By Tyler Raborn
Every Christmas my grandfather, Ray Downey, sat down in front of his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to read the story of Christmas as told in Luke chapter 2. He’d pull out a Bible and read the story, while the kids (myself included) impatiently waited to open gifts.
As the years went by, and my faith grew (although erratically and with many bumps), I began to listen more intently to him tell the story of the birth of our Savior. He told the story with passion in a slow intentional method.
One year I started learning Spanish, and I bought a Spanish Bible to read. When Christmas came around that year, and it came time for Ray to read the Christmas story, my mother—with her strange sense of humor—brought him the Spanish Bible to read from. He did not speak Spanish.
So Ray opened up the Bible to Luke, chapter 2, and began reading the Christmas story— without missing a beat.
And it dawned on me. He was never reading the Christmas story. He was reciting it.
This man had committed to memory the Christmas story, and only requested a Bible each year out of humility.
Early Sunday morning, April 26th, the sheriff knocked on my grandmother’s door to tell her that “Brother Ray” had been in a serious car accident. He had come by to let her know and bring her his Bible, which he had taken from the scene. Broken glass and plastic filled the pages.
But when I opened the worn book, the broken glass and plastic barely caught my eye. Instead, highlighted verses, written notes, and red ink popped from the pages. And all I could think about wasn’t what this Bible had been through in the past few hours, but what this Bible had been through in the past few years. And how the man who owned this Bible had used it.
This was a man who studied the Word. Meditated on the Word. And never stopped yearning to learn more from the Word. This was a righteous man. A man of God.
I don’t write this to bring light to a wonderful man (although he deserves the recognition), but to bring light to what he left me. And what I implore all fathers to leave their loved ones.
“But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, ESV).
In verse 13, Paul references “others” who have no hope. I am not of the others. I am of the brothers. Although I grieve, I grieve with the knowledge of his salvation. I am temporarily sad in this place, but I know you and I will be together “to meet the Lord in the air,” and “we will always be with the lord.”
This I know with absolute certainty. And that is a gift. The ultimate gift I could ever receive from a father on this fleeting Earth.
I became a father on August 20th, 2014 to a sweet baby girl—Ann Brees Raborn. So, this is my first Father’s Day.
As I’ve considered this day, and what it means to be a father, I am instantly drawn to what my grandfather left me—an unwavering certainty in his salvation. And as a result I am joyfully driven to ensure the salvation of Ann Brees, as well as leave her with the certainty of mine.
Because at the end of the day, our loved ones don’t care about the things of this world—they pass away. They care about eternity. The things of the Lord. And thus, they care about our souls.
“And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17, ESV).
To all of the fathers out there—make sure you leave that gift to the ones you hold dear. There is no greater gift you could give. And no greater gift I could leave that baby girl.
Happy Father’s Day!