He’s Not Just a “Prof”, He’s My Dad
About the Guest
Plenty of well known people receive flowery eulogies from the famous and powerful, but far fewer receive parting words of genuine love and affirmation from their children. Dr. Howard Hendricks was one of those fortunate men who received both. Join us as we celebrate a life lived to the glory of God, as recounted by his children.
Parting words of genuine love and affirmation from Howard Hendrick’s children.
He’s Not Just a “Prof”, He’s My Dad
Bob: For more than 60 years, Howard Hendricks taught future pastors at Dallas Theological Seminary. On the weekends, he was out teaching the Bible to people all around the world. Here’s Howard Hendricks’ son, Bill.
Bill: On Friday afternoons, we’d pick him up at the seminary. We’d dash over to Love Field. We’d walk him out to the gate and watch him climb up the steps and wave back before he boarded his plane. It whisked him off to places that we could only imagine. Then, on Sunday night, we’d go back to Love Field. We’d wait for his plane to come in. He was usually in a great mood when he got off that plane.
Mom would ask him, “How’d it go, Honey?” And you knew he’d knocked it out of the park when he’d say: “Just excellent! Very responsive—probably the most responsive group I have ever talked to.” [Laughter] “Responsive”—that was the operative word. If you didn’t hear that word, Dad was not happy.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, March 14th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll hear Howard Hendricks’ children reflect on his life and his legacy on today’s program. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. We shared with our listeners a few weeks ago about the passing of your friend and mentor, Dr. Howard Hendricks.
Dennis: That’s right.
Bob: Went home to be with the Lord on February 20th. I guess it was about a week-and-a-half ago that you went to Dallas to be at Prof. Hendricks’ memorial service.
Dennis: Barbara and I went down there and celebrated his life, along with—I don’t know—4 to 5,000 people—
Dennis: —at Chuck Swindoll’s church—a great service honoring a great life. You know, Bob, I’ve got a bit of a tradition where I keep memorial service programs. I don’t know what else you call them—
Dennis: —just kind of is a synopsis of person’s life. I’ve got one here for Dr. Hendricks, that is now in the front of my Bible and—
Bob: Lots of notes written on the front of that.
Dennis: Lots of notes. Here’s one that he said, “Fear not that your life shall come to an end; fear that it will have no beginning,” or, “My fear is not that you will succeed, but that you will succeed in doing the wrong thing.”
He had a way—in fact, his daughter, Bev, said, “His words were like missiles.” [Laughter] I might say that they had atomic warheads on them. They were words that pierced the heart and directed people toward a Kingdom-mindset of making disciples and getting into the Scriptures.
Bob: You have your Bible open to Ecclesiastes 7. You thought it would be good for our listeners to visit the house of mourning with you today; right?
Dennis: I did. Ecclesiastes 7 says—you guys have heard me mention this before—“A good name is better than precious ointment, and the day of death than the day of birth. It is better to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind; and the living will lay it to heart.”
Here’s what I want you to do as you go near this memorial service, as a listener. I want you to listen. Listen carefully to two sons and a daughter—at how they honored their dad and what they honored him for. This ought to be a great encouragement to you—as a mom, a dad, a grandmother, grandfather—to make sure you’re depositing the right kind of legacy in the next generation. You’re going to hear from Robert, Bev, and Bill, the three living children of Dr. Hendricks.
Bob: And I think it would be encouraging for our listeners to know—and I think Prof would want them to know—that the Hendricks’ household was a real family. They had real challenges and relationships—
Bob: —and there were times they didn’t get along. We may hear some of that as we listen to the kids talk about this, but it was a family that understood its foundation.
[Excerpt from memorial service]
Robert: My name is Robert John Hendricks. I’m the second-born; and now, oldest, surviving offspring of Howard and Jeanne Hendricks. When I was flying into Dallas last Saturday, my prayer was that this week we would honor my father, and we would glorify my Heavenly Father, and that we would never confuse the two—for God will not share His glory with another, even a servant as faithful and beloved as my dad.
With that in mind, the first thing to know about my relationship with Dad is we are polar opposites. We could not be more different. When God designed my father, he designed a man who influences primarily through talking. Then, he gave him an older son who does not learn best by listening. [Laughter]
So, around the time that I was sprouting my first chest hair, I had achieved escape velocity from my parents’ orbit. This was evidenced by my ability to sit with my friends during a church service; but being the irreverent and irascible character I was, I immediately violated the terms of the agreement—found myself back sitting with Mom and Dad, serving out the rest of my sentence. [Laughter] As I was bemoaning my fate and looking forward to another snooze-fest of a sermon, I would inevitably look over to Dad. Here he is—with the Bible open in front of him, his face target-locked on whomever was talking; and he was clearly engaged. Before long, he would unsheathe the pen of furious writing.
Ever watch the man take notes? It was like an aerobic workout. [Laughter] He’d fill up the spaces provided on the bulletin in short order. Then, he’d open it up and start writing over the printing. After that was filled, he’s going for the visitor cards to jot more stuff down. And when he started reaching for the Faith Promise envelopes, Mom would smack him on the hand there. [Laughter] He would seem possessed by the Word.
Well, one Sunday afternoon, I got up the nerve to ask him what in the world he found so exciting about something that I, personally, found so sleep-inducing. As soon as I said it, I realized I had just punched the launch code for “Prof”. [Laughter] In this case, it’s not just short for “professor”; it’s short for “profound” because I knew that’s what I was going to hear. It may or may not be helpful for me, but it was going to be profound. It was going to be memorable. Sometimes, it was even—well, you were even able to frame it—it was that important.
He goes through this quick metamorphosis—the face changes, the finger of perpetual pointing comes out, the voice becomes pulpit-ready. He turns to me, as if addressing a crowd of thousands—we’re in the living room. It’s him and me. [Laughter] He says to me:
Son, when I got up this morning, my Heavenly Father had prepared a sumptuous feast, just for me. And if the man who is serving this meal is not up to the task, that does not exempt me from the responsibility to sit down and enjoy what God has provided. So, if I find that he’s not up to the task, the Spirit, that is holy, will convict me. I get into the text; and before long, I’m seeing things. I’m making connections. It’s getting exciting, and I’m foaming at the mouth and verily need to be led away.”
And he goes on like that. At some point, he stands up, which is signaling the approach of a punch-line here. He looks at me, with this twinkle in his eye; and he says, “Son, that’s the reason I’ve never had to sit through a boring message in my life.” Another pause, then, he says, “Neither should you.” That’s what it took—not hearing about how great the Word was—but seeing its affect on his life—because when I saw the power of that Book on that man, that dramatically, I said, “Man, there’s something in here I need!” And to this day, after he trained me how to do what he did, I never—well, check—I rarely sit through a boring message.
Yesterday, we had a beautiful service conducted by Dr. Wendell Johnson. We laid my father’s body in the ground. With tears of sadness and love, we watched him go back to the dust, upon which he was made. Last night, as I laid my head on the pillow, the tears came. Only this time, they were tears of immense joy—for I was carried off to sleep, last night, by the majestic idea that at that very moment, in a place more real than this present moment, my earthly father was beholding the face of my Heavenly Father—a face he had never seen before, but instantly recognized. He’s looking at his Creator, his Redeemer, his Lover, his Friend.
And while Dad longed to go home—talked a lot about it—particularly, toward the end—I had been watching him my whole life. I knew that there was an even deeper longing—an ancient longing—that stretched all the way back to when he took his first step in the faith, at the age of nine, all the way through until he took his last step into eternity. Dad not only longed to be finally home, he longed even more than that to be forever holy. For when we see Him, we shall be like Him for we will see Him just as He is.
Thank you for listening.
Bob: Well, we’ve just heard a portion from the memorial service for Dr. Howard Hendricks, where his oldest son, Robert, reflected on his relationship with his dad.
Dennis: Yes. And now, we need to listen to his only living daughter, Bev Hendricks Godby, who was his favorite.
[Excerpt from memorial service]
Beverly: I came into the story, tailor-made it seemed, to play the role of Daddy’s girl. He was gone more than I liked during my childhood. Even when he was home in the evenings, he could be found still working—scribbling energetically on a sheath of papers from the red chair in our living room—completely absorbed. I used to come in and sit near his chair—willing him to take a break and want my company, keeping myself occupied, of course—in case he were to look up and say, “What are you working on, Pal?” It was foolish to ever leave yourself open to have to answer, “Nothing,”—[Laughter]—because that would earn you an Encyclopedia Britannica® volume and an assigned learning opportunity. [Laughter]
But regardless of what I appeared to be doing, I really spent my time trying to figure out what he was writing with such obvious passion—big expressive lines were drawn, shaking the paper dramatically, as he alternately scowled and smiled to himself. His penmanship couldn’t help but draw attention. I especially loved how he signed his name, always bold and emphatic, never confined to the allotted line or blank. In John Hancock-like fashion, he would emblazon a memorable flourish no one could begin to imitate. In time, I would see that as the perfect metaphor for this ineffable effect he had on people—a man who signed his name all over their experience like no other. He would write words that stayed with them and flowed out, like permanent ink, into all they did from then on.
Every day, I can remember a father who hit the ground running and just kept going, asking a lot of himself and everyone around him. His motto, which still resounds in my memory, was, “When we work, we work; and when we play, we play.” But take it from one who was there, even when we played—we worked at it, if Dad was involved. [Laughter]
Vision—it defined him. He always seemed captivated by something bigger or higher. Whatever he saw, he wanted everyone around him to also see and get excited about. This gave him utter conviction about everything in his life, carrying him—not just through the heights of a gratifying and growing ministry—but also through the debris fields of hard and punishing sorrow, as well, with the same unshakeable sense of purpose. I remember sitting with him, just before his surgery to have his eye removed. Here he was—as steady and courageous as I had ever seen him be—prompting me to say, with all the conviction of the world, “Dad, they can take your eye; but they can never take your vision.”
The vision defined him, but it was his voice that distinguished him. I believe his uncommon influence came from always keeping faith with the rhythms of the One who called him to account. That message and his clear sense of calling to speak it drove him, relentlessly, to use his gifts of impact as much as he could in the time that he had; but he never forgot on Whose behalf he spoke. Success, for him, was defined—not by the fame or accolades that came his way—but in having left that indelible signature, somewhere in the hearts and minds of others, inspiring them to go out in new directions that transformed forever the arc of their story as they sought to make their lives count for eternal gain.
After retiring from full-time teaching at the Seminary, he entered a hard, discouraging season of growing frailty and diminishment. We began what would be our long goodbye. The unanticipated joy I received, though, was—all my life, I had waited my turn to spend time with him. Now, here he was—free whenever I could come. So, in those hours, I asked him to tell me again his story—in his own words, highlighting the people and places, from his life, he remembered best. I noticed as he would narrate through these Hallmark® memories, all his fire and light returned. He was there again—in the places where his words flowed with deftness and precision—where he commanded rooms with humor and brilliance of thought—where he had left so impressively the signature only he could have ever left.
We revisited together those places where God had poured out his faithfulness again and again. It was the best parting gift he could have given me. I was shown the splendor of the Lord, at his life’s end. I saw that the praiseworthy work of my father’s hand had been established for him—that fire that burned so steadily and drove him to excellence had been divinely led and fueled for the very space and time he had been given. The vision, the voice, and God’s victory through him, now completed—his life- song of faith have been held out to the very last note. “Be Thou my vision, Oh Lord of my heart. Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art. Thou my best thought by day or by night, waking or sleeping now forever Thy presence my light.”
Dennis: And what followed Bev Hendricks Godby’s words in the memorial service for Dr. Howard Hendricks was a trumpet solo, Be Thou My Vision. I’ve got to tell you, it was powerful. Dr. Hendricks’ granddaughter, Dr. Brittany Hendricks, evidently arranged this great hymn of faith, Be Thou My Vision, to a trumpet solo that she performed. Every stanza was different. It was powerful, sacred, and holy.
Bob: So, you heard from his oldest son, Robert. You heard from his only living daughter, Bev, who was his favorite. She said that; right?
Dennis: Well, and the next one was Bill Hendricks, the baby in the family. He really argued about being the favorite—but the favorite of Jeanne, his mom. He talks about how his dad was a good man who lived a good life.
[Excerpt from memorial service]
William: The bottom line is when you ask me: “What was it like to be the son of Howard Hendricks and what sort of father he was?” I end up where C.S. Lewis, allegedly, ended up when he observed that all any of us really need is a good-enough father. And my dad was certainly a good-enough father.
I realize that answer may disappoint many of you because I know what you want to hear. You want to hear that Prof was a great father. I would say that except that I’ve never figured out exactly what a great father is. It’s easy to evaluate greatness in sports, in business, in music and the arts, and architecture, in state-craft, in warfare—in just about any other sphere of human endeavor, including teaching—but when it comes to fathering, we jump into a whole different category. We have to redefine what we mean by greatness because fathering is not a performance—it’s a relationship.
What’s more—the role of father rarely showcases any man’s greatness. If anything, it may diminish it because the last thing any man wants to be or to be perceived as is incompetent; but unfortunately, nothing exposes a man’s incompetence and inadequacies—whatever they may happen to be—like fathering because children see it all. There is no possibility to hide behind a persona.
Well, the wonderful thing about growing up and becoming an adult is that you finally see and discover that your parents are people—people just like you. They struggle with the same challenges of life that you end up struggling with: self-worth, and self-doubt, the whole problem of making money and paying the bills, where to allocate your time and your energy, how best to make your mark in life, how to contend with generational sin in your family as well as your own sin and brokenness, how to come to grips with your aging body and its mortality, and finally, as you stand at the edge of eternity, trying to determine whether your life really mattered. I know, for a fact, that my dad struggled with all of those issues and more.
In fact, as my brother alluded to, my dad went through some serious and sometimes prolonged bouts of depression when he was in his late 30s and 40s. Later, of course, when I became a father, myself, I began to understand why. [Laughter] I’m fairly certain that a lot of Dad’s depression had to do with his role as a father. I know that many of you looked at Dad and said, “I wish I could be half the communicator that Prof Hendricks is.” Well, I can tell you that Dad looked at many of you and said, “I wish I could be half the father that you are.”
Today, Dad is standing beside his Heavenly Father. None of us knows exactly what that encounter looks like. Scripture doesn’t provide us with very many details; but in light of all the books that have come out recently on what Heaven is supposedly all about, I guess I’m free to offer my own speculations. [Laughter] So, here’s my fantasy. Ten days ago, when my dad was finally summoned home, the first thing he heard the Lord say to him, when he showed up was, “Well done, Howard, good and faithful servant. Welcome into the joy of your Master. Howard, you were a good dad.” My dad was a good dad. That’s what I told him when I said, “Goodbye.”
Bob: Pretty powerful moment as we hear Bill Hendricks, the youngest of the Hendricks children, at Howard Hendricks’ memorial service, which was held earlier this month in Dallas. I was thinking the service went about two-and-half hours; right?
Dennis: Close, close to that.
Bob: And that was with three of his children sharing.
Dennis: They were supposed to take five minutes—
Bob: Yes, I’m just thinking, “When we do your—
Dennis: —but they didn’t.
Bob: —“memorial service,”—
Dennis: They didn’t—
Bob: —“it’s going to go all day.” [Laughter]
Dennis: —they didn’t take five minutes. And you know what? They shouldn’t have. I’m reminded, as Bill concluded, of another great statement that Prof said. He said, “We are in the land of the dying, going to the land of the living.” That’s what the Bible teaches. This little parenthesis—called “time”—is just an interlude in the grand scheme of eternity—and the glory of God, being displayed in all of creation, and declaring who God is.
And this man—a good father, a good husband, and a good man—Prof Hendricks did a great job—did a great job of showing off God to the world.
Bob: Well, we’re going to have the opportunity, tomorrow, to hear Dr. Michael Easley, who provided the message at the memorial service. I want to encourage our listeners to tune in for that. If you are interested in watching the memorial service, we have a link on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. It’ll take you to a website where you can view the entire service. Once again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com for more information about that.
And be sure to join us back tomorrow as we will hear from Dr. Michael Easley with his reflections on the life of Dr. Howard Hendricks. I hope you can join us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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