This Sunday my dad turns 80. To be honest, it is a bit surreal for me to say that.
When I see him today I see a man who is several inches shorter than I am. Since his back surgery some five years ago he is at least 5 inches shorter than he was as a young man. His hair is gray and thinning. He walks much more slowly than he once did. That’s hard for me to take.
I remember trying to keep up as we would make our way to Grant Field for football games on Saturday afternoons in the fall. We would park two miles from the stadium in order to save $2 on parking. His normal stride required that I jog just to keep pace.
It was the summer between eighth and ninth grade when I reached my full height. I was a half inch taller than he was, and proud to talk about it. Looking down at my dad was one of my major goals in life. I wanted him to know that I was now the tallest member of the Butler family.
Forty years later I remain taller than my dad, but I have returned to looking up to him. Other than Jesus, he is my true hero. This is true for all of the normal reasons. He taught me to throw a baseball, dribble a basketball, and bait a line. And he taught me how to drive a stick shift and tend tomato plants
Most of all, he taught me how to be a man, and how to follow Jesus. He did that mainly by example, but he also used words. I know how to treat my wife because I watched my dad keep his vows to my mom. I know how to serve in the church by watching him serve as a deacon, church treasurer and Sunday school teacher.
To be blunt, he would likely be embarrassed if he knew that I was saying these things about him to people all over Bryan County. He would prefer that I point you to Jesus. But that’s my point the whole way through. I know Jesus because my dad led me in that direction.
I pray that my sons will say the same thing of me when I approach 80 (or even 60). And I pray that you will see Jesus in the words that I write, and that you will choose to follow Him.