I was thinking...
Isn’t it interesting how the things of life can often ‘reboot’ our lives? Recently I was honored to offer the Memorial Message for a 90-year-old lady who had great importance in my life. She and her husband were the first to welcome Sharon, our two young sons, and me to our first appointment after Seminary. Her husband was Chair of the Pastor-Parish Relations Committee. They invited us to their home and the rest (as is often said) is history.
They unconditionally loved this young pastor and his family (and I know there must have been times when ‘unconditional’ would be the only way they could love me, so wet behind the ears with limited Pastoral/Leadership experience, they had to have seen something beyond the moment to keep loving me). They were present to join us in welcoming our third child into the world. So kind, so gentle, so full of joy, so peace-filled, simply good people to their core of being. All of whom Jack and Susan were to us came rushing back to my mind and heart as I prepared for and then shared at Susan’s ‘Celebration of Life’ service.
My reflections took me to several places to ponder. 1) When all is said and done, I wonder what my life’s fruit will have borne? What seeds for love, kindness, gentleness, peace, patience, goodness, joy, generosity, faithfulness, self-control, will I have scattered? 2) Have I, Am I and Will I be a good steward of people’s influence like Susan and Jack? 3) Knowing that they have crossed the river into eternity, I wonder what they would tell me now.
I have this tendency (and maybe you do too) to think I’m going to live forever. When I live into such a falsehood, I often move into the thinking of “It doesn’t matter what I do, say, or think!” In such deception moments I become selfish and arrogant - not thinking about my witness, influence, intended or unintended consequences. I really don’t believe I’m going to live forever, but my thinking, living and being behave as if there will be no eternal accountability.
Maybe I am just having a sentimental moment, but Susan got me thinking, even after her earthly life ended. She helped me realize that even though I will stop breathing and my heart will stop beating, my life really never stops. My influence (or the lack thereof) lives on. The signature of my stewardship of life is implanted in the minds of those who know me, love me, and even, see me for only a moment in, for example, a Publix grocery store. Witness, influence, fruitfulness live beyond physical presence.
I wonder if this is what Jesus was trying to teach when he said, “You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are right, for that is what I am. So, if I, your Lord, and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” (John 13:13-17, NRSV)
Thank you, Susan. Even though you never literally washed my feet, your love and acceptance washed them over and over and over again… and for that I will be eternally grateful.
It is interesting how the things of life and death can often ‘reboot’ our lives, isn’t it?
The Rev. Dr. Terry E. Walton
Executive Assistant to the Bishop