The Blessing of Heroes Close At Hand
I spent a few days recently struggling through some of the kinds of issues I talked about in my post "The Difference Between Agape and Being Liked", and I suspect I'll have more to write on the subject of how discipleship is very intertwined with conflict and agape in all our lives. But the place I found myself at this morning -- out of those meditations -- was focused on my heroes.
I have many heroes from the past -- writers, missionaries, preachers, and women like Susanna Wesley -- and I have many brothers and sisters around me with whom I feel a strong affinity and for whom I have a strong respect. But I also have my "heroes close at hand" who inspire me to live today and tomorrow and into the future in a way that is obedient to God and in a way that enjoys Him fully. None of those "heroes close at hand" is perfect, but that's what makes them so inspiring! They are close enough so that I can see they are real people -- people just like me -- and also close enough so I can see the real qualities of endurance and faith in their lives.
Life is hard, isn't it? And it is so very daily. I hear the "idealistic" messages of what life can be and should be, but the reality of daily conflict and tiredness and confusion and tedious tasks would make it easy to buy into the values of the world around me, and spend my life pursuing the things that people pursue as ends in themselves -- successful careers, money, relationships, beauty, power, entertainment, etc. But the word that there is more than that -- the word from scriptures and the word from the real Church in the World and the word from the Holy Spirit spoken in my heart -- is easy to hear for me because of the view I have of people around me who live it out on a daily basis for years. I can believe in the REAL -- not the "idealistic" -- message of the Gospel of Christ because of my "heroes close at hand."
The first two -- and most important and believable to me -- of my heroes are my mom and dad. Kids know their parents with too much intimacy, don't they? I know and have bemoaned everything I could bemoan about my mom and dad as I went through my times of adolescence and breaking away and as I processed a greater knowledge of the world and the places that their teaching or example or relationship with me did not adequately prepare me for reality. That is part of growing up, isn't it? But from this perspective, I see a clear picture of discipleship lived out over the 68 years they each possess (well, at least in a few weeks, Dad! :-) ), and it gives me hope and strength unlike any other view I have of life. Mom is a picture of faith and service and study and prayer, and Dad is a picture of responsibility and strength and stewardship and worship -- seen in the big picture of 2 lives, and seen in the little picture of each word and each choice and each day and each relationship. What a heritage, and what intimacy, and what wisdom! I love each of you so deeply, and am so grateful to God for you, and so grateful to each of you for the choices you make each day!
My other "heroes close at hand" these days are these figures in my life: Leah Stout, minister of congregational care in our church; Lydia Sarandan, minister of adult education; Jim and Judy Jefferson, one of our elders and his precious wife; John Huffman, our senior minister; and Trevecca and Dennis Okholm, our minister of children and families and her husband who is a professor of theology at Fuller and Azuza and is also our interim co-senior pastor with Dr. Huffman. None of these heroes are people whom I know anywhere near as intimately as I know my own parents, of course -- nor do I know any of them as well as I know my closest friends. But I know them well enough to be blessed by them in this way: I see clear examples of discipleship lived out by imperfect people in imperfect ways but with the tremendous results that God brings to faithfulness like theirs.
Leah is a precious example of compassion and faithfulness and faith and practical love lived out today and shown in the years leading to this day, and illustrated in the fruit God has given her, despite the places life has been hard and is hard. Lydia is an example of beauty and strength and a deliberate pursuit of intimacy with God and a faithfulness in stewardship of her gifts and the gifts of those around her despite the injustices of life, and the fruit of her hands -- all the ministries she administers or leads -- is a large part of the beauty of our community. Jim and Judy are a picture of a Christian couple extending themselves in love and service to those around them in an energetic way -- and I am grateful to be one of the beneficiaries of the love they pour out so freely! John is a picture of a life of preaching good theology and a vision of the God Who IS, and of the discipline to follow Jesus in pursuing that life he preaches. And Trevecca and Dennis are so many things! -- but the most important ones in my life have been these: they model Christian marriage in an amazing way; they have an amazing understanding of worship and discipleship and a vision for how that could be lived out in our community coupled with the love and restraint that lets God work to bring about His vision in His way and time; and they really believe that God forgives sin and uses sinners -- enough to have given me the first push toward each of the things God has done in my life to move me out of myself and into service to others.
I am blessed with many others around me who also encourage me in similar ways as these ones I have mentioned, of course! I am a fan of every single person on our program staff and many support staff and volunteers at St. Andrews, but especially of Jan Harvey, Sharon, Jeff, Merle, Jerri, Jim Birchfield, Bonnie, Rose, George, Janice, Ruth, Dana, Tina, Tempest, Alix, Diane Miller, Diane Rysan, and Vicki (whose efforts to help me find fellowship over the years and whose faithful ministry to me herself have been very significant in what God has done in my life!) And my precious friends who show me so much love and who labor with me through all the details of my life and theirs -- you are not my heroes, you are my intimate companions, and I could not make it without you!! Diane, Barb, Emily, Darci, and Linda-Kay -- just look what God has done in my life in the last 3 years because of YOU! I love each one of you!
Thank God for all the ways He reveals Himself to each of us! Today I am especially thankful for the ways He has shown me that a life of discipleship is not "idealism", but is something I can apply right now, as I jump in the shower and then head out the door to meet my husband for lunch!