“I want their hearts to be encouraged and joined together in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery—Christ.” Colossians 2:2
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up as you are already doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11
As early as I can remember, I seemed to have the ability to accept responsibility for anything negative that occurred within five hundred miles of where I happened to be at any given moment! Yet, there were two men who impacted my life in positive ways, who saw value in me and who I could become. These two men tried to give me a deeper sense of what was hidden deep inside of me, the reality that I had talents of which I was unaware. I will always remember the difference they made in my life.
My Uncle Boyce was always there in my life, offering with his teasing sense of humor the unique ability to allow me to be something more than anyone else believed I was capable of being and of accomplishing more than even I believed I could accomplish. I remember staying with my uncle and aunt for 4 days each week over a three month time period while I participated in an educational process required by my employer. Each evening as I worked to carry out my remote job responsibilities, he took the time to encourage me. My uncle offered me the opportunity to be more than I believed was possible with my lack of a complete formal education.
We shared a love of football although we were fans of very different teams! I was, for many years, a die-hard Dallas Cowboys fan, especially during the Roger Staubach/Tom Landry years. My uncle had always been a San Francisco 49er’s fan. We carried on a playful banter, teasing each other when either one of our chosen teams lost. It was the most fun when our teams played against each other. When the Cowboys lost, I knew that within 5 minutes of the game ending I would receive a call from my Uncle Boyce making sure I was fully aware of my team’s loss!
My Uncle loved to laugh, tease, and enjoyed the presence of his family, especially during the holidays. One gift we all shared was the family “Thanksgiving Bowl”. It was a tradition in which the entire family played touch football before we all sat down to enjoy our Thanksgiving Dinner.
On January 3 of this year, at approximately 4:30 pm, my Uncle Boyce passed away from a rare form of cancer. It’s impossible to be prepared for the loss of someone you love—no matter that you know the day is coming and more quickly than you want.
I went to see him just a few weeks before he died and was able to tell him those things we often discover it is too late to say. In so many ways, he was a surrogate father to me offering me what my own father was unable to give. Life will be a little less sweet without his presence and I miss him terribly!
When I was in high school I attended a boarding academy where the curriculum included four hours of work each day along with our daily classroom education. I worked at the dairy under the care and direction of the Herdsman, T.J. Henderson. I never did know what the initials T.J. stood for, nor did I tread the fine line of asking him! He had been a former Marine Drill Sergeant and his favorite saying was, “Yours is not to reason why yours is but to do or die!”
The first time I was exposed to driving anything with a stick shift, Mr. Henderson escorted me to the vehicle in question. He opened the driver’s door pointing out the clutch, gas pedal, and of course, the stick shift. I will always remember his closing words as he motioned me to climb into the driver’s seat. “You break it, you pay for it!” Then he shut the door and walked away leaving me scared spit-less. However, I did learn to drive the flatbed truck!
I particularly remember one conversation Mr. Henderson had with me; he often offered words of wisdom. He, too, filled the role of a second father in many ways my own father was unable to do. He gave me the criteria I needed to look for in a future spouse. “Ron,” he said, “make sure she gets up for breakfast every day, then you’ll know she’ll be up fixing yours when you marry.”
On one very early morning, there was a banging on my dorm room door. It was Mr. Henderson shouting at me to come out because there was a break in one of the pasture fences and the cows were out. When we arrived at the dairy, there was a pot of hot chocolate and boxes of donuts! It was a gift from our boss to his employees. I haven’t experienced the like of that from any other employer.
I believe it is the fact these two men saw me as more than the “bungling teen” who couldn’t get anything right that has impacted me more than I ever realized or even understood. And some of what they knew found its way into the places of fear I have always battled, the fear of never being good enough and the fear that I truly had nothing of positive, redeeming value. Even as I still too often struggle with those same fears, those fears have often been tempered by knowing these two phenomenal men recognized there was something more to me.
There is another Father who sees in us so much more than we can possibly understand or even comprehend. Every day He seeks to deliver into our hearts and minds the truth of His love and grace, and the reality of what He sees in us. He knows the amazing things He can and does accomplish in and through us. Then He gives us those persons who carry this message to us so we can know we are something more than we ever expected or believed.
“…(It is) God who gives life to the dead and speaks of the non-existent things [He has foretold and promised] as if they [already] existed.” Romans 4:17 b Amplified Bible