Thirty-five years ago this morning (much earlier than I’m writing this), I was making phone calls and pacing the corridor in front of the nursery at Crittenden Hospital in Rochester, Michigan. I don’t remember his birth weight. I don’t recall his length. However, I can never forget him!
To a father, the birth of a child is special, but the birth of a son is somehow extra-special. And for thirty-two years, Justin Dale Peterson found a special place in the hearts of those who got to know him. His impact was larger than life to many of us—so much so that our memories of him are almost as real as life itself—only he is not here in person.
For example, somewhere in the Philippine Islands, Bob and Susan Tevault serve as missionaries. However, in the early 1980s they were serving as principal and elementary school teacher respectively at Paducah Christian Academy, the educational arm of the Broadway Baptist Church where I served as senior pastor. Or somewhere in Heaven, Juanita Wagers, who in the first years of Justin’s life loved him in her home for eight hours each weekday as his mother worked. Or right here in Southfield, Michigan, just like he was doing during Justin’s junior high and high school years, Dr. Ken Hall will occupy that office at Southfield Christian School. Certainly he will never forget the impact that Justin, a regular visitor to his office, had amongst the school family. (Notice that I haven’t claimed the impact to always be positive, although in the big picture, that impact certainly was!)
The list of people, places, and events the lives of others intersected with Justin’s are too varied and exhaustive to write about here and now—fellow students, soccer team members at every level of soccer from AYSO through Taylor University, neighbors, friends, and fellow Marines. However, that influence was cut short three years ago tomorrow in a freak non-combat accident in the sands of Iraq, where Justin was serving on a border transition team.
Hold that thought (about a life of influence being cut short), and let me ask a sobering question—one that I’m asking myself on this 35th birthday of my first son. What impact and influence does my own life have, given the way I am currently living? You see, any of our lives could be cut short—an accident, a sudden medical problem, or a terminal illness to which we succumb. I know, I know, thinking about dying isn’t a pleasant thought on which to dwell. However, since “it is appointed unto men once to die,” perhaps we would be wise to use various mile markers along the road of life to evaluate how we are spending the lives we have.
That being said, how are you spending your life? What impact is your life having on other people within the circle of your influence? Each of us certainly has a circle of influence—some larger, some smaller. The question isn’t how large or small, but rather “What difference does my life make in the lives of those within the circle that is mine?” Is it positive and wholesome and beneficial for others or is my life a negative influence that drains others and drags them down?
BTW, do you pray? If so, would you pray that both you as the reader and I as the writer, and as our lives intersect in this cyber-moment of time, will make daily decisions that will augment the positive influence of our lives to the benefit of those around us for time and eternity? Thanks for that momentary partnership in prayer!
And since you’re already praying, why not pray for my wonderful daughter-in-law Patty and Justin’s three children, Jared (9), Jayden (5), and Caitlin (3) … and Justin’s four siblings (Charity, Jordan, Joshua, and Joy) … and … well … you get the idea.
Well, I sure do miss my boy, especially today. And I know that I’m certainly not the only one wiping tears, swallowing lumps in my throat, and remembering … and laughing. (You see, if remembering Justin doesn’t make you laugh, you probably didn’t really know him!) But I don’t intend to waste the pain and ponderings. There are many things in life that we have to go through, but it’s always a choice whether we grow through them.
Now, let’s go make a positive impact within our respective circles of influence while we have today! Cheers!
remember Justin and the rest of your family today and praying!
We love you Mr. Peterson and are happy to celebrate Justin’s life with you and your family today. And, you can trust that praying people all over the world are remembering each of you today!
Dale, remembering Justin today and everyday. He was bigger than life and you’re right, if you aren’t laughing, or at least smiling, you probably didn’t know him. May peace be with you and the entire Peterson family, especially over the next several days. As always, you remain in my thoughts and prayers.
Love you dad. Thanks for writing!
Hey, I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog!…..I”ll be checking in on a regularly now….Keep up the good work! 🙂
– Marc Shaw
I don‘t know If I said it already but …I’m so glad I found this site…Keep up the good work I read a lot of blogs on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say GREAT blog. Thanks, 🙂