Today I want to write a note to honor my father. Yesterday I did not get to see Dad. I talked to him on the phone. I never get to spend Father’s Day with him because I have an obligation every Sunday morning. The cool part about that is that on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day I do not feel guilty for being gone because I believe that in what I do I honor my parents in the best way I can. But that does not mean I do not miss him. Nor does it mean that I am not saddened on such occasions to not be allowed to throw a huge bear hug on such a great man.
So instead I thought I would blog about Dad. Today, I want to tell you about the greatest man I know. He is not a perfect man, nor does he pretend to be. I think that is one of the things that make him so great. Why do I call this man the greatest man I know? This might be a little long but the story is over 34 years long.
In 1975 Richard Jones had a son that was born a month premature and without proper lung development. I do not remember this occasion – being the poorly developed lung one. The story goes that in the waiting room having seen the nurses work frantically on me in the nursery my dad did something he had not done a whole lot of in the years previous to my birth. He prayed. He told God that if he would take care of me he would serve him all his days. Well, many men offer those types of prayers in moments of fear, but few make good on them. Dad has. Truth is the reason I am serving God with my days is because it is all I have ever really known and all I want to know. It is not only what life might be like, it is what life is like. I have never had to wonder if a life lived in faith was worth it. I always knew it was.
The story continues as a young boy grows up absolutely idolizing his father. I wanted to be like him so bad. He was tall and strong. He could do a lot of work. And was a great basketball player. (I could not beat him until I was 16.) He had dark hair and if I have to give him his props was a pretty handsome dude. (Was and still is with just a different distinguished twist on that look. He has the most distinguished silver hair – the Biblical sign of wisdom. I just pray I have half that much hair – in any color – when I am his age.) I always wanted to be like my dad. He taught me to hunt and fish and play golf (not that it has done me any good to learn golf that way.) He taught me to shave and to drive. He taught me how to laugh and how to love. He passed on to me a passion for God and family and sports. He taught me to ski and to drive a boat. He taught me how to be a man while I was still a boy. He taught me by showing me. I am not sure he even realized what he was teaching me.
My dad was always my best friend growing up. He was always a man I could talk to. Sure he brought the hand and belt of punishment at the end of some of those conversations, but I always knew I could talk to him. Not only did I know I could, but I wanted to. We talked about everything. I talked with him about girls and life and dreams and hopes. We talked about God and faith and the future. We talked about fears and love and loss. Whatever it was we talked about it.
I can tell you story after story of sacrificial love. The day he was late to work because after being asked to play catch he could not stand driving off while seeing me throwing the ball to myself in the rearview mirror. Or the day he grabbed a 3 wheeler and kept it from landing on my face but in the process got 2nd and 3rd degree burns over the entirety of his hands. Or the first time he taught me to play golf and I did not follow either instruction to not swing hard and let him back up and hit in the face with a nine iron causing some stitches. Or the countless basketball practices he coached. Or the time he walked me out of the gym after I got ejected for losing my temper in a basketball game and the sweet yet firm talk we had that night. Or the time he came to court as I faced two counts of theft under a $100 for a stupid and foolish prank. Or the time he took a young boy away so we could have a man talk so that I would not have to be the young man clueless about the reality of the world and the opposite sex but could be prepared for the temptations and challenges I faced in life.
I can not begin to tell you all the stories I have to tell. But the greatest one in my life is this. Is that one night when I was 8 years old I knelt down by that man and with him leading me I asked Jesus Christ to be my Savior and Lord. And my life has never been the same.
I could tell you about the Bible I still use today that he bought me when I was 13 and I committed to a life of ministry. I could tell you about the tears we cried the day I left for college. I could tell you about him “loaning” me the money for the engagement ring and being so excited to see me marry such a wonderful woman. Or about the day my son was born and I watched that man hold his grandson and I knew that I had some big footsteps to follow in, but I also knew that not only had that man blazed a great trail in our family – he had prepared me to do the same.
I wish I could tell you all I know about Richard Jones. But I can not. But I do want to tell you this.
You might not have had a father like mine, but your children can. My story is quite different from my dad’s. His was not bad, but it was not the one I have. My dad would tell you that there has been no greater decision in his life than to live for Christ. And as one who has and is following his example, I must agree.
Dad, thank you for being my father, my coach, my example, my leader, my rescuer, my discipliner, my friend, and…my hero.
I love you, Pop.