My husband and I went to church last night expecting to hear a run-of-the-mill Father’s Day sermon. You know, one in which the pastor elucidates the myriad roles and habits that characterize a godly dad, such as disciplining his children, working diligently to provide for his family, and leaving behind a venerable legacy.
I certainly don’t want to bemoan such messages (they need to be preached!), but as a young married woman without kiddos of my own yet and whose father went to Heaven four years ago, I selfishly didn’t think the evening’s service would be very applicable to me; I would enjoy a time of worship, applaud all the dads and grandpas seated among the congregation, observe Communion and reflect upon Christ’s love and sacrifice, but I could probably just tune out and launch my Bible app during the preaching part.
Boy was I wrong…
Pastor Randy Frazee asked us to welcome the day’s guests, a father and son named Patrick and Patrick Henry Hughes. The elder Hughes, Patrick, pushed his wheelchair-bound, twenty-five year-old son out onto the stage and explained that Patrick Henry was born without eyes and with several physical anomalies, including the inability to strengthen his arms and legs. Patrick had dreamed months prior to his son’s birth that Patrick Henry would one day be celebrated on a college football field. Understandably, he and his wife grieved deeply and cried out to God, Why us? We did everything right!
The sanctuary lights dimmed and our attention was turned to the glow of the giant projection screens. An ESPN story highlighting this father and son opened with my own father’s favorite song to play on the piano: “Clair de Lune.” Only, to my surprise, the person responsible for the seraphic sound was blind, crippled Patrick Henry.
Okay, Lord. You’ve got my attention, I thought.
A home movie showing one year-old Patrick Henry finding the exact piano keys his mother had just touched, and another of him at age two playing “You Are My Sunshine” by ear – and by request – filled my heart with such awe for our heavenly Father’s grace and goodness that the feeling welled up into my eyes as stinging tears. Footage of Patrick Henry playing old standards and blues numbers on piano and trumpet led to the realization of his father’s dream: Patrick Henry playing his trumpet as part of the University of Louisville marching band. (You can’t make this stuff up!)
“I mean, how in the heck am I s’posed to march?” laughs Patrick Henry, recalling his initial reaction to the suggestion that he join the band.
His father, a UPS employee who worked the graveyard shift, had the answer. He readily volunteered to push his son during each game, from the pre-game drill practice to the half-time performance before thousands of cheering fans.
“He’s my hero,” says Patrick. “I’ve told him before. What he goes through…it’s taught me that I don’t really have any complaints. I guess a father couldn’t ask for any more than the relationship that I have with Patrick.”
Patrick Henry certainly isn’t crying out to God asking, Why me? “God made me blind and unable to walk. Big deal!” he says. “He gave me the ability… the musical gifts I have, the great opportunity to meet more people…”
During the service, Patrick Henry was asked by Pastor Frazee to expound on the above quote. Patrick Henry explained that blindness, in a way, is an ability, and that sight is actually a disability. Unable to look upon a person and make hasty judgments about them based on their appearance, Patrick Henry sees people “on the inside.” He said he didn’t even know that he was blind until he was in pre-school and a classmate asked him, “Hey, did you know you’re blind?” “No,” he replied. “Well, you are,” said the little girl. “Okay,” was his insouciant response.
What gifts! What heart! What a spirit of praise and a song of thanksgiving for how God has rained down blessings, not curses, upon his extraordinary life! And finally, what a remarkable and truly memorable Father’s Day story, written not by a pastor or a greeting card company, but by the very hand of God.
I marvel as I am reminded that our Abba in heaven is even more generous and loving than even Mr. Hughes. As incredible as it is that Patrick forgoes precious sleep and devotes hours of his time to help facilitate his son’s passions, it pales in comparison to the eternal splendor of God’s gift to we His beloved children.
To reconcile us unto Himself, Almighty God sent His only Son to bear our diseases and iniquities and hang on a cross, all so our sins might be forgiven and our spirits joined with His in Paradise one day, our bodies resurrected and glorified. No blindness. No lameness. Only wholeness and fullness of joy forevermore.
Happy Father’s Day!
“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” –Matthew 7:11, NIV
Please take a few minutes to watch the ESPN video of Patrick Henry and his dad. And have a tissue on-hand!
Stay fit, stay faithful ~<3 Di