Ode To A Father

Posted: February 19, 2020 in Meditations
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A great man passed away this morning: a faithful son, a devoted husband, a steady father, a loving grandfather, a towering servant to the rest of us. Robert Spence will be duly lauded by impressive people in the coming days. He was my college president and what he did in that servant’s role remains unprecedented. Dr. Spence was 39 when I first met him. I remember a couple of little boys running around outside his office. I had no way of knowing one of those boys, Steve Spence, would one day marry my kid sister, Sandi. I had the privilege to enjoy the man behind the public face, the father who framed the character of my brother-in-law. I pay tribute to that man whose legacy vests itself in the treasured Spence branch of my family.

I’m the oldest child of five and am the only boy. I admit to being a wary judgmental older brother. I viewed every suitor of my sisters as proverbial foxes in the hen house. The blunt truth, I didn’t like Steve when I met him. I saw a strutting peacock who had a lot of growing up to do. “Sandi, put him in the rear view mirror. You can do a lot better.” My dad intervened and said, “Shut up!” And I did, but poor Steve had his work cut out for him. Over time Steve would prove himself a worthy husband and today I love that man with a whole heart. I discovered what I refused to see from the beginning, the Godly steadfast nurture of Robert and Ann Spence.

Every time I hung out with Dad Spence, I could count on several things. Kindness: he never spoke ill of any man or situation. He remained a builder of people in private. In 40 years of leadership, imagine what this man had to deal with? People are people, often at their sinful worst, yet Dr. Spence never once spoke ill of anyone in my presence. Everyone I brought up by name, his eyes brightened. He always had a wonderful story that elevated that individual. Wisdom: Dad Spence didn’t preach, he exuded the wisdom of God in an unassuming way, he lived it. Gracious: Dad never dominated a gathering and he refused to carry a heavy hand in Steve’s life. But Dad was always there. When Steve called, he was there. When Steve asked for advice, he gave it. He granted Steve the freedom to forge his own unique partnership with God.

I watched Steve grow as a man through the years. No one I know pursues God with a greater intensity in my life sphere. I’ve witnessed the refining power of the Holy Spirit in his life. We all fail, Steve is no exception. But he has a heart that repents, a hunger to be a better man. And who was a constant throughout this awesome spiritual journey? A devoted father who knew the voice of God, his name is Robert Spence. Steve will miss those calls to Dad. Death is harsh to the living. But Steve houses five decades of lessons in his heart. Those lessons get taught to his children through word and deed. We receive that legacy as family everyday. Steve’s church gets fed from that legacy every week. If I understood back then, when Steve proposed to my sister, what I understand now, I could have saved myself the opportunity to make a fool of myself.

Robert Spence, I will always miss you and I will always remember you. I will forever thank you for the gift of your son to my family, to my sister. You stand in a pantheon of men I deeply admire and look to for wisdom. Say hello to Max and Audrey Ephraim for me. Welcome home.

Comments
  1. Stephen Spence says:

    Phil,
    You Bless me brother!
    Thank you.

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