As one of the elders in our Evangelical Free church, I am committed to supporting, encouraging and working alongside our new pastor, who is a young man (34). As his head elder, I am 75. I often think back to the days when I was young pastor. Recently I was reflecting on the three years (age 32-35), when I was pastor of a 800 member Lutheran church in northern Minnesota. It was my second call, following three years in the Twin City suburbs. I was insecure, but zealous to have Lutherans to come to know the joy and freedom in living for Jesus. It was in Babbitt, that I began to discern my style as a pastor and who I was as a man.
I was only beginning to come to grips with my “father wound.” There was a hole in my soul, that would take years for me to understand and fill. This is why Woody Uppman is significant in my story. Even as I write about Woody I get emotional. You see, Woody became the loving, supporting and encouraging Father I never had. I loved hanging out with Woody. Often I would go over to Woody in the afternoon on my day off (Monday). I would just hang out with Woody. He helped me learn how to do basic maintenance tasks on our two cars, we got into wood burning stoves together, did a little gardening and just had coffee together, taking about life. I felt at home over at Woody’s house. We laughed a lot together. Judy also knew it was feeding something in my soul.
Woody never talked a lot about the Lord, and seldom frequented the doors of our Lutheran church. He was retired after years of working in the open pit iron ore mine. He had little education, lived in a modest house with his wife, Edith, but he was my friend. When I was with Woody I could just be me, not the pastor of the Lutheran church. He accepted me for who I was as a young man. I think Woody knew intuitively that I needed his unconditional acceptance as a young man.
I will forever be grateful for those few years with Woody. To that point in my journey, I had not hung out with an “old guy.” I spend 10 years in school after high school, finally being ordained at 29 (1970). My first three years were spent working with youth in a big suburban church in the Western suburbs of the twin cites (Edina). So Babbitt, set the stage for my friendship with Woody. He stirred in me a hunger and a longing to just be “an ordinary guy” not a pastor. Woody didn’t realize what he was doing for me. He just was my friend. But he gave me “father energy” and “father nurture” that my soul desperately needed. I just felt more whole after being with Woody for awhile
Why do I write about Woody? Because there are men reading this blog who have a “father wound.” You might be one of those men. Like me, you are not able to identify the ache you have in your masculine soul. You are driven to succeed and have people admire you. You have no time for a relationship with an “old guy.” But every once in a while you meet an “old guy” who is just ordinary, laid back and unassuming like Woody. Something in you is drawn to that man. Let me tell you, it is father hunger. For the sake of your soul and your family, spend some time with that “old man” and let him feed your soul.