THREE DOWN AND ONE TO GO
(BUT NOT TOO SOON)
by David Sisler
There are some things you can take for sure-and-certain.
The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. Twenty-six weeks a year, my socks will be right-side out. Kordell Stewart ain't Terry Bradshaw. This rassen-fracken frickin-brickin computer (which won't run my beloved WordPerfect and has forced me to learn Microsoft Word - which I hate) will freeze up at least once before the day is over. Kids will grow up and move out.
Yesterday my youngest son, Matthew James Sisler, moved out, again.
Matthew moved in more than 25 years ago. He and his twin brother, Michael David, arrived four minutes apart at Bradley County Hospital in Cleveland, TN. Michael got here first, and knowing he had two big sisters, he brought help.
When Matthew was one month old, he had emergency surgery to repair an incarcerated hernia. Something was twisted in his young "insides" and if not corrected immediately, he would die. Having served as a pastor I had watched from hospital rooms as patients were wheeled to the operating theater. I was not expecting a nurse to just walk in, pick up that tiny bundle and carry him out in her arms. If you had hit me with a two-by-four at that moment, I don't think I would have felt it.
When Matt was six months old, he found the door open to the basement. He crawled out onto the top step, turned left, and fell about six feet straight down. Had he continued forward he would have tumbled diaper-over-tin-cup down a dozen stairs. Instead he landed on a sheet of pegboard, which was supported by an old pair of hunting boots, and the whole thing compressed for a soft landing. I have no explanation for his change of direction, but I believe it saved his life. Chance, I frequently say, is just another name for God.
Fast-forward to 1993. In May of that year I started going to Russia to minister. Matt went with me for the first time in March 1994 (he has been with me in ministry there 7 times so far). In 1996, I was in Russia trying to start a business to support our ministry, and to say things weren't going well would be an understatement, indeed.
Matt picked up my frustration and sent me an email, encouraging me to continue in our ministry to Russia, regardless of what happened with the business situation. The business effort failed, and failed miserably, and I have come to believe that it did so because God was not within a mile of the effort. But Matt's motivation bolstered my spirits and we continue to follow the Lord's leading in Russia and now into Moldova.
Matt has decided to make a career with Chick-fil-A, a fast food business which is advertised by cows urging customers to "Eat Mor Chikin," was founded by Truett Cathy on godly principles. Days begin at the home office with prayer. Prayer requests are forwarded by top management to local operators. The businesses are closed on Sundays to honor the Lord.
On his path to become an owner-operator, Matt is currently serving as an Interim Manager. He recently completed a one-year stint in Aiken, SC (just across the Savannah River from Augusta and close enough that he could be home for Family Night on Tuesdays, sleep here on Saturdays and be with us for Sunday dinners).
That assignment completed, he has been posted to a Chick-fil-A in Texas - the other side of the universe from this word processor. He'll be home for Christmas, and the assignment will probably conclude in February, but today that seems an eternity away.
I offered to ride with Matthew on Wednesday as he headed west. It's a two-day, 1000 mile trip, and I thought it would be nice if he had a relief driver. I could help him unpack and then catch a flight back to Augusta. Sons growing up have subtle ways of telling their fathers that they are no longer Daddy's little boys. Actually, Michael phrased it rather well. When Matt declined my offer, Mike said, "No other manager's Dad will be out there."
If Chick-fil-A trusts him enough to put a second store into his hands, to ask him to turn a stumbling store into a profitable enterprise, then he doesn't need Dad to be a relief driver. Dad may need it, but the man you raised, David, will do just fine.
Mike and I helped him carry his stuff out and put it in the bed of his truck. Then Matt hugged his brother and hugged me. I had to readjust my grip because he wasn't ready to let go. Neither was I.
Matt cried and I did the "stupid grin" my Dad used, with as little success as he ever accomplished with it. I did okay, actually, until Matt fulfilled Sisler protocol. We live at the end of a cul-de-sac and family members who drive away are required to tour in a circle and wave, in the fashion of sign language - thumb, index finger and pinky extended, middle finger and ring finger tucked in - "I love you."
He made three loops.
Then I sat down on the curb and cried.
In 1991, The Augusta Chronicle had a special Father's Day promotion. Children were encouraged to write letters about their Dads and the winners were published. Matthew's letter was one of the chosen, and that faded, folded clipping is still in my wallet.
In part, that prize-winning letter says, "Every night when I go to bed my Dad tells me he loves me, and I tell him that I love him. Even when I'm older and away from home, I'm sure that my Dad will always be there for me when I need him."
Count on it, son! Count on it!
Now by arrangement with Amazon.com, you can help the work of MIR Children's Foundation. Click on the logo below, and you will be redirected to their site. MIR will receive a portion of what you spend. It will be used to assist our work with orphans in Russia and Moldova.
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Copyright 2001 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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