“let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth”
As we sat on the beach under our umbrella and drinking our “Bud Light”, which had become our routine, we somehow began to share our favorite scripture. The reason I say “somehow” is that scripture and our faith weren’t something “Pop” and I normally sat around talking. We both were believers in Jesus; however, faith and The Bible weren’t topics of discussion normally.
The year was 2003, “Pop” is Lisa father, my father-in-law. The beach was on the gulf coast in Destin, Florida for which had become some of our families most cherished time of the year. I believe this was the 4th trip which “Buddy”, Lisa’s mom, and “Pop” made with us, as well as many time other family members, to “the beach”. One of the families favorite memories of our first trip is our son, Christopher, who was likely only 2 years old getting ready to get into the car to leave and saying “bye-bye beach”. It’s one of those ones you had to have been there and a precious moment Buddy, Pop, and ourselves shared together for years to come. There are so many of these types memories that I could share.
In the earlier years, it become Pop and my routine to rise early in the morning 2-3 times throughout the week, grab our clubs, and journey to Ft. Walton to play a round of 18 holes. With all the courses in the Destin area being close to $100 per round, we saved our money by traveling to Ft. Walton paying only about $35 as I recall. Upon our return in the early afternoon, we’d change into our suits, grab our cooler, and head down to the beach with the rest of the family. It was during these times, Pop and I’d share an umbrella and several beers together just hanging out enjoying our time together with family.
Our trip in 2003 (pictured above), was a bit different. While not readily apparent in the picture above with the entire group of kids, Pop was in the final stages of cancer. He was first diagnosed in 1998, fought the good fight; however, it came back with vengeance. So, that year, I’m not even sure we packed the clubs. While we didn’t make it to play golf, we still had the beach, our umbrella, our cooler, our family, and great times of remembrance. It was during one of these afternoon’s after the family had gone in that somehow we got on topic of our favorite scripture verse.
Pop shared that day that Ecclesiastes 11:9 had always been one of his favorite verses. Back in those days, we didn’t have smartphones to look up the verse and certainly weren’t carrying our Bibles with us to the beach. So, all I really remember about the conversation is Ecclesiastes 11:9 being his favorite verse. Sometime later, I would read the verse which in the NIV says the following:
“You who are young, be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment.”
With my only being in my early thirties back in those days, I pictured myself as the “young” man in this verse. As Pop and I had never really talked about why it was his favorite verse, I really didn’t know what to make of it. In some essence, I could hear him saying, “enjoy your youth as life goes fast”. Then, another way of reading it was “be careful to not do things in your youth that will cause challenges in your older years.” On top of these thoughts, I always reflect back upon that this was Pop’s favorite verse and why out of all the scripture in the Bible would he have chosen this particular verse. As I type this today, I honestly still ask this same question; yet, also have experience how God’s Word works on a personal level at times.
For example, John 2:16 “Get theses out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market?”, may not be my favorite verse; however, it’s a very personal verse to me. To most reading this blog, I doubt you would ever look at this verse and its carry anything close to similar significance to you as it does me. So, this is the lens I’ve looked through with Pop. There was a reason this verse was so personal to him and I never got to hear firsthand.
If Pop were here today, he’d be the first to tell you his “youth” may have been filled with a bit too much fun. Those of us in the family saw a transformation in this man happen over his last 5-7 years. It was if the joy of grandchild enlightened Pop as to the “joy” scriptures speak. The grouchy old man who’d go off occasionally in a tirade in his younger years watching IU basketball rarely ever got angry as he approached his time of passing. Again, while we didn’t sit around talking about Jesus much, it had become clear that Pop knew Jesus in his final hours on this earth. The man I sat on the beach with in 2003 wasn’t the same man I first crossed paths with in dating his daughter back in 1985.
Pop passed away 2 short month following our last Florida trip together with the entire Burton family in 2003. While I wasn’t near as emotional as I am today back then, I remember standing in my closet the morning of his funeral by myself totally losing it. My heart was so broken to have lost this man in my life. While I’m privileged to still have my own father around, this man was clearly my second father and a friend.
This past Friday, Pop would have turned 80 years old. I know I speak on behalf of the family when I say, “we miss you dearly Pop” and can’t wait to be reunited in Heaven. May his legacy be an encouragement to “let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth” as we all walk in the “youth” of our eternal life daily.