PERSPECTIVE: Great men
Occasionally, I look back through old photographs and take a walk down memory lane.
It is always a good journey and often involves seeing pictures of individuals who have made a major impact on my life. Two of my favorite photos were taken in front of the Leavell Chapel at New Orleans Seminary. One is a picture of me in my academic regalia with my Dad at my side when I received my Master of Divinity degree. The other is of me with my preacher Grandfather. These two great men were instrumental in shaping me into the man I am today.
By the world’s measure they were not great men. My Dad finished the 11th grade, and my Gramps only made it through the 8th grade. Both had a background in farming and the oilfield. No one ever called my Dad boss. He was a dairy farmer, roustabout, pumper and later a factory worker. Gramps was a bivocational pastor in such places as Perrier School, Prue, Ketchum, Oolagah and Haskell. While he did own a farm and a couple of small oil leases, Gramps certainly was not known as an oil baron!
Yet in the measure of life, my Dad and Gramps were great men. They taught me to appreciate what is truly valuable. For them, greatness was not measured by the size of one’s house, car or bank account. For them, the scale was tilted by love of family, integrity and a living faith in Christ.
Dad was an ordinary man from humble beginnings. Come to think of it, he lived and died in humble surroundings. But Dad taught me many valuable life lessons. He was a man of his word. He could walk into the bank and get a loan by a handshake. He was trusted. He was a hard working man who did not quit until the task was completed.
I remember getting frustrated and wanting him to take shortcuts and call the job “good enough.” He wouldn’t. He taught me to give my best and not give up, even when life got tough. Twice during my teen years he was hurt in the oilfield. Twice he pulled himself up and was willing to do menial tasks just to put food on the table. For Dad, family was central. He was always willing to go the extra mile to coach my team or attend classical musical events ad nauseum because I was in the band or orchestra. He didn’t know a note of music and far and away preferred the Grand Ol’ Opry!! Above all, Dad loved my Mom. He was a great man.
Gramps was different. He was much more of leader. He was willing to take risks, and I learned a lot about business trailing along with him. Gramps was a towering figure in my life. He was bigger than life in many ways. I loved to tag along with him, and he seemed to always enjoy it. I was proud that he was a preacher.
My fondest memories involve Gramps as a pastor and preacher. He was a passionate preacher who preached with fire in his bones. Even at a young age, I learned from him a reverence for the Word of God. Before I knew what “infallible” and “inerrant” meant (I doubt Gramps knew the meaning of these words), he taught me that the Bible did not “contain” the word of God—rather it was the Word of God. He was a BAPTIST in all caps. He believed the Bible from cover to cover, including the maps! One of my most treasured possessions is his preaching Bible. I also have hundreds of his handwritten sermon outlines in my treasury of memorabilia.
He loved Granny. Gramps was more than six feet tall and Granny was a little short, redheaded, chubby lady. You would have thought she was a beauty queen. He married her when she was just 15. He cherished her as she did him.
With Father’s Day just ahead of us, I want to stop and thank God for putting these two great men in my life. I am a rich man because of the example they set and the investment they made in me. They were used of God to shape and mold me into a man who walks with God. I am blessed. I wish every young man and woman in Oklahoma could have a Dad and Granddad like I had.
Dads, it’s time to reevaluate. How do you measure greatness? What will the memories of your wife and children be at your departure into eternity? Hopefully they will speak of a great dad or grandpa. You will determine their memories. Happy Father’s Day.
Anthony L. Jordan is executive director-treasurer of the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma.