It is no secret that Thelma Bridges wanted her oldest daughter to marry “good” and that meant marrying someone who was going to be prominent in the Pentecostal Holiness church, preferably a particular someone who was going to teach at Holmes Bible College. Thus, it was no secret she did not approve of me. She never called me by my right name until Cheryl and I had been married a dozen years or longer. In her mind I wasn’t even Pentecostal; I was “Chuuch of Gawd.”
Sam saw this coming long before they ever met me, I’m sure. He proceeded to bend over backwards to let me know I was welcome and he thought highly of the Church of God. He didn’t have to but he told me story after story of how the Church of God had ministered to people he knew. Most significantly Earl Paul, Sr. had worked to get Sam’s niece and nephews into the Church of God Home for Children where they were well treated, educated, and the boys grew up to be Church of God pastors.
He didn’t stop there. He was free with his criticisms of the PH church of his youth, all the young men who were hurt by the legalism, no ball playing in particular. Sam, who was raised Baptist, had played semi-pro ball himself. It was clear his point wasn’t to belittle his own denomination; he was an elder in the McNeely Memorial Pentecostal Holiness Church at the time. No, he just wanted me to know he understood and he didn’t look down on me for my denomination.
I spent a lot of time talking with him, mostly listening to his stories. He wasn’t the kind to force a narrative on others, but if I asked he would freely share. I asked. I’ve written some of those stories elsewhere (see http://familyjohns.blogspot.com/2008/12/conversations-with-sam-you-cant-see.html & http://familyjohns.blogspot.com/2008/12/conversations-with-sam-dying-is-such.html). I’m certain I’ll write more about him later. For now, I just want to restate that I am thankful for Sam Bridges. He was a gentle spirit, true friend, a welcoming soul, a good father-in-law, and a faithful follower of Christ. I miss him greatly.
March 5, 2010