Proverbs 22:6 Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.
Ephesians 6:4 Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Colossians 3:21 Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
Being a parent in today’s world isn’t easy and it probably wasn’t easy when my parents raised me. I am thankful to have had two loving parents, who raised me and taught me by example, how to live an honest and God led life. Today however, I am going to remember the men in my life who played a part in molding me into the man I am today.
My father, George Mathis, was a wonderful father. He gave me the gift of his time and he always wanted me to go with him everywhere he went. I regret now the many times that I didn’t go with him. Most importantly, I knew that my father loved me and he knew that I loved him. He taught me the importance of an honest day’s work and how to be trustworthy and dependable.
My father was an excellent cook and I wish that I had spent more time with him in the kitchen, learning some of his secrets. He would come in tired from work most days but always seemed to find enough energy to toss the baseball with me for a few minutes. He was handy with tools and he enjoyed working in his garden, he always enjoyed being outside.
During my last year in college, my father had a heart attack and was taken away from me before I was ready to see him go. It was a difficult time for me, as I questioned why I had to lose my father so early in my life. There were so many things that he had yet to teach me and more advice that he needed to give me. I wondered how I would function without my father in my life and I wondered who I would turn to for help when life became difficult.
There are many days when I wish that I could talk to my father and get advice from him. I often wonder how much he would have enjoyed and loved his grandchildren and how he would have spoiled them. It is difficult to believe that it has been twenty five years since his passing. I love my father and miss him so much, but I know that death has been defeated by Christ, and that we will one day, be reunited in heaven.
Another man who had a tremendous influence in my life was my uncle, Grover Simmons. I always had a great deal of love and respect for Grover. He would quiz me on state capitals, on national and world leaders and he took me along with him as he worked as a game warden and a deputy sheriff. Soon after I bought my first car, he would pull up into the driveway and do an “inspection” of my car. The cleanliness of my car was of the utmost importance and I always kept it clean in order to make Grover proud. He was always teaching me something about the world and about my duties as a citizen of my country. He also loved God and taught me about my responsibilities to my creator also. The way that he carried himself and led his life was something that I have remembered throughout my life. I continue to try and be just a fraction of the man that he was – a man that I loved and respected so very much.
My grandfather, Cleve Simmons, was another man who played a pivotal role in teaching me values and about love for God and family. “Granddad” and I would sit and talk for hours on his front porch or at the picnic table under the large oak shade tree. He told me stories about growing up and the difficulties of raising a family in the middle of the Great Depression. I remember him talking about the importance of a close knit family life and how his faith carried him through some dark and difficult times. My grandfather was not a wealthy man but he taught me the importance of helping out those less fortunate and those in need. He taught me that you do things for others quietly, not drawing attention to yourself.
My granddad loved his home in rural Banks County and he didn’t like traveling very far away from home. I have always felt a special bond with the county that I grew up in because of how much my grandfather loved it there. I can still picture him walking up and down the walkway at his home, and his words to me when I would come up on his front porch, “Hey son, come and sit a spell and let’s talk.”
I loved my grandfather dearly, and after thirty years I still miss him, as I remember and think about the many conversations that we shared. I thank God that there will be a day in the future when we will once again sit and talk and be reunited in heaven.
My father-in-law, Rawdon Akins was another man who had a tremendous impact on my life. Although I would only know Rawdon for thirteen years, the effect that he had on my life was incredible. Rawdon’s relationship with God was the first thing that caught my attention. Rawdon was a godly man and you could see and sense that in the way that he lived out his life. He was a humble man who loved God and his family. Taking care and providing for his family was important to Rawdon and I constantly try to emulate his actions in my own life. Rawdon encouraged me as I felt called into ministry, and he was there for my ordination, telling me how proud he was of what I was doing as I followed God’s call upon my life.
I remember the last time he heard me preach. He and I were riding together back home, after a service at a church in Union Point, Ga. He always encouraged me to continue following God’s call upon my life, and this day was no exception. Rawdon told me what he liked about my sermon and we talked about the first time that we met. Little did we know that we would not have many more of these conversations remaining. Rawdon passed away a short time later, and it was with great honor, that I helped to officiate his funeral. It was a blessing that I could do this for a man who I came to love and respect so very much.
I am thankful for the time that God allowed me to spend with these men, and for the chance to learn from each of them, how to be a better father, husband, and follower of Christ. God gave me each of them for a “season” and I know that I am a better person because of the influence of these four men. It is my hope and prayer that my family will be able to say the same of me when I am gone – that I was a good husband, father and follower of Christ.
John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”