I love Jesus.
(Okay, I’m sure some of you just rolled your eyes, but hear me out on this one.)
I love Jesus because He is everything that I am incapable of being.
Jesus was patient; when a pharisee was out of control, Jesus didn’t slap him. He just calmly said what He needed to say and went about His loving way.
Jesus loved everyone, even when He seemed weary. In Luke 18, we see the disciples try to keep people from bringing their children to Jesus because they were afraid that He was tired. Instead of turning them away, He opened up his arms to he wee ones and compared them to the ones who would inherit the Kingdom.
Jesus was joyful; He had plenty of opportunities to gripe in the face of adversity, yet He chose not to. Instead, He fixed His eyes on the Father and went about His merry way.
Jesus understood what was being asked of Him and He sacrificed his life for Love.
As I lay here in my hammock, a part of me wishes that I could have lived in the times of Jesus so I could experience His great Love first hand.
And then I am reminded that I already have.
This last Sunday, I got news of the tragic passing of one of the most formative people in my spiritual walk, my Papa Dean.
Papa Dean was not my blood relative, (Who is in my family anyways? Sheesh, talk about a mish-mash of people!) but He was family none-the-less.
I first met him as an uneasy, socially awkward 8th grader at Aurora Christian Academy. At the time I was sure that he was a teacher of some sort, even though he was clearly in his late seventies. But as time went by, I came to find out that he was just a volunteer at the church school that I attended.
At seventy-something years old, he would play kickball with us, (He was ALWAYS the pitcher because he was positive that he had an amazing curve ball), tutor us in classes we were struggling with, and help serve lunch. Famous for dancing his way through the hallways of the elementary and high school, and making off the wall comments that made everyone laugh, he became everyone’s grandpa and friend.
From sitting through just about every volleyball, basketball, cheerleading, and soccer practice and game, to being the star of all of our pep rallies, (Forever riding into the gym on the back of Coach Tschetter’s Harley wearing a tiny leather coat and bandana) Papa Dean was the life of every school and church event.
As time went on, he remained involved in the tiny ten block community around Aurora Christian Academy, even after the school closed and our church eventually moved away.
When I got a job at Starbucks my senior year of high school, exactly one block between ACA and his apartment, he quickly became one of our regular customers, visiting three, sometimes four times a day. By this time he was well into his eighties and therefore had to use a cane, but that never stopped him from giggling to himself as he did his shuffle-jig through the drive-thru and into my store every morning.
When I was old enough to move out and get my own place, Papa Dean became my neighbor and would walk my dog with me early in the morning and sometimes late at night. On those walks we talked about everything from Frank Sinatra to crafting, but his favorite topic always stayed the same: Jesus.
Oh man. Papa Dean was CRAZY about his Jesus. And his joy was simply contagious.
When he danced, he danced for the Glory of God.
When we would sit in his tiny apartment cluttered with his crafts (typically rubber ducks duct taped to some random unrelated object) he would talk about how weary his body was in his old age, but how he simply longed to live the rest of his life for God and tell others about His Love.
Papa Dean had seen more than his share of heart break and pain. After recovering from the pain of losing his wife years ago, he lost his beloved daughter three years ago unexpectedly. He longed to live in heaven with the ones that he loved, but he understood that God had him here still for a reason. Living here, with us… Being our angel on earth… That was his sacrifice for Love.
Papa Dean was hands down the most patient, joyful, loving, and sacrificial person I have ever met– a nearly perfect picture of the love of Christ. And while I am saddened for myself (mostly because I know that I won’t be getting anymore random voice mails where he accidentally forgets that he’s on the phone with me and begins praying, only to end the voice mail with a Christmas tiding in March) I can’t help but smile, knowing that he is dancing for his King in heaven right now.
I am thankful beyond words for this crazy old coot. I might not be able to hop in a time machine and experience biblical times, but I have met a man who knew and loved Jesus so much that it was nearly impossible to see where he ended and where Jesus began.
His name was Dean Jones and he was the true Blue Angel of the Aurora Christian and Alameda / Ironton community.
Rest in peace Papa Dean. Just like the nights when I would sing Frank Sinatra while you played the organ, I’ll be loving you always.
“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)