Jim Ayres

Jim AyresEstablishing New Priorities 

My name is Jim Ayres. I am a licensed funeral director who resides in Commerce, Texas. I received my B.S. in education in 1984 from West Texas State University, and a M.A. in Religious Education from Southwestern Seminary in 1988.  After a 22 year career in ministry and teaching, I found myself back in school in 2010 to earn an Associate’s Degree in Mortuary Science to answer God’s call to the funeral industry. 

My wife, Teena, and I purchased the Commerce Funeral Home and Cremation Service in 2015. I would like to tell you my story.

My father was a very well respected Air Force officer, moving up the ranks very quickly.  My mother was doing her best to play the part of an officer’s wife, attending parties at the officer’s club and raising three young children.  I have a few vague memories of living on base, playing in the common area of the base housing with the children from other military families, while all of the mothers sit in a tight circle and swap stories about being a military wife and mother.

In 1969, my father had an opportunity to pilot the latest and greatest fighter jet our country had to offer-the F4 Phantom.  I’ve always heard that a pilot is a rare breed.  The aircraft that a pilot commands takes on an identity of its own; like the “other woman” in a marriage.  My father volunteered for a second tour in Viet Nam; his chance to pilot the F4.  Before he left, he told my mother that his priorities were the Air Force, her, the children, and he wasn’t even sure there was a God.  My mother told him to go, but she didn’t promise she and his children would be there when, or if, he returned. 

While my father was serving his second tour in Viet Nam, my mother, siblings and I made our home in Pampa, Texas, a small panhandle town.  My grandparents had lived there for forty years.  My father was born and raised there.  My grandparents became our rock as events unfolded over the next several years.  During our time in Pampa, my family and I attended church with my grandmother at the First Christian Church, where she was a lifelong member.  These are my first memories of developing an awareness of God and His love for me.  I still remember the smell of the sanctuary and the vibration caused by the substantial pipe organ as I sat in the pew between my mother and grandmother.

Then, as the saying goes, in an instant my life changed forever.  On January 3, 1971, in the early morning hours, there was a knock on the door of our modest home on Wells Street. The scene so many have observed in the movies or on television became reality for this eight year old boy.   Two uniformed officers were tasked with delivering the devastating news to yet another family that the unpopular war in Southeast Asia had claimed another husband and father.  Lt. Col. James Henry Ayres was Missing in Action.  The brief letter stated that his wingman observed a fireball explosion as the jet my father was piloting made its approach on an enemy target.  No further communication was recorded.  He was 33 years young. 

For the 25 years following that day, I grasped at whatever I could to retain any sense of structure in my world.   As a typical middle child, I took it upon myself to be the peacekeeper in our home.  I worked hard to make sure things were as easy on my mother as possible.   My main coping skill became doing everything in my power to be the best at whatever I was involved in.  In my mind, this meant I was doing everything I could to be invisible and not add to my mother’s stress level.  I also believed, subconsciously, that if I looked good on the outside, everyone would think things were okay on the inside.

As I grew older, this coping skill became true of my relationship with God.  When I was in fourth grade, about a year after my father was declared MIA, my mother, siblings and I were attending a little Southern Baptist church in Amarillo, Texas.  During a revival meeting, my brother, who is two years older than me, and I walked the aisle in response to the invitation to receive Jesus Christ as our Savior.  Looking back, I know that I simply walked the aisle because my brother did. I do not believe I truly understood what was taking place when I followed my brother down the aisle.   I married in 1981; barely 19 years old. My nuclear family had disintegrated as my mother and each of my siblings dealt with surviving the consequences of their own choices.  I married into a traditional family that seemed to provide what I was longing for.  In 1984, my wife and I moved to Dallas, Texas to begin our new lives as college graduates.  We became very active in the First Baptist Church in Carrollton.  It was there, as the result of some very good evangelism and teaching that I came to understand that I had never truly surrendered my life to Jesus as Lord and Savior.  In an act of obedience,  I made that decision on January 13, 1985.  My life would never be the same.  God began moving in very concrete ways.  It was as if He was waiting for me to realize my need for Him so that I could hear His voice more clearly.   In 1985, I entered Southwestern Seminary.  That decision was one of the times in my life that I have never been more clear about a decision I felt God calling me too.  Upon graduation, I served a church as associate pastor, experiencing a great deal of success while there.  While all this looked good on the outside, my life resembled a house of cards; ready to come crashing down at the slightest disturbance that would expose my precarious balancing act that was taking place on the inside.  God’s Will had little to do with my plans.  I knew little about grace.   I was working too hard to earn His approval, as well as the approval of everyone around me.

In August, 1993, my house of cards came tumbling down.  I spent the previous six years neglecting my wife and two sons, while “ministering” to the church family.   I did not know anything about boundaries, being a husband, or father. I did not possess the ability to say “NO” to the church.  The needs of church members always took precedence over the needs of my family.  It wasn’t a conscious decision I made, it was simply what I knew.  Looking back, I now see that it fed my need to feel needed.  It made me look good to others around me, therefore, I felt good about myself.

 I experienced a major conflict with a prominent church member while the church was undergoing a renovation project.  I made a decision concerning a hard deadline without consulting this particular church member.   When one’s identity is built on being all things to all people, eventually someone is not going to feel heard and someone is going to be unhappy!  This confrontation would lead to my undoing.

It became clear very quickly that I could not continue living my life and trying to please everyone else at the expense of myself and my family. It was clear that I was going to have to start at the very beginning and re-learn how to live according to God’s design and not my own.    I spent the next five years in therapy; learning about boundaries, grace and forgiveness.   I did extensive work going back to rescue the eight year old boy who was left behind when he stopped growing up in order to take on the world back in 1971. 

Romans 8:28 says that “We know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose.”  I have suffered many losses over the years.  Some resulted from life events, others from choices I have made.   I lost my ministry when I resigned my church staff position.    My marriage did not survive the damage I inflicted on it from neglect and abuse.   

In one of the first therapy sessions I attended, the therapist told me that there would come a day when I would look back on all of the pain and loss in my life and thank God for it.  I would thank Him for the lessons He taught me as He walked me through the healing process.  Of course, I did not see how that was possible as I sat in that office that day; bleeding from every pore of my body from the pain and loss I was experiencing. 

I am here today, over 20 years later, to tell anyone who has ears to listen that I thank God daily for carrying me through the refining process that was necessary to mold me into the person that I am today. I am thankful for the salvation that He offers through His Son, Jesus, Who provides the forgiveness and grace that I so badly needed.  I am thankful that He is in the business of healing broken spirits and restoring hope in His children’s hearts.  In 2009, I was teaching in public school.  I had been teaching for many years, wondering what God had for me in the future.  One day, God spoke very clearly to my spirit and told me of the ministry he had been preparing me for all these years.  For years I wondered if God would ever use me again.  I will never forget the first time someone referred to me as a “wounded healer.”  Hearing those words from God’s Holy Spirit set my spirit free to receive the ministry God called me for.  I am now serving Him as a funeral director, uniquely qualified to minister to individuals and families who have experienced loss.  God has blessed me with a beautiful wife who is partnering with me to minister to the families that He sends to us.  With His Son, Jesus Christ, as our example, we strive to share God’s love and restoring grace to every family we serve.  

Joel 2:25 says, “I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.”  God is true to His Word.  I have come to be thankful for all the pain and loss I experienced which developed in me the skills I need to do the ministry He gave me.  The ultimate gift He gave me is His Son, Jesus.  Through His death and resurrection, He provided forgiveness for my sin.  I’ve also come to understand the grace He gives that allowed me to forgive myself for all the mistakes I’ve made.  Through Jesus, freedom is mine!

Jim Ayres Hearing His Voice Testimony

Jim Ayres HHV Insert - Page 3 & 4

Jim Ayers Testimony