When I have to speak in front of a lot of people, I feel the way I imagine I would if I were jumping out of a helicopter. It's just not natural—at least that's what my body tells me. Nonetheless, when Scott Anderson asked me a couple months ago if I would introduce my dad at this year's pastors conference, I said yes. (And for four days leading up to it, I questioned the sanity of my decision.)
But I'm glad I did it. I love my dad a lot, and it was an honor to get to say a few things before he spoke on Tuesday.
Below is the text for my intro. (I'm only mildly embarassed to say I had it prepared 5 weeks early.) If you want to see it, it's the first 5 minutes of the video of my dad's message.
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I’m Abraham, number 3 of John Piper’s 5 kids.
Different people know my dad in different ways.
Most of you probably know him as a preacher and an author. I know him as a preacher, too. He’s been at Bethlehem since I was 6 months old.
And I suppose I know him as an author…I’ve read one of his books.
But it’s not most important to me that he’s a pastor or an author. It’s most important to me that he's my dad.
I think, to some people, who only know him through his writing or preaching, he can sometimes become a sort of disembodied idea machine. But to me he is very real.
I think I’ve seen a side of him most people don’t know. I would venture to say that you don’t really know a guy until you’ve sat next to him at the breakfast table while he drips with sweat, because breakfast time is always right after his morning jog. And he prefers to eat rather than take an immediate shower.
I know him as the man who would flip us in the air when we were babies (He did this to my brother once in front of the whole church.) and who swung us around on a broomstick when we were a little older. When I decided to let go one time to see how far I could fly, I broke my wrist.
I know him as the man who didn’t take me to the doctor for four days, because he and my mom said it was probably just sprained.
I remember him as the man who would bring us to one pro baseball game a year. (And sometimes bring a book, too.)
But it wasn’t sports that bored him, just baseball.
I know him as the man who, in his sixties, has played pick-up soccer with us in a park’s empty wading pool and fought harder to win than any of us who are half his age.
I know him as the man who was disappointed with me when he caught me listening to rock and roll in secret when I was 9. It was “Christian,” but I don’t think that mattered to him. I’m not sure if I have history just right, but I think in the 80's drums were still of the devil.
I know my dad as the man who taught me when I was little what the word “grace” means by telling me I deserved a spanking, but he wasn’t going to give me one. This was an especially memorable lesson, because I only recall it happening once.
He also had plenty to teach about justice.
I came home from school with a detention in 6th grade. The teacher had scrawled as the reason for my punishment, “Kicked another student.”
I was surprised and pleased at how dismissively my dad was signing the detention slip when he asked, “By the way, who’d you kick?”
I answered, “Anna.”
His pen stopped. His eyes flared red. His nostrils began to smoke.
“You kicked a girl?!”
Some things grow in memory like a fish that you caught a long time ago, but I’m pretty sure my recollection of that moment and the punishment that followed is not exaggerated at all.
I know John Piper as the man who was going to send me to a middle school that required me to catch up on Latin in summer school. I was very unhappy with him.
To my great relief, I overheard one of the teachers say that algebra was algebra; it doesn’t make a difference whether it gets taught “to the glory of God” or not.
I passed this juicy tidbit on to my dad, and was very pleased that shortly thereafter my time at this institution was cut short.
I won’t say I don’t know how to push his buttons.
I know John Piper as the man who sat next to me in understanding silence to comfort me when I had girl troubles at 19. There have been many times in my life like this when he would probably have preferred to tell me to get it together and stop being a screw-up, but he never has.
I know him as the man who sat with me at Davanni’s Pizza while I told him that I wasn’t really into the kind of girl I should probably marry, and any girl that would want to marry me, I probably shouldn’t.
His prophetic response: “Perhaps….But what about Molly?”
I know him as the kind of man who did not seem at all upset when I proposed to Molly five months sooner than he advised me to.
I know him as the man who threw up his hands with a happy shout when Molly and I announced our surprise of a pregnancy five months after we were married.
And I know him as the kind of man who is the first person I wanted—needed—to call when we went into the hospital and discovered that our next baby didn’t have a heartbeat anymore.
John Piper is a great man. Not because he has a big church. Not because lots of people have heard of him. Not because people read his books.
It is good that John Piper is a scholar; it is good he is an author and a preacher; it is good he’s a pastor.
But it’s best, for me, at least, that he’s a dad. I admire him.
And I’m eager now to listen to him come and admire his own father.