When I was in high school, nobody had ever heard of Martha Stewart, Bunny Williams, or even Pottery Barn. Anyone who was anyone decorated with posters. The guys all had Farrah in that red swimsuit; we girls pinned up pictures of Shaun Cassidy or that other Hardy boy, the members of ABBA, and anything that looked good under a black light.
All of the cool kids got their wall art at Spencer’s. I got mine from my dad:
Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.
Dad bought the poster at the Christian bookstore (the same one where he and Mom got my extra-large “Jesus is Lord” purse, but that’s a story for another blog). I knew the poster wasn’t cool (neither was the purse), but I liked it. I taped it onto the wood paneling of my bedroom wall, just above my orange beanbag chair and my collection of Peter Frampton albums. When I went off to U.Va., I hung it up in my dorm room, just above my bed, right across from my roommate’s shrine to Bruce Springsteen.
I know my dad meant for the message (which you can read for yourself in Matthew 6:8) to point to my Heavenly Father, but I felt like it applied to him, too. Dad usually did know just what I needed, and he was always quick to provide an encouraging word, a sound bit of advice, or even, sometimes, a material gift. Like this tennis racket, which I had not asked for (and clearly did not think I needed):
The best thing my dad ever gave me was an introduction to Jesus Christ. A pillar in the church, a softball coach, and a bright light in our community, Dad came home one night and said he’d been to a men’s meeting where someone explained that it wasn’t about being a “good” person. If you wanted to experience the abundant life here on earth, and then get a ticket to heaven for eternity, you had to have a relationship with Jesus. That was big news to my dad, but when he broke it down for me (starting with the fact that I was a sinner and wrapping up with an invitation to grace), it made perfect sense. I confessed my sins, asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior, and never looked back.
I was eight years old.
My daddy was only 61 years old when doctors discovered an inoperable, golf ball-sized tumor in his brain. When they started using words like Stage 4 and glioblastoma, we knew there was not much that they could do. We spent the next twelve months singing praise songs, counting pain pills, and letting Dad use what we decided must be Russian words when we played Scrabble, as the malignancy stole more and more of his brain. We also prayed, both for a miracle, and for God to be glorified.
The first prayer, for the miracle, didn’t happen (at least not in terms of a return to physical health, but I guess when you get right down to it, getting to spend eternity in heaven is nothing if not miraculous). But the second prayer, the one for God to be glorified, did. Dad lived well, and he died even better, leaving a legacy of faith for his family and friends. He pointed us down the path where we could grow closer to God in a deep and life-changing way, and he left us secure in the knowledge that we would one day see him again.
I miss my father more than I thought I would, after 15 years. (Grief is funny; you think it’s over, and than it just sort of sneaks up, unannounced, and jumps you.) There have been plenty of times in my own parenting when I wished, more than anything, that I could have my own daddy around, just to talk things over. But, as one friend who knew him put it, “Jodie, you don’t need to talk to your dad. You already know what he’d say.”
And I do. He’d say “Pursue Jesus.” He’d tell me that of all the things I run after in this world—being a better wife and mother, writing a book or a blog that someone might actually want to read, decorating my house with something (anything) other than posters—there’s only one thing that matters, only one thing that lasts.
And he’d be right.
My father would have been 77 today. I don’t know how much time people in heaven have to pay attention to stuff on earth (and I kind of hope it’s not a lot, cuz I’d hate for him to know how bad I still am at tennis), but if my dad does have a chance to check in, I hope he’ll see that I’m still trying. I’m still running hard after Jesus and, even though I trip and fall way more often than I’d like, I don’t plan to quit.
Allen Rundle. 1939-2001. A life well lived.