Words of My Father, Words of My Friend

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My father died in February 2009, and I was chosen to do the eulogy. My father was the lighthouse of wisdom, where I could put my boat to anchor. Without him I felt detached in my decision-making, but I was trying my best to be steady for the family. I did not know it at the time, but I was postponing my grieving process. Nevertheless, I prepared to deliver the message.

I began preaching when I was eight years old. Well, not really. When I was eight years old I began reading the Bible silently. Then I would read it aloud, and would keep reading it to myself. I read the Bible out loud everyday, which interested my brother. My brother, two years younger than I, would sit down and listen to me read. This reading soon blossomed into preaching the word to my brother. My mom remembers not having to wonder where we were or what we were up to, because she could always find my Bible open on the piano bench, and me preaching to my congregation of one.

I was seventeen when I first preached a sermon at church about Samson and the Holy Spirit, which led to my parents affirming my call to ministry. I was told by many leaders in the Baptist church that they looked forward to my ordination and installation service after I was through with my education and seminary, but this was not what I had in mind for my life. In June of 1990, I turned nineteen years old. I was ready to get on with my goals, and to invent my reality. It was then that my father shook my world when he called me into his home study. He wore a big grin on his face and light shone from him. He stood up from his desk and said, “Ron, your mother and I have talked and we would like to pay for your Christian undergraduate and seminary education. You are called to ministry and we have prayed about this. We think you should consider our offer to pursue an M.Div. You will be a pastor!” Then he hugged me. His embrace was strong and he was sure that I would be happy with the news. After the hug broke, I stepped back and gathered my thoughts.

Looking directly into my father’s eyes I said, “No thanks, dad. I have goals of studying history and teaching in a high school. I will be studying at a public university.” My dad gave me two more opportunities to say “yes” to him. My three “no’s” were all firm and resolute. Visibly shaken, my father sat down in his chair and he started reading his Bible. I went back downstairs to my room and to what I thought was important at the time. When my father died several years later, I was still firm and resolute on completing my goals. I was attending Central Michigan University part-time, studying history, yet there were times when my mind would drift to my dad’s offer. This would raise doubts in me about if I really was happy studying history, thinking about what I wanted to be in the future; or if I was rebelling against God and dad. However, I was getting plenty of ministry experiences in Christian non-profits and working with ministers who were affirming what my dad had seen in me nineteen years earlier. These experiences and affirmations echoed in my head and heart as I considered changing from studying history. This is when I felt the push towards considering ministry in service to God.

A friend reached out to me during this time. I thank God for this friend who asked me to consider Calvin College. I toured once on my own, once more with a representative from Calvin College admissions, and then again with my mother. Since my father’s death, my mom and I talked over most decisions, because any decision made affected the both of us. I listened to how she and dad considered my call for ministry. That my parents saw God’s hand on me and talked about it with each other deeply moved me. I was no longer at home in the Baptist church, so I made the decision that if I did go to Calvin College, I would also join the Christian Reformed Church. My dad and mom’s prayers affected my decision to attend Calvin College. I noticed how God found me broken and vulnerable before Him with my mom. On all three visits to Calvin College, I felt washed in grace. I saw people at Calvin radiating the light that shone from my dad when he talked with me about Christian ministry, and it was this vibrant community that broke down my initial resistance in attending. So, I made the decision to transfer to Calvin College and changed my major to Religion Studies.

During a spring semester at Calvin College, a friend and I were studying in the Religion Major lounge. My friend asked me, “What are you doing after you graduate from Calvin? Are you going to teach Religion at high school somewhere?” I thought about this for a minute. Before I could answer, he said, “I am considering seminary and pastoral ministry. You should too.” I heard my dad’s words. The words of my father were the words of my friend. I responded with, “I have to pray about this.” So, we prayed and I went home and prayed more. It was then that I began grieving the loss of my father as I began to think about my father’s willing heart years earlier to pay for my college education. It was only in 2012, three years later after my father’s death, that I looked up and began my grieving process.

With wise counsel from my vocational mentor, I made the decision to attend Calvin Theological Seminary in the fall of 2013. From then ‘till now, in the spring semester of 2016, I have often reflected on my father’s guiding ways and encouragement. I miss him terribly. My father is gone, but he joins a great cloud of witnesses that surrounds me in my faith journey. His legacy continues with me as I continue along in seminary. As a reminder, I often use my father’s Bible for Scripture reading and preaching. a

RonRon is an M.Div. student at Calvin Seminary

and  Journalist for the Kerux.