When I was sixteen years of age God saw fit to take my dad to heaven in a weather related airplane crash in what society calls an accident. It was no accident to God, but it was a life changing event for me as a young kid. I was forced to grow up very quickly as I assumed responsibilities that fell to me as the eldest child and only male in our family.
Growing up and maturing are not exactly the same, but they can be thrust on you without warning and without choice. Looking back I can see the providential hand of the Lord, but at the time I was wavering between youthful immaturity and untested leadership roles. Through the perspective of God’s grace I now can see that He used some important influences to guide and shape me at that crucial time.
God used many strong men during those difficult days to impact me in positive ways. The Lord orchestrated their intersection with my life to encourage, challenge and direct me. All of them were godly men — both ministry leaders and dedicated laymen. At the time I simply appreciated their attention and friendship. Today I see that they were chosen by an all-wise Heavenly Father, who was watching over me, to touch my life.
Recently I’ve compiled a list of over forty men who God used during my remaining teenage years to partially fill my fatherless void. I was thankful at the time to have these men play little parts in my life. None of them tried to replace my dad, but all of them took a vital interest in me.
Half of those men were laymen serving in the church where my dad had been pastor. There was a large cadre of strong men in that church, and they were all dedicated to servanthood. The rest of the men were preacher friends of my dad and they showed their true colors to me, as godly men invested in ministry.
These were all faithful men who were simply following God’s direction to minister to a vulnerable young man. And I am eternally thankful.