My Dad is with Jesus now. Just saying that seems unreal to me. He’s been with me for 41 years. Even though I know the arms wrapping him up today are much stronger, I still cry. I’ve never experienced anything like this before. I’ve counseled hundreds how to grieve and walk the death road but I’ve not walked it myself like this until now. I feel like a chunk has been taken out of my chest. Like the Psalmist said, “my soul is cast down…all your breakers and waves have gone over me.” There have been tender moments when I remember his hands or some special words he shared from time to time. Then there have been moments of great, heaving sobs I can’t control. I’m gaining great comfort from the Word. I think my greatest strength came when I walked in our Sanctuary Sunday morning. Being with the Body stood me up. And though there were tears there was also a tremendous amount of peace and comfort. The Body of Christ in Hope, AR is alive and well and I am so thankful to be a part of it.
I write these articles about death from time to time because it is a hurdle we all struggle with. Death is not meant to be an easy thing. Neither is it a God thing. Death is a tool the enemy wields and he loves to use it. He works it for fear, for silencing and paralyzing the Church and to give him the semblance of more authority. And he does his job well. We wrestle against the threat of death all the time. We work, often subconsciously, to prolong life as long as possible. But this is not the way God intends for us to operate. Our bodies were designed to fail and in so doing to prompt us to long for Heaven’s pain free environment all the more. We were designed to grieve and in so doing to lose less of the hold this world has on us. Death is not something that should scare us. On the contrary, it is something we submit to fully. Every Jesus person knows that death has no sting. It’s just the last (among many) obstacle between us and Heaven. I hope these words are helpful for you.
This world is dying for lack of men like my Dad. 100 years ago the majority of men in this part of the world worked from home. They ran farms or performed their services to the community from a shop close to their house. Boys grew up inside those shops or on those farms working right alongside their dads. There was no question for those earlier generations as to what it meant to be a man. Not so today.
Boys today have a hard time knowing what it means to be a man. Their dads are largely absent and those that are around think it is cool to play video games all day long. There is a monstrous separation between the army of men that raised my generation and the playground full of men raising children today. Boys today are very confused. It is so easy to think large consumptions of alcohol and drugs make you a man. Many think making a baby makes them a man. Some think when they graduate high school or get their first job, they magically become a man. Others think when they are able to buy their first truck manhood has somehow arrived. But very few have anyone telling them “This is what it means to be a man” and then showing them what that means with their lives. My brother and I did not have that problem. It was easy for me to move to Arkadelphia for college. I was ready. I felt prepared. Unlike so many of my friends, I didn’t feel the need to party or do crazy things because I was away from home. I was able to be strong because my dad told me I was able to be so. I was able to work hard because my dad showed me how. I was able to pastor a church at 18 and 19 because my dad told me with confidence that was God’s gift to me. He was able to look you in the eye and say exactly what needed to be said. He did it until the day he died. The world is dying for lack of men like my Dad.
I didn’t love my Dad just because he gave me gifts. I didn’t love him because he put food on my table every day when I was growing up. I didn’t love him because he covered my tail every single one of the countless times I messed up. I loved him because he loved me and proved it in a thousand different ways every day of the 41 years I’ve had with him. There is a chunk out of my chest and a knot in my stomach because this man is not with me anymore. He’s with Jesus. I’m finding the best way to deal with that missing piece is to ask Jesus to allow me to love Him more. And just like Dad, I love Jesus because He loves me and proves it in a thousand different ways each day. Not only do I have the promise of seeing my Dad again in Heaven, I have the promise of a healed heart today in Christ. In grief and in celebration, this is the best way to live.