Saturday, January 14, 2012

A New Father

(Note: One week ago our family lost a great man, my father-in-law, James Love, who passed away after a long illness. The text below is what I shared at his service.)
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A great man has left us. He wasn’t great in the ways the world measures greatness. He wasn’t a great athlete or celebrity or billionaire businessman. He was great in the humble way he served the Lord to further his eternal kingdom. He was great in how he made deposits into the lives of others. He was great in how he led his family.

Jim Love was my father-in-law for nearly 30 years. My own father died a little before my 9th birthday. I had no brothers or sisters so at the time I met and later married the Loves' oldest daughter, Joi, I had only my mom and some cousins living across the country on my own side of the family. Psalm 68:6 says that God sets the lonely in families, and I not only married a wonderful, godly young woman, I was received into a great Christian home and made to feel more like a son and not just a son-in-law. So in part because of the number of years, but certainly because of the impact he had on my life, Mr. Love completed in my life what my own father was unable to. He became my new father.

His greatest legacy lives on in this great, godly family he leaves behind. He was kind, wise, generous and steadfast in his integrity and service to the Lord. He was always available for counsel in making decisions. My father-in-law exemplified the biblical quality of meekness. We don’t understand that concept today and equate it with weakness. The scriptures say that Moses was “the meekest of men” yet he confronted a tyrant king and led a nation to freedom. Jesus was meek, but huge crowds followed Him and He spoke with authority they’d never heard although He was “humble and gentle in heart”. Likewise Mr. Love walked in strength and authority, clothed with gentleness and humility. Wherever he was, he led and people followed.

He served faithfully in ministry throughout his life in Christian schools and in three churches he pastored. Since his passing this past Friday night, the family has received hundreds of emails of support from former students and people he pastored. He always focused on others above himself. If you had a conversation with him, he made it about you, not him. Right up until the end he was sharing Christ with medical personnel in hospitals and rehab facilities. They cared for his physical needs; he cared for their spiritual needs.

I’ve often reflected on why, in his last few years, he had to suffer so through all of his medical afflictions. But I never once heard him ask why he had to go through such pain. He was not one to sink into self-absorbed “why me’s”, but understood that the more important question was “For what purpose?”, what was God’s intended will that He could carry out through Mr. Love’s life in this way? We may never know in this life what that was, other than perhaps that in a world of suffering he could comfort others with the comfort he himself had received from God, and that he could be an emblem of godly courage for others to draw strength from.

As long as he had breath he gave away his faith to others, then he slipped from our grasp, leaving behind his groaning flesh, and entered the radiant joy of eternity with the Savior. There he is only living apart from us for a season, and one day we will each see him again.

Yes, God gave me a new father, and I couldn’t have asked for better.