Friday, June 23, 2017

Memories of Daddy, part 4: OBU, My Faith Crisis, and a Loving Dad
by Bill Jones
Trustee, T. B. Maston Foundation

In September 1969, I entered Oklahoma Baptist University. Mother and Daddy drove me to Shawnee, helped me register, and moved me into Brotherhood Dorm. Then they said goodbye and left. It wasn't 10 minutes before Daddy was back in my room, telling me he had forgotten to leave me some spending money. I later learned that this was just an excuse - he just had to see me one more time, was already beginning to worry about me and miss me. (More tears!)

Read part 1: A Loving Mother and Daddy, and a Treasured Note

Read part 2: Daddy, Baseball, and Me

Read part 3: Hearing Daddy Preach and Goodnight, Johnny

Read part 5: To Hug or Not to Hug; Late-Night Talks; 'the Night of the Three Jasons'; and a Devoted Marriage

In November 1970, I lost my faith. I had professed Christ publicly at First Baptist Church, Richardson, Texas, in April 1961 and been baptized. In my teenage years at Bethany Baptist in KC, MO, my world had revolved around Youth Choir and the youth group there. I had even become somewhat of a leader, at one point being elected Youth Pastor during our annual Youth Week. 

Somewhere around the age of 15 or 16, I became convicted that God was calling me to the music ministry; I went to OBU mainly because of the influence of our music minister - and my dear friend - Joe Dell Rust, who had graduated from OBU, which had a Fine Arts College, led by Dean Warren M. Angell, with a reputation to match or exceed that of at least any Baptist school. I entered OBU on a Church Music degree program.

But my "faith" was built on a house of cards; I had never really understood the nature of faith. To me it was more the acceptance of a set of facts; yes, there was personal commitment involved, too, but the question of faith vs. facts was my problem. On that day in my sophomore year at OBU, when a professor's statement caused me to realize that I couldn't prove any of the stuff I believed, the house of cards collapsed, and I walked out of that class no longer believing in God, much less Jesus Christ as the Son of God.

I had friends at OBU, preacher's kids like me, who went through a similar crisis; when they shared their newfound struggle, their fathers argued with them and yelled at them.

When I told my dad what had happened (and it took a year or so before I got up the courage to tell my parents), he told me he understood; he shared that he had gone through something similar when he was young, and that he understood that this was something I would need to work out on my own, but that he would be there whenever I needed, to talk with, to respond to any questions I might have.

I don't recall any specific discussions with him beyond that, but I do know that I consider Daddy the greatest influence in helping me find my way back to Christ.

Of course, having lost my faith, I had to get out of the Church Music program, so I switched to a Music Education degree. No, I really didn't want to teach all that much, but I didn't have any passion, any great love, outside of music. So I completed the Music Education degree and was then pretty lost, still struggling and searching for truth on which to stake my life, and also struggling to figure out what to do with my life.

One thing I tried was Law School; I scored in the 96th percentile of the Law School Admission Test and was admitted to the University of Oklahoma Law School, which I entered in August 1975. I spent three semesters there before withdrawing after recognizing that I simply wasn't cut out to be a lawyer.

It was during my time in Law School, however, that Daddy and other members of his Home Mission Board Interfaith Witness Department came to speak to the Baptist Student Union at OU. I went to hear them - the only times I ever darkened the doors of the BSU at OU. One evening before one of the sessions, Daddy and I went to dinner together, and I shared with him that, after over 5 years of searching and struggling, I found myself able to once again accept that the Bible is true, that God is real, and that Jesus is God's son. Well, at least I was able to accept it intellectually, although a real faith commitment, a real personal commitment of love and trust would take longer. But now I understood what faith was about. I was trying to build my house on a foundation of faith this time, not a house of cards.

I would never have gotten to that point without the patience and understanding that Daddy showed me from the beginning.

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