A Lesson From My Dad

This past Sunday marked 10 years since my Dad passed away.

That’s 3,650 days without him. I’ve missed him each and every one.

On Day 3,650 without him, this past Sunday, I was intrigued to notice which memory surfaced in my mind. I’m old enough to know to pay attention to memories when they surface on significant milestones. This memory was a bit unusual if I’m being honest. It took me a while to figure out why. When I did, I thought it was worth sharing with you.

Here’s the backstory: When I was a junior in high school, my Dad and I started a ministry together. We traveled around Georgia speaking to high school students and adults in churches. I would speak to the students in Sunday School and my Dad would do the same with the the adults. Then, we would co-preach together in the worship service.

In those early days, I no doubt preached some of the worst sermons in the history of the Church. But, I was learning. This is where I learned how to communicate and I’m forever grateful.

A couple of years in, we were invited to preach at a Saturday night revival in South Georgia. I can’t quite remember where exactly but I do remember we left in the morning to get there in time. It was quite the drive.

We pulled up to the church at 6 pm and the service was scheduled to start at 7. There was only one other car in the parking lot which belonged to the pastor. Two cars and three people. At 6:45, we noticed nothing changed. Still, two cars and three people — the pastor, Dad and me.

We decided the three of us should go outside and stand at the door of the church to greet guests as they came in.

6:50: Still no one.

6:55: Same.

At 7 pm, the start time of this supposed revival, the pastor made this rather obvious statement: “Well, I guess I should have promoted this more.”

At 7:15, we finally realized the truth: No One Was Showing Up.

At 7:45, Dad and I were eating dinner at Shoney’s. (Anybody remember Shoney’s?! I loved that place!) We eventually caught the second half of the Miami/FSU football game in our hotel. This was back in the day when that game meant something. Maybe that’s why no one showed up.

Over the course of six years preaching with Dad, we saw hundreds and hundreds of people commit their lives to Christ. It truly was remarkable. And yet, on Sunday, the 10th anniversary of his passing, the memories of the successful Sundays weren’t what surfaced. What did was something that initially was embarrassing to both of us and what we concluded was a waste of time — going to preach at a revival where no one showed up.

And yet, over time, that night became a treasured memory. “Remember that revival when there was no reviving?!!” we would remind each other. “No one showed up. We’ve even got something on Billy Graham. I bet he never preached a revival where no one showed up.”

And we would often repeat that now infamous line to one another: “Well, I guess I should have promoted this more.”

No one around us understood why he and I thought that was so funny. I guess you just had to be there.

And I think that’s the point, the reason why this memory surfaced on Sunday. You see, success is wonderful. I’m all for it and have been blessed to experience some. But the valuable memories in life, the ones our conscience holds on to, aren’t always the successful ones. Sometimes, they’re the ones that remind us we’re human. They’re the ones where you experience failure, but you don’t take yourself so seriously and laugh, even revel in the moment with those who are experiencing it with you.

Do you find yourself in a season that doesn’t seem like a successful one? I’m not trying to make light of the difficulty you’re going through. But what I am saying is take a moment to look around. Find the people who are on the journey with you, and thank them for being there. And in the face of all that’s happening, see if you can find something good in it. Better yet, have the courage to even see the humor in it.

Who knows? A few years from now this season might turn into a memory that causes you to smile, maybe even laugh.

If that’s hard to believe, I get it. But don’t forget who’s writing this to you — a preacher who preached a revival where no one showed up.

It was painful at the time. It makes me smile today.

Miss you Dad.
Jeff Henderson

The FOR Book

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