Mary and I recently made a quick trip to Dothan, our home of 59 years, so she could deliver a portrait to a client. While there we visited with John D. Reese and his wife Gemma. John D. is a longtime friend and pastoral mentor during my 30s and 40s. He and Gemma were great encouragers to us and Jonathan in those years. He is 85 and retired last year from being a full time pastor of the small nondenominational church he has been pastor of for 42 years.
He is a brilliant, gifted man who felt called of God to shepherd a small church. As he did he faithfully ministered not only to them but to many people outside of his congregation. In light of my own success issues, I sometimes wondered why he labored in such a setting, yet he was always faithful to his call. He loved me and many others well. last Saturday he shared that, as he retired, he had a deep sense that he had faithfully fulfilled the call of God on his life. I trust that my dear friend has many more years of faithful ministry left, but as I reflected on our visit it was as if God gave me a glimpse of the finish line.
Deep gratitude for how he has touched my life, Mary’s and our son Jonathan. Thankful for the part he played in a critical time of our lives. Admiration for “his long obedience in the same direction,” for how he loved many, many people well with no concern for gain, for his commitment to obedience not external measures of success. Conviction and inspiration to finish my life and ministry well, to persevere in obedience to the call of God on my life, to give in obedience to God without regard to gain or the perceived impact.
To love well, to be faithful, to focus on that which is eternal and not the urgent temporal pressures of the moment. To come to the end of my life and know that I’ve fulfilled the part God has given to me, that in the words of Paul, “I fought a good fight, I finished the race, and I kept the faith.
To continue in the path God has been revealing over these last eight months to stay the course in the calling he has given me and this ministry, to walk in the way of suffering, crucifixion and resurrection one day at a time, to focus on what will be most important to me as I come to the end of my life, to ever increasingly trust God and to experience the resurrection, life and glory of the Trinity now and forevermore