He was born toward the end of the Great Depression and just before the beginning of World War II. It was a time when “no one worried about money because there was no money.” His dad and mom were poor tenant farmers in rural Kentucky. With the help of a neighboring farmer, his parents purchased some acreage and began building their lives on it.
However, alcohol abuse led the boy’s father away from home for days at a time, and it played a major role in his father’s life ending way to soon; the boy was only 8 years old at the time. His mother worked hard to hold on to the farm and keep the family together. The boy, who was unusually tall and strong for his age, quit school following his 6th grade year to help his mom tend the farm. Neighboring landowners employed his size and strength for their most labor-intensive jobs. Most paid him a man’s wage, but some just used his services without pay due to his age and family status.
At age 18, he married a 16-year-old girl. Four children were born to that union within 5 years and a month; another daughter was born 10 years later. As if bearing the load of providing for 4 small children wasn’t enough, the boy, now a man, bought both his wife’s and his own families’ farms.
He dreamed of success and worked hard at that dream. But throughout those years, he never lost sight of the important things in life. He never let what he could have been become what he was.
He could have been a follower rather than a leader. He could have accepted the role of a poor downtrodden victim. He had plenty of reasons to do so. A rough start in life, the loss of his father at a young age, and a lack of education would all have been reason enough. But he educated himself about agriculture through reading anything he could get his hands on and by attending any classes offered by the UK agricultural extension office. He worked long hours. He learned the many skills necessary for operating a successful farm; mechanical repair and engineering, construction, agronomy, livestock feeding and health care, veterinary science, large equipment operation, etc.
He could have simply been a figurehead for his family. He could have allowed alcohol or some other addiction to have taken him away from his family for long periods at a time. The example had been set. But he chose to be a loving husband and a caring father for his household. His children never had to wonder if their daddy would be home at night, for each evening he was there to lock the door, and to bid them “Good night.” He never once raised a bottle, nor took money away from his family to feed his own lusts. As a result, he has become the beloved and respected patriarch of a large, close-knit family; a family who tries to live up to the example which he has set; a family who finds satisfaction in presenting each new addition to him for his blessed “approval”.
He could have been a slave to anger and bitterness. He could have become angry at society and bitter at those who misused his services from time to time. But he chose not to. Instead, he chose to focus on all the generous neighbors and friends who stepped up in the time of his family’s greatest need. He chose to appreciate the love which the community demonstrated. He chose to spend his life trying to give back to the families of those who helped when he needed it most. He chose to happily share the good rather than angrily reflect the bad. As a result, he is known and loved throughout his community.
He could have been a bitter disbeliever. He could have become angry at God for allowing so much pain and anguish to fall upon him at such a tender age. But instead, he chose to grow closer to his Maker, to submit to His will, and to serve Him all his days. Rarely a worship service or organized Bible study has been conducted at the local congregation of the Lord’s people without the man’s presence. He has served that congregation as an elder for over 40 years.
We all have “reasons” for becoming the worst possible version of ourselves. It’s easy sometimes to list those reasons in blame and defense of our failures. But what we could become does not have to be what we are. J. C. (Bub) Waddell is living proof of that.
What he could have been is far from what he is!
“1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, 3 not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. 4 He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, 5 for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? 6 He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.” (1 Timothy 3:1-7) ESV
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