Keystone Stories – Jon Hausler

on January 17, 2023

At Arm’s Length 

My story starts very typically: I grew up in a Christian home. I accepted Jesus into my heart when I was four years old after a night at AWANA. My parents told me later that I prayed a prayer saying I was a sinner and believed that Jesus died for my sins. Even though praying Jesus into your heart isn’t technically in the Bible, the belief part is. So, I’ll count it. 

Life was pretty easy growing up. I was homeschooled, had three younger brothers, and lived in Ankeny. My parents made sure we still had social lives, whether it was church friends, homeschool groups, or family friends and relatives. I was active in our church youth group and worked at the local Fareway. 

But during my sophomore year of high school, when I was 16, my dad was diagnosed with lung cancer.


I remember being numb, not knowing how to process the news or what to say. They told us that they were going to fight it, which meant starting radiation and chemotherapy right away. I’d seen enough movies and read enough books to know what that meant.

The next two years for my dad included lots of chemo, a brief remission, more chemo, and, at the end, hospice. 

On January 2, 2010, we were all in my dad’s hospice room, waiting for the end. The nurse told us that his body was shutting down. There was nothing left they could do. We only had a matter of hours left with him. 

A lot of our relatives were there to say goodbye, and be there for us, but when he died, it was just me, my mom, and my brothers in the room. We were all staring at him, as if he would wake up any second and smile. Mom was talking about my dad’s mom, Grandma Mary. She said: “I can just imagine Grandma Mary calling to dad. She’s saying ‘yoohoo!’ Like she always would, welcoming him to heaven.”

Right after she said that, my dad let out a little sigh and then didn’t breathe again.

The next moments happened so fast.

Mom: “He’s not breathing.”

Sam: “Why isn’t he breathing.”

Me: “He hasn’t breathed.”

We all knew what had just happened, but it didn’t seem real. I don’t really remember how, but somehow my relatives came running in. I remember crying like I had never cried before. Tears pouring. 

Honestly, I don’t think you can ever be ready for when your dad, or parent, dies. There’s a part of you that thinks your dad is a superhero, so he can’t die. The superheroes never die in the comics and the movies (Avengers: Infinity War hadn’t come out yet, okay?). 

My dad dying is by far the worst moment of my life so far. That day was the hardest day, and I wish it never would’ve happened.

To this day, I still struggle with the why. Why me? Why him? Why was this God’s plan for my dad’s life? Why make him suffer? 

I don’t know if I’ll ever truly know. I don’t have a good reason. 

It’s now been 13 years since my dad passed away. I’ve experienced a lot of healing over the years, but that doesn’t mean the pain has fully gone away. Grief evolves over time, but it’s still there. 

The absence of a father has shaped me as a man and a father myself. I’ve had to teach myself how to do a lot of manly, father things, like change out a car battery or manage finances, and there’s a lot I still don’t know. And now I have three sons (plus a daughter), and it’s my responsibility to teach them how to be godly men.   

That absence has made me less confident and less prepared. No one came along to fill that role as father for me, and I didn’t ask anyone to. My father-in-law is great, but it’s not the same. 

Despite all that, my father’s impact has still shaped me. I don’t know if I would be a Christian today if my dad wouldn’t have been. He held strong to his faith during his battle with cancer, and his perseverance to the end left a mark on me. I didn’t realize it then, but he showed me and my brothers how to be a good father by helping us make our pinewood derby cars, playing catch with us in the backyard, being our baseball team coach, and always showing up for the big events in our lives. It was never a question if dad was going to be there. He always was. 

Now that I’m a father of four myself, his example is what I want to follow. 

I miss my dad. But it has made me appreciate the time I had with him and the time I now have with my kids. I want to make the time count.

It has also made me appreciate my mom. She’s the one I go to for advice, and she’s very wise. She had to raise four boys by herself, and I’m sure that was a heavy burden. I’m thankful God made her my mom. 

Lastly, it has deepened my view of God. Since I don’t have an earthly father anymore, seeing God as my heavenly father is a close comfort. He’s near, he’s loving, and he wants to care for me and guide me in the right way. Even though I may not understand his ways, I can trust that there’s a purpose, and I know there’s a glorious reunion coming. 

College Days

The loss of my dad affected the next several years of my life. I moved away to college (first to Taylor University and then to the University of Northern Iowa the next year), and the independence was both good and bad. I had ups and downs with my faith, and looking back, I would say I was just going through the motions. I had head knowledge, but no heart knowledge. 

My junior year of college at UNI was filled with alcohol, procrastination, and laziness. I wasn’t going to church, wasn’t reading my Bible, wasn’t following Jesus or obeying Him. It was a dark period of my life. 

Towards the end of my junior year, a Salt Company began meeting on campus, led by Stan Hayek. My brother, Sam, encouraged me to check it out, so I did. I started attending regularly and made some friends. By the end of the year, I became a Salt connection group leader. The Salt Company (and Candeo Church) had a profound impact on my faith. I drank less, I read my Bible more, and I was baptized shortly after graduating college. 

Growth and Renewal

The years after college were life-changing. I married Rachel in 2014, after five years of dating. We moved back to the Des Moines area in 2015, and I started working as a professional writer. In 2016, we had our first child, Ezra, and in 2018 we had our second, Lucas. 

In 2018, before Lucas was born (but was on the way), I lost my job due to a company restructure. I didn’t know what I was going to do next, but I remember having a peace about the entire situation. Psalm 37:5 was constantly on my mind: “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.” After a month unemployed, I got a job offer. God provided. 

Then, in 2019, after we’d been coming to Keystone for about a year, it felt like I truly woke up to the reality of Jesus and what he’s done for me. All of a sudden I had a renewed desire in my Bible, in theology, in God. I consumed theology books and read my Bible daily. I started to follow Jesus with my actions. 

In 2021, I had the opportunity to take some seminary/theology classes at Cornerstone School of Theology that deepened my faith and helped me articulate why I believe what I believe. I’ve also had the opportunity to share my passion for writing and theology here at Keystone, which has been humbling and rewarding. 

From then to now, we’ve added two more kids to the crew: Chloe (2020) and Hosea (2022), bringing our final kid count to four. 

I don’t know when I was truly saved. Was it when I was four years old? Or was it when I actually started to live out what I believed? Either way, I’m grateful for Jesus holding on to me all of these years. 

Looking back at all of these moments, I held God at arm’s length for so long. I resisted taking my faith seriously and tried to dull my hurt with temporary, unhealthy things. That never works. I’m done with that now—I want to be close to Jesus and abide in Him.