My husband and I lost a friend today. One that changed our lives in more ways than we will ever know.
The friend, of course, was Dr. Jerry Falwell, whom we have never seen as a fanatic, strait-laced, or bellicose preacher–the way the media often portrays him. To us he has always been Dr. Jerry, and we love him.
Hubby and I both arrived on the campus of Liberty University back in the fledgling days of mud and ugly green buses. In 1977, I had only seen the college on television, yet I went there on a scholarship because I was to join the musical group that went around singing and raising money for the school. So we traveled–I think one semester I was in class exactly half the time–but I was able to observe Dr. Falwell behind the scenes.
I have never met a man more unafraid to speak up for what is right. I have never met a man who believed so confidently and completely in the Word of God. I have never met a man more willing to cut up . . . if the time was right.
He was a devoted family man, a natural merry-maker, and willing to apologize when he’d made a mistake. He was committed to the Word of God, sold-out to the Lord, and willing to invest his life in the students who came to study at Liberty University.
I’ve seen him go down a waterslide in a suit . . . and saw his smile as students of Liberty University let him body surf over the crowd. He went to every possible game in which his children or LU students played. He was brilliant, a family man who loved his wife, children, and grandchildren, and he was forgiving.
In our dorm (an old hotel), I learned that an elderly lady, Mama Lind, lived on the second floor. And why did she live there rent free? Because she was a “widow indeed,” and according to the Scripture, the church should take care of widows who had no children to support them. So Mama Lind lived with us, and “grandmothered” us, and we loved her. Jerry did that.
Perhaps it’s because he was a rascal himself in his youth, but time after time, I saw Dr. Jerry forgive someone who had committed some sort of indiscretion . . . . and soon they were back in the ministry. It wasn’t until I left and began to observe other organizations that I realized how rare that kind of forgiveness is. I’ve seen more people fall by the wayside . . . but Dr. Jerry knew we serve a God of second chances.
The last time I was in Lynchburg, Dr. Falwell came into the classroom where I was, gave me a bear hug, and told me he was proud of me . . . and it was all I could do not to burst into tears. Some part of me will always be that young college coed who was desperately seeking to train myself for whatever the Lord might ask me to do. To think that Jerry thought I’d achieved even a little something . . . meant so much.
He wasn’t perfect, but he was a good man. A brave man. A man who would–and did– stake everything on being on the Lord’s side.
If Jerry Falwell hadn’t stepped out in faith to build a college, I wouldn’t have the education I do. I wouldn’t have met my husband. I wouldn’t have my children. I wouldn’t have my job.
And mine is just one of thousands of lives Jerry Falwell touched through his lifetime. Please join me in praying for his family, who will miss him dreadfully. And for the students, who will doubtless begin to think about how he has changed the course of their lives, too.
I pray he enjoys his first look around heaven.
P.S. If this is Wednesday, I’m flying to Colorado. See you CWCC folks soon!