I spent most of my childhood in the hamlet of Middletown, California, population 1000 in the town proper. My dad was the pastor of Middletown Bible Church (have I ever mentioned that I’m a PK on this blog before?) and when you’re the pastor of probably the largest church in town, in a town as un-large as that, people know who you are. I can remember many times being at grocery store or somewhere around town with my dad and it seemed everyone who walked past would say, “Hello, Pastor Bauer.” He seemed to know everybody and everybody knew him. As a kid I remember thinking how cool it was that my dad was something of a celebrity, at least to my childish eyes, and it made me proud to be his son. But nothing has made me prouder to be my father’s son than a couple of things that have happened in the last couple weeks.
A few weeks ago my wife’s aunt passed away. Her son, Jen’s cousin, is a Christian and wanted to have a memorial service, but some in the family, most non-Christians, didn’t want to. Finally, they decided to go ahead with the service and asked my dad to perform it. I remember thinking what a tricky thing it must be to do a memorial service for someone who’s eternal fate is not known with any degree of confidence. I remember thinking, how difficult it must be to fulfill the divinly appointed duty to share the Gospel, but to do so in a loving and compassionate way, that doesn’t come across as a tactless sales pitch given at a time of emotional vulnerability. To me it seemed a tall order and I admit I was nervous for my dad, which proved to be a totally groundless apprehension.
God has given my dad an incredible gift. He has given my dad the skill to deliver a clear and clarion Gospel message, not watering it down or skipping over the hard-to-hear parts, in a compassionate way that touches the soul. This from a guy who flunked speech class in college…twice. God is a lot smarter than we give Him credit for. I have been to many memorials my dad has presided over, but usually they were for Christian folks. This was a different animal, for me at least. As I listened to him talk I felt like I did those days in the corner grocery store in Middletown, only to the 100th power. This time it wasn’t just for people knowing who he was, as many in the audience that day had never met him before, but for helping those strangers through their hour of trouble and sharing with them the greatest comfort they’d ever know, that Jesus loves them and died for them.
The other event occured this past weekend. A friend of mine has had a rough go of things the last several years and he called me up on Friday and needed some help. Long story short, he met with my dad to talk about what had been going on and what needed to be done to get things back on track. I sat in for moral support. I don’t sit in on many of my dads counseling sessions, obviously, so this was a unique opportunity to see my dad work. Again, God has given him tremendous gifts. To know how to listen to someone’s problems first, he’s a very good listener, and to have wisdom to help them and courage to tell them what mistakes they are making, but in a compassionate way, is a difficult task.
Its not as if I’m just now realizing what a great guy my dad is. These recent events have just been manifestations of what I already knew to be true. Sometimes you don’t always appreciate what you have because its always there right in front of you. My dad and I have always gotten along famously, and we enjoy spending time together, but I don’t know if he knows how much I respect and appreciate him, not just for being a great father, but for being a Godly man and upright example. But I know he’s a faithful reader of the Life of Ando, so to quote George Bailey, “Pop, do you want a shock? I think you’re a great guy.”