The first time I saw him I wept.
There he lay squirming, screaming, sticky and shivering. He was helpless and loud about it. He was hungry and loud about it. He was in the world of men—and loud about it.
When his mother saw him—umbilical cord still attached—she said, “He looks like me.” I muttered under my breath, out of earshot of her, that no he looked more like E.T.
He was a large baby weighing in 9.3 pounds. He had red hair and pink skin. His chin quivered when he cried. We saw that quivering chin a lot. His hands reached out grabbing at space. He was not happy about this new autonomy. The entire nursery at the hospital heard about it. The doctors and nurses seemed unperturbed. I was perturbed. I leaned over to the smock-clad young lady wiping what looked like cream cheese from his body and asked through my mask, “Is he going to do this all the time?”
“What?” she asked.
Wail like this.
She glared at me.
We took him home and began journey of discovery about how to be a parent.
I was very hard on Cole. He was going to be a well behaved, polite, controlled, temperate, smart, articulate and athletic young man—from the start. Dadgum it. That was my intention. That is not what we got. We got a fiery, talkative, stubborn, impulsive, can’t-stay-in-his-seat, —smart, but non-athletic boy.
As he grew up we locked horns on who was going to run the world. I think I won most battles. He had the most creative imagination as a boy. He invented games like “Brother” where he would vocalize an adventure to his little brother, Clint and then they would act it out while he did the voice-over. He was fascinated by Star Trek. He loved stories. He lived in a world of his own making.
When he was five years he wanted to be like me. He wanted to be a preacher. I had built a step-stool for him to use in front of the toilet so he could go to the bathroom standing up. One day he was asking what he needed to do be become a preacher like me and I said for him to go get his “pee stool” we would stand it on end for his pulpit. He brought it to me and then asked what he should preach about. Here is what we came up with:
“Jesus loves you. Jesus loves you. Jesus loves you. Jesus’ is coming back you better get ready!”
Today that young preacher has grown up to be a much better father than I ever was for him to four of the most beautiful red-headed children in the wide world. I marvel at how he loves his kids. How he explains the Bible to his oldest son, Oren. How he teaches them all to pray. How he is present with them. How he shows them that they are the most loved children in the universe.
He loves and honors his wife and respects her. He loves and looks out for his brothers. He loves and serves his mother.
He blesses me.
I had been out of ministry for a few years and the church we attended selected me to be an elder. They had a time where congregants came forward and laid hands on me and prayed a blessing. Many people came and prayed. I appreciate but don’t remember any of them—save one.
Cole was sixteen years old and he came to the front of the church, laid his hands on me and prayed to Jesus, “Lord, I am so proud of my Dad. He has made mistakes as a father, husband and pastor but you have changed him. Bless him Jesus to be the best elder your Kingdom has ever seen.”
I wept. We wept together.
Years have passed and he has gone on to get a degree in pastoral ministry. He has preached in my church and I still help him with his sermons. He will be a great pastor someday. He works for World Vision and is making a difference for the Kingdom of God.
Last week he sent me the following email:
This month was Pastor Appreciation month. I meant to get this out to you earlier, sorry for the delay.
Most of my life you have been my Pastor. Thank you so much for the way you have guided me into faith in and obedience to Jesus. I look up to you in so many ways, as father, husband, friend, and most of all as Pastor.
Dad, I want to be a Pastor like you. I appreciate the transparency you have displayed before me that has given me such a wonderful and raw exposure to what Pastor Ministry looks like. I know it may not be much to you but the stories you share have meant so much and have helped guide me into what it looks like to pastor and care for the people of God.
I am amazed at how God has used you and uniquely placed you in the church you are serving in now. I am so impressed with how you gently challenge, teach, live with, and guild these people as they wrestle with the Christian faith and its expression in their community.
Thank you for being the Pastor that you are. You inspire, empower, and ignite me as I strive to follow in my calling to serve the Lord and His Church.
I pray that the Lord would continue to bless and disturb you as He continues to mold you into His likeness.
I hope these words from my heart have encouraged and blessed you in a small way as your words have done for me and so MANY others.
And I weep again…just like the first time I saw him, twenty seven years ago today.