What I Learned from Daddy Dock
A couple of weeks ago my wife and I had the privilege of going to the Iron Bowl (Alabama-Auburn game). What I didn’t share with you then was how that came about. Ben Dockery, good friend and fellow seminarian, made the offer for us to go with him and his girlfriend, an offer which of course we would not turn down. During the course of the weekend, we had a great time doing a number of things such as eating at Dreamland and the Northport Diner as well as going to an Anglican church (which was a first for me) with Ben’s brother and wife. However, a highlight of the trip for me was meeting Ben’s grandfather, affectionately known as Daddy Dock. Those who know me know that I have love hanging out with “old people.” My own grandfather has had a tremendous impact on my life, and it was this time a year ago that I had the honor of eulogizing him at his homegoing (my other grandfather died in Iran before I was born). Still to this day I find my everyday discourse eclipsed by the shadow of his legacy, love, and leadership in my life. So meeting Daddy Dock allowed me to get to know yet another godly man and grandfather, who with his unavoidable smile and tender words, has provided a faithful reflection throughout his life of what our heavenly Father is like. As we talked about his love for landscaping, the friendliness of his neighbors, and his passion to serve as a greeter in his church, the conversation turned to his family. Before me was a man whose love for his family billows over, and I was fortunate to be close enough to experience a little of it myself. But there was a moment as a Christian and minister I don’t think I will ever forget. A few years ago his wife passed way, and the associate minister at his church was a man by the name of Ricky Michael who also happens to be related to my wife. Having ministered and gained a close acquaintance with Ricky Michael, I am sure there were all kinds of things a church member could say about their minister or pastor. Yet the first thing that Daddy Dock said when Michael’s name was mentioned was, “He stayed with me all through the night when my wife passed away.” Those words came out of the mouth of Daddy Dock as though he has been saying it for years, and my guess is that he has. You know, as a seminary student, we spend a lot of time learning how to exegete texts, explain difficult doctrines, and translate Greek, but I dare say that I learned a lesson from Daddy Dock that night that has made a much deeper impression on me than any nugget of truth can offer. All the hours studying and all the time spent in one’s ministry, the memory that remained in the heart and life of a church member was the night his wife passed away, and his minister and friend was there by his side, not just for a brief moment and quick prayer, but for the entire night. While it would be nice to think that those finely crafted sermons would resonate years to come, what is indelibly etched in the minds of people are the times when they received an embrace which went further than any word could communicate. Over the past couple of weeks, I have thought about what Daddy Dock taught me, and often when I would be battling a headache from cramming for a final or stressed out over a paper, I found myself taken back to the lesson I learned that night, a lesson which invariably turned my countenance into the same smile which greeted me when I first met him. I thought about Jesus at the Last Supper when he said, “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials” (Luke 22:28), and how the early church identified with one another even in imprisonment—some suffering from within and others without, joining with them in their suffering as they “joyfully accepted the plundering” of their property (Heb. 10:32-34). Later he exhorted them to remember those in prison, “as though in prison with them” (Heb. 13:3). The message is the same in all these passages—that to identify with people, to love and care for people, fundamentally begins with simply being there. What does it mean to be with Jesus in his trials? Even still, can you imagine the conversations in that prison house of the early Christians who daily experienced suffering, affliction and loss . . . with joy? In our day of programmed ministry and day planners divided by the minute, it would be worthwhile to take a step back and just show up once and a while. You never know—the only thing someone may remember about you and your ministry throughout the years was that one night where nothing mattered except the people God gave you to love and serve. That night where listening to a grieving husband was more important than sleep and you realized that there was nowhere else that you’d rather be. Some of you may know that Daddy Dock’s son is one of Christianity’s best educators, and my guess is that Daddy Dock taught him a thing or two. As a young man in ministry, I treasured the time I had and am thankful for the lessons I learned—lessons seminary can’t teach and I certainly won’t forget.