I think that people come and go in our lives at just the right moments. It is an ebb and flow as if God knows exactly what you need, and he supplies it in person form. Butch and Mary Sikes are some of our people. They were raising teenagers and we were in toddler mode when we first met at church. They were deeply in love with each other, that much was clear. They glowed with that special best-friend kind of love. Both of them were sweet as honey and the kind of people you just wanted to be around. A few steps ahead of us, and a few years wiser, we looked up to them for parenting tips and how to treat one another.
Butch was a pastor on staff at our church, and his heart was as big as his smile. His hugs were freely given and compassion oozed from him. A worshiper, despite the fact he wasn’t a singer. I can still picture him dancing on the front row, caught up in his love for his Savior. Joy overflowed. I got to know him best when I was in the prayer group with him. He was a prayer warrior that shook heaven with his passionate prayers, and caught the ear of God with his gentle way. He was always the encourager, building people up through his ability to listen and speak into any situation. His gift of faith was a shot in the arm on days when things didn’t look so hopeful. He held fast to God’s words, and did not let us forget his promises. He never met a stranger, and never shied away from sharing his love of Jesus from a place of genuine love. The father heart of God was so evident in his life that people were drawn to him. It was this trait that caused me to look to him kind of like a spiritual father.
I was in a place spiritually where I had all the answers. I thought things were pretty cut and dry and I couldn’t understand why people didn’t see things the way I did. Rather than discount my prideful self, Butch loved me through it. He never pushed me away even when I was completely deserving of it. He waited out God’s correction in my life and never wavered in his encouragement of me. When I saw the ugliness in my heart I stepped back. I was horrified that I had misrepresented God. It was a humbling experience. Butch was the one who gently called me back. He did not let me sulk. He told me I was not disqualified, and that I was valuable. He trusted in me more than I did in myself, and this endeared him to me all the more. All of this was at a pivotal point in my life and he was God’s ambassador of grace.
We lost touch over the years. The ebb and flow of seasons pulled us along different paths. Until Facebook came along I had no idea where he and Mary had ended up. We reconnected a little while before Butch was diagnosed with cancer. Having had cancer myself, my heart dropped when I heard. I sent messages to encourage and tried to make the journey through Cancerland less frightening. It has not been an easy battle for him, and I got word today that he has entered into hospice care. When I read the words tears came quickly to my eyes. Though I have not seen him in years, other than pictures online, I still feel the connection God made between us all those years ago. His ability to pour encouragement into me at a time when my heart was broken has never been forgotten. His willingness to come along side and walk with me through the hard stuff of life bonded my heart to his. He expressed the father heart of God to me and I will never forget that.
He is humble enough that he will try deflect my praise of him, but gracious enough to receive it. I have prayed for a miracle, and will continue to do so because Butch believes in the healing power of God as do I. But no matter if God chooses to heal Butch’s body, or set him free from it, I know that God will get all the glory…because with Butch God always gets the glory. It is how he lives his life… abundant joy, faithful encouragement, uplifting worship, gentle words, peaceful heart, overwhelming grace…all expressed to bear witness to his Lord. I love you Butch Sikes. Blessings to you and peace.