Is there a person in your life who seems larger than life?
I have a few.
I’m thinking about Uncle Roy Holtzclaw today. He’s had some serious health issues these past several days, and it’s been touch and go. He’s 93, and we don’t know how many more days he will be here, but he knows where he’s going, and we know the separation is only temporary!
Truly, we’re all larger than life. We only use the body God gives us until it stops working, but our essence, our soul, is eternal.
My uncle is my dad’s only living brother. He’s 13 years older, and he has been the spiritual leader of our family since Grandpa passed away when I was a junior in high school.
It’s been years since I have heard him preach in person, although he was still preaching around his 90th birthday. My cousin’s daughter took the time to livestream a recording of one of his sermons on Facebook, and I listened to the whole thing earlier this week.
I’ve been talking to Uncle Roy since before anyone was able to make any sense of my words. Growing up, I was reminded fairly frequently of the time when, as a toddler, I waddled up to stand in front of the pulpit while Uncle Roy was preaching, pointed my finger and baby-preached right back at him.
Uncle Roy gave me the nickname “Hootenanny” for all my babbling, and before I could speak plainly, I’d get enough of it and pronounce, “Dat Boy!”
I remember traveling down to Rosiclare, Illinois, where he pastored a church for several years, to revivals. I remember sitting under his anointed preaching many times in the church my grandpa and his sons helped build from ground up.
Uncle Roy preached with everything he had when he came to the lectern, and I remember, as a young teen, watching him preach with such fire that I thought his tongue was turning blue. I made a remark about it, and immediately convinced myself that I had committed the unforgivable sin of blaspheming the Holy Ghost. Uncle Roy laughed when I told him about it a few years later, after I began to understand Bible teaching better.
Uncle Roy and his brothers preached at their father’s funeral, and the funerals for many other relatives. And every funeral message was focused on Jesus, who brings eternal life.
Uncle Roy performed my brother’s wedding ceremony. He was the first person I called, right after my husband Stan and I got our marriage license. We drove to the little church he was pastoring in Birdseye, Indiana, interrupting a visit with his grandchildren, and he performed the ceremony.
We were running late getting there, but he came right over to the church, with my cousin Daniel, and started filling out the paperwork before the ceremony. I told him I didn’t want to vow to obey my husband, but he looked at me with the same directness that his tiny mother aimed at us when she was serious, and said he wasn’t taking it out.
I said it with a straight face, no fingers crossed, but Uncle Roy grinned. Years later, when he performed a wedding vow renewal ceremony for Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary, he came over, squeezed my husband’s shoulder, grinned and asked whether I was obeying or not.
At family reunions, Uncle Roy, Dad and their siblings regaled us with hilarious stories about growing up in the country, the nine children of a preacher who farmed and drove a lime truck and school bus and anything else to support the family.
They all worked hard and played hard, and gave all of us nieces and nephews the example for teasing one another. Every family reunion was full of some of the best banter, everyone giving as good as they got!
But in those in-between times, Uncle Roy was also the one we’d often go to for spiritual guidance. He gave loving counsel to younger family members struggling with addiction and mental health and spiritual warfare.
I remember coming to their house twice, asking Uncle Roy and Aunt Joyce to intercede with me in prayer for loved ones. They immediately stopped what they were doing and we joined hands and prayed the roof off.
Another time, when I was feeling really beaten down, and unsure, I called my mother, asking for prayer. She prayed, then offered something else: Uncle Roy’s phone number at the latest church he was serving.
I called and spoke to him and Aunt Joyce. I think, if I hadn’t done it, I might have walked away from my salvation. It felt too hard at the time.
But Uncle Roy and Aunt Joyce settled the question for me, told me to chin up, not give up.
I’m reflecting on all of that on this Good Friday. Christ’s sacrifice at the cross made a way for a scrappy country boy to accept salvation, and explain the way to redemption to more people than I can count.
What a life he’s had. And what an eternal life he’s promised through Jesus giving His life and defeating death in His resurrection!