It is unnerving to say that the most godly person I have ever known is my father, James "Buck" Hatch, who turns 80 this year—unnerving because he has never been a tower of strength. Those of us who have known him best saw his weaknesses as clearly as his strengths. Grace amid weakness is, I suppose, the theme of this birthday tribute, for it was through his brokenness, not his strength, that he brought healing attention to the shadowed interior rooms of people's lives. His life has much to say about the nature of Christian ministry.
A painfully shy person, always near the brink of depression, Buck has experienced life more as a vale of tears than as a vista of opportunities. I often remember Dad coming to dinner—a boisterous affair with four sons—and just sitting at the table, not uttering a word.
His life cannot be canonized as an all-American success story. It was his father who had been the Horatio Alger type, rising from poverty on a hard-scrabble North Carolina farm to ownership of a prosperous hosiery mill in Charlotte. My father had little use for the respectability my grandfather sought. Driving a Pierce Arrow, owning a fashionable home, joining the country club-these did nothing to fill the void of a soul not at home with itself.
Why his eldest son consistently forfeited opportunities for success was an enormous puzzle to my grandfather. An honors student at Duke University, Buck abandoned his pursuit of a career in medicine, much to his father's dismay, after a powerful conversion experience drew him toward the ministry. He served for a time as a Presbyterian minister in Mississippi and then did graduate work in psychology at the University of Chicago under the renowned Carl Rogers. ...1
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