadow in which our family always found protection, his failing eyesight had spiritual vision that could not be measured with charts. Content to make revolutions around his presence, my life was a small moon around a father-centric planet. I felt his warm hand touch my life’s calling as he was the one who led me to know Jesus, and he smiled with paternal pride as he led me through initial basic discipleship and mentored me in soulwinning, preaching, parenting, loving. No matter where my course would take me, it always led me back to the place I started, to a man whose life was devoted to serving God. Days and seasons were always counted by my times with Daddy.
A good name is preferred over riches (Prov. 22:1), and his name was better than good. I was in his lap the first time I saw him cry. He had found a photo of his father, and his tears choked his words, “I miss my Daddy.” Having never heard my father cry, I thought he was laughing, so I started to laugh too. But then struck the startling reality that he was sad, and I was ashamed of my mistake. I never forgot that moment, and I dreaded the day I would ever have to say the same words. I miss my Daddy.
Daddy would often take me out to a field he would plow for a crop. When I became too old to ride on his lap on the tractor and before I was old enough to drive it myself, he would make me walk behind the plow or seeder to make sure that each seed was getting covered right. That soft dark dirt was like pillows under my feet, and like my Daddy I loved the feel. Once when he stopped the tractor for lunch, he walked through the freshly plowed field, and I followed him, placing each one of my little feet into his footprints. He turned and saw me, and he relayed the story of how he had done the same thing with his father. He told me that his father had seen him doing that and told him, “Son, don’t do that.” He said he never understood the reason until that day. He wanted his son’s steps to be ordered by One much higher.
I preached a message yesterday at his funeral. I did it because several months ago he had asked me to. He gave me specific instructions that the gospel be clear, that people hear yet once again that Jesus came to this earth to save sinners like us, that He died to pay the penalty of our sins, that there was still a chance to be saved. And so, I spoke those words over my father, my mentor, my pastor, my best friend. I held back all emotion, just as my Daddy would do, for someone to hear a true message of salvation. Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior?
I am thankful for the prayerful support of our family, our colleagues and our friends. His titles varied with his relationships. I celebrate his life as I find myself singing the songs he sang or thinking about the people he loved. But I also have to be honest and say that I am still hurting; the grieving aches feel like the slow drips of summer turpentine from a tall pine tree, gathering into a sticky cup. I want it to stop, and I don’t want it to stop.
His latter earthly days were difficult, so I know he is now worshiping Jesus without limitations, speaking without a stammering tongue or failing voice, working on his next eternal assignments, awaiting a new heaven and a new earth. I know he is rejoicing around the throne of the One he worshiped in life. So I rejoice for him, with him.
And yet, I lost my planet last Friday. I feel like I want to spin away, to be flung into the neighboring stars, and consumed. And each moment that painful feeling drips through my spirit, I feel the gravitational pull of my Lord. I do not grieve like those who have no hope (1 Thess. 4:13). I realize that my world revolves around One who is higher, stronger, eternal, and I find peace in this revolution.
I was reminded this morning yet again that I have little orbs revolving around me, a planet for others, looking for their purposes and callings. I want to say, “Children, don’t do that.” I want their footprints to find fresh pillows of untrodden ground. So I resolve myself to make sure their faith is attached to the One whose gravity will save their souls and fulfill their lives. That is my father’s legacy. That was his name.