In the Cork family we have a ritual where Daddy spreads his arms as far and wide as he can and joyfully announces that:
“I Love You This Much!”
It sends the girls (Haley Anne and Emma Jo) into hysterics every time.
My wife Joanne is a practical woman that comes from a country where churches are for getting married in, and make great pubs. We will have been married fourteen years this December. Joanne is the sweetest woman to walk the earth. I believe that she embodies all of the qualities and virtues that women of faith must. She has inspired me from the day I first laid eyes on her (in fact, I have never “seen” another woman since). And, she and our children mean more to me than my own breath — and, anything that resides on this planet. But, when I look at her — mixed with the love and adoration — there is also gut-wrenching fear.
How do I explain to Joanne and my beautiful daughters that I want them to love God more than they love me? How do I justify that I love God more than I love them? I even have a bigger fear… Read on.
Boyd Bailey at Ministry Ventures asked me to write a story about how I went about doing this. Alan Ross gave me a hug and a tag-line.
“I LOVE YOU THIS MUCH…”
So, one day I advised my wife that I loved God, and am convinced that Christ gave His life to get my attention. I believe that I am absolved of all sin — providing I accept Him as my Lord, and His Rising was proof that He is my Savior. Joanne loves me. And, she trusts me. But, we are not back-to-back on “the God thing”. Like many people, Joanne’s position was: “I am a good person. Why isn’t that enough to get to Heaven?” Does this sound familiar?
Boyd had sent me an email inviting me to a retreat up in Dahlonega called Souly Business. I liked the sound of that. I consider integrating my faith into the work place an important part of my work.
I am not going to give too much away about Souly Business and it’s Ministry. It was an emotionally draining and physically exhausting weekend. I will tell you that I know I am a better man for having gone through it. I pray daily that every man can experience what placed God squarely in my minds eye as Saturday merged into Sunday. The stories are numerous, profound, and include my new friend Roy Nunn. He looked me in the eye from across the table and calmly held my gaze as he told us about his little boy Andy. I will never forget these words…
“I trust God”, “I know where he (Andy) is”, and, “You have to understand what I have invested in that place”.
Thanks to Mark Conklin from Chick-fil-A, I will never look at a man holding a cup of water the same way again. And, there was that old cross, a caterpillar, and some moths (close enough to butterfly’s, aren’t they Alan?). I don’t remember making my way to the cross. Fifty men witnessed it. If God will allow me, I will dedicate my life to sharing the glory of it with millions more. But, as I knelt over that cross, and struggled with all of my physical might to pull that “thing” from around my neck, I can’t describe the weight that I would swear to you was pushing me through the floor. Tears pour down my face as I write this. I add this for effect because, other than “centered”, I don’t believe words can describe the peace I felt as I arose from that cross and realized there was no going back for me.
I won’t be the man I was late Friday afternoon on April 23rd 2004. I will strive every day to be the man I was that following Sunday. Call me. Walk up to me. Ask me to tell those stories. I want you looking me in the eye when I pour my heart out to you.
I am a man of great passion, capacity and stamina. I am dramatic and earnest. I have built fortunes and lost them; bled in the ring; carried people from burning buildings; screamed defiantly at foes; competed in the Ironman; gone to jail; given strangers the shirt from my back. I have been compared to Paul and Peter. I have had a wonderful life, and truly relished every moment of it. But as I stood over that cross I accepted that I have no choice but to love God, and worship His Son. And, all of the worldly things that forged who I was through that Friday meant nothing compared to who I could be if I walked in His light. And, the example I set every day was the key if I was going to “rescue the beauty” as John Eldridge would say, and have Joanne with me forever.
When I got home Sunday afternoon I asked my daughter Haley what I could do to make her happy. She didn’t hesitate. She looked me in the eye and said: “stop working so much”. “Play with me”. “Can we go jump on the trampoline?”. I asked her if she knew what “accountable” meant. So, she reminds me every day.
That evening I had Joanne in the crook of my arm. I hoarsely whispered to her about the events from the weekend. I told her about Roy and Andy. I described how I felt kneeling over that old cross. And, this is where I sealed the deal and explained my greatest fear…
I was finally able to find those words… I told her that I wanted her to come to Christ because I realized that I was selfish. Until that sweet surrender occurred, I would have to live in fear that I could lose her forever. But, if she recognized Him as Lord, then I would get an incredible reward. She and I would be together for all of eternity.
About two weeks later a bunch of seven year olds were playing in the driveway of our home in and amongst a group of Mothers. I was mowing the grass. I do that a lot. During a lull in the action Haley announces:
“Hey every body… My Daddy wants me, Emma Jo and my MOM to love JEEZus more than him… Because he LOVES US THIS MUCH!!!“.
She spun around and into her Mother’s wide-open arms. As they looked over at me smiling together, that picture will be forever frozen in my heart, and and my incentive to “leave it on the cross every day”.
A few days later Haley found me listening to a Hoobastank CD. It’s an alternative band. I kept playing the song “The Reason” over and over again. She sat next to me and hit the replay button for me. She listened carefully. When the song was over she leaned her head into my shoulder and asked me:
“Daddy, is that song about Jesus?”
I whispered into her hair:
“I believe it is”.
Go listen to that song.
Brian Patrick Cork, 2004