Author: Compton, Cliff

Stumbling in my fathers footsteps

James King sings a song called “stumbling in my father’s footsteps.” When I hear him sing it, it always touches my heart, because it’s the way I feel every day of my life.

My daddy was small church pastor, moved from here to there by his denomination over the last half of his time on earth. He wasn’t the kind of preacher you see on T.V. or that you read about in the newspapers. He was the real thing. A man who loved his neighbor, helped those who needed help, and gave of himself, without asking a return on his investment.

If you were dying without family, he was probably there, holding your hand, giving you support as you faced the great unknown. If you were old and infirm, he was there to buck you up, to bring a little joy into your life when maybe there wasn’t much else you could depend on. I saw him paying the bills of parishioners who were mentally challenged and unable to navigate the twists and turns of life. He was there for the human birds with broken wings that could only fly in circles and needed someone to carry them.
It seemed our house always had someone with a hard luck story living there.
The list was long and would make you shake your head, if you heard the stories. If the widow down the street needed a new driveway, dad would be there with a wheel barrel and a shovel and pretty soon there’d be a new driveway and he wouldn’t take any money for it. He just saw a need and filled it. If you poor and hungry, he’d feed you, or buy you groceries. He’d visit those in jail, he’d pray for you when you were sick, or comfort you when you lost a loved one.

When my father died, he had been living in a small mobile home outside of St. Louis Missouri. It was a humble place to house such a great man.

I remember walking through it with a box, trying to collect some mementos of his life to remember him by. I walked away with one box. One box of memories of his precious life. All there was to show for his eighty years.

And I thought to myself, at the time, he didn’t leave me much of this world’s goods. No money. No land. Nothing much of temporal value. No spent it all ministering to the needs of those he served.

But he left me a legacy, the ripples of which I feel to this day. The stories I hear from those he touched. The hearts he helped to mend through the love of God in his life.

And as for me, I ain’t him, though I wish I was. I’m just stumbling’ in my fathers footsteps, thinking about that Marty Raybon song.

Your life’s the only sermon some folks will ever know
If you ain’t walking the walk,
Than brother, talking that talk won’t do.
Show them your sermon
And the light will shine on through

Posted:  5/14/2010

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