In Loving Memory: A Pilgrim Witness for the Gospel (1966-2019)

PilgrimWitnessDad

I remember the first time I thought about blogging in early 2015. Dad was excited for me and would always share my posts with others. Now, nearly five years later, I said my earthly goodbyes to my wonderful Superman on Christmas Eve 2019. This is the most difficult blog post I have ever written, not because God isn’t giving me words to say as I type, but because I am still trying to process what life will look like without the physical presence of Dad.

He had been living his last month and a half in my grandparents’ living room. I slept in a bed behind a curtain so I could respond when he called for help. So I could also just simply be near him. I remember sleeping in his bed in my much younger years when I had nightmares. Now I was close to him to respond to his nightmares. Last night, when I accidentally moved the curtains, for a split second, I waited for him to call out to me. He didn’t. I am in pain. I am hurting. I am having so many anxiety attacks. I am not okay. Yet the glorious truth is that in Christ Jesus it is okay to not be okay. As I am weeping, our Savior weeps with me.

I also know that my faith sustains me. My faith in God assures me that Dad is no longer in pain. He is spending eternity with our Heavenly Father. He breathed his last breath with us at 6:50 PM in the presence of family and friends. His next breath was in the presence of Christ. It wasn’t labored. He didn’t have to struggle for that breath. It must have been a joyous and peaceful breath. And oh what he must have seen. I can only imagine. I wish I could for a split second see even one-hundredth of a percent of the glorious splendor in front of him. So much more magnificent than the Grand Canyon Dad and I were blessed to enjoy together in 2016. I take joy in knowing that I will one day join him and see all of the sights with my own eyes.

If you ever want to know who inspired me most on this Earth to pursue ministry and a seminary education, I’ll tell you. My Dad. From an early age, he gave me a love of Scripture by reading to me the stories of the Bible. He used hymnals and Gaither VHS tapes to help me fall in love with music that glorifies our Creator. We even had a game where he would whistle a hymn and I would have to guess which song he was whistling. I never could whistle, so when it was my turn, I would hum a song. What wonderful memories this little game gave us.

In my first semester at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary, I was grateful for the support of caring professors who showed me kindness and love in this difficult season. In one of my classes, Dr. Mike Stroope discussed how we might look beyond just the traditional language of mission and share the love of Christ intentionally with everyone we meet in every circumstance. He used a term that has stuck with me since. Pilgrim Witness. As we pilgrim throughout life’s journey, and as we meet people along the way, we are, as Christians, to witness to others through our words and actions. How we treat others is our witness. I have thought about this term quite a bit lately and it came to me that Dad is the best example I can think of as a pilgrim witness.

Everything I saw in Dad was someone who loved others and I have seen his heart break far too often on behalf of others. I cannot imagine a more faithful pilgrim witness. Throughout my life, Dad has loved me, comforted me, encouraged me, fought for me, and has guided me more times than I could ever count. When I fell as a little kid, he would pick me up. When I was sick with chickenpox or hospitalized before my fourth-grade year, he took care of me. When I started having symptoms of Crohn’s Disease in high school, he took me to countless appointments and hospital procedures. When an emergency surgery had me worried that I would miss my high school graduation, he was there to tell jokes and cheer me up. During my UMHB years, we went to so many football games and worship events together. When I gave an academic presentation of my research on William Wilberforce, he was there. There are so many other examples, I can’t count them all.

He was a pilgrim witness to me, but also to others. I have heard from several of his friends who were blessed by his presence during his years working at Channel 25 in Waco in the 90s. For the past two decades, he helped my grandparents care for their foster children and eventually their adopted kids (his brothers and sisters) once they became permanent members of our family. They have so many stories of their own that I have been blessed to enjoy hearing over the past few weeks. Since 2005, he worked in Special Education as either a paraprofessional or as a teacher, and he poured his heart into so many kids. I always felt as if I knew so many of them personally even though I had never met most of them. He loved those kids. I will miss his stories of them and the ideas he shared with me on how to make their lives more fun while at school. He was the kind of person who would help supply kids with food, clothes, and shoes if they needed them. His coworkers over the years have shared with me how much he encouraged them as well. And any time he saw injustice in the world while watching the news, I often saw his heart break for either trafficked kids or victims of hate crime. There are so many other reasons that he was the ultimate pilgrim witness that it seems impossible to name them all.

Dad meant the world to me, and even though his physical presence is no longer with me, he is still with me through the Holy Spirit. Oh, that I might be just a small fraction of the pilgrim witness that was my Dad. For now, I will rejoice that he is no longer in pain. He is celebrating eternity with the Father. So, you will never hear me say that he lost his battle to cancer. No. He beat cancer. Cancer has been defeated. He did that. God did that through him. He had victory over death thanks to the gift of Christ’s victory over death.

I want to see what he is seeing. I want to smell, taste, hear, and feel what he is smelling, tasting, hearing, and feeling. Right now, all I can do is imagine. Honestly, I cannot wait. Even if I live for 70 more years without my Dad, those 7 decades will pale in comparison to the eternity we will spend together. What a day that will be!

“Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night in His temple. And He who sits on the throne will dwell among them. They shall neither hunger anymore nor thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any heat; for the Lamb who is in the midst of the throne will shepherd them and lead them to living fountains of waters. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes” (Revelation 7:15-17 NKJV).

Dad, you have fought the good fight. You have finished the race. You have kept the faith (see 2 Timothy 4:7 NKJV). I love you with all my heart, beyond description. Until that glorious day when we shall see each other once again, see you later Superman!


This Is Just What Heaven Means to Me by Vestal Goodman

Oh Happy Day by Walter Hawkins, Leann Faine, and Angela Spivey

One thought on “In Loving Memory: A Pilgrim Witness for the Gospel (1966-2019)

  1. Josh,
    We are praying for you and your family. Thank you for sharing your journey. What a beautiful testimony of God’s faithfulness and the love of our Father. God bless you! Isaiah 41:13.

    Debbie McBride

    Liked by 1 person

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