There are those days. We all have them. Those days that we look up at the clock and it’s 2:30 in the afternoon, and it feels as if we just finished our breakfast. On those days I often laugh and wonder if when we get to meet God face-to-face and ask all of our crazy questions, if He might just laugh and remind us. Perhaps He will say something like, “Remember those days when time seemed like it flew by? Yeah… it did, because I made it fly by! And remember those days when time seemed to draggggg….. It did, because I made it drag too!”
Well, yesterday was one of both of those days. Time was flying along, and then, time stood still. And I am certain that time stood still because God just wanted to remind me of some things. He does that, you know.
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27
I was cruising along through my day when I unexpectedly met a man who knew my old friend Jerry. I’m not even sure how we got on the subject and wound up knowing we’d both been blessed by a friendship with him. My friend’s been gone five years almost now, but left quite an impression on me, and apparently on many others as well!
I still quote Jerry. I still laugh at things he said and did. I still miss his seemingly infinite and always timely wisdom. And I still cherish the voicemail he left on my phone that I have saved, and I look forward to seeing him again some day.
I still laugh about the time he took my friend and I for a tour of Detroit, scared Sarah running a red light, stopped for a coffee and dessert at Sister Pie, and took us in the Arabic store where it felt like we were all going to fall straight through the floor. He had, at all times, at least 10 cartons of ice cream in his freezer, and it was not unusual to stop at his home and find him teaching an impromptu Bible study to a group of 15 young men who were college students, asking all sorts of theological questions in between bites of pizza and ice cream. His pockets were deep, and he’d give you the last dollar he had if he thought you needed it.
Jerry helped me care for a young 15-year-old pregnant gal one time, and while I was at work, he took the gal and her mother out to breakfast. He prayed with them in the parking lot that morning, and the young mother ended up getting sick and throwing up all over him. He went home, got cleaned up, and then went and preached a funeral for a friend. It was one of his biggest laughs, and he’d do it all over again just to be able to encourage those ladies.
Jerry wanted me to write his life story before he died. He had so many stories. And not one of those stories pointed to Jerry. Every single one of them pointed to Christ. People of all ages were drawn to my 84-year-old friend. He was approachable, and he was kind. I’m sorry that we never got to write his story, and I’ll always wonder what those things were that he wanted to discuss with me prior to his passing. We never got around to those conversations.
The last few times I saw him, like always, there was a lesson to learn, and some conversations I’ll never forget. When walking into his hospital room and seeing chocolate cake, hot chocolate, and chocolate pudding on his tray, I asked him what in the world he was thinking, especially since he was diabetic. Who allowed him to get all of this junk on his tray? But Jerry just chuckled and said, “Who cares! I’m going home!” He knew he was going to die soon.
A few days later I’d visit him, where he sat in a chair just looking out the window. He didn’t look sad. He looked content, and he was quieter than usual. When I asked Jerry what he was doing, he turned, looked at me and said, “You know, I’ve been thinking. I’m getting ready to go to heaven, and I get to spend the rest of eternity learning about God, and I can’t WAIT!” There wasn’t one ounce of doubt in him about that. Not one ounce. His faith was unshakeable. Believe me, it was unshakeable – I know the stories he lived.
But the most impressive thing about my friend was this… He never drew attention to himself. Never. No one ever knew all of the things this 84-year-old man did to serve others, because he never, ever made much of himself. He lived John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” He didn’t practice his righteousness before other people so that he could be seen. He never sounded a trumpet when he gave to the needy. He didn’t crave or seek praise from others. His left hand didn’t know what his right hand was doing. Jerry never drew attention to himself. He knew how very unattractive that was.
And he never retired. Never. Even while dying in the hospital, he found himself surrounded by a crowd of young college students who had come to say goodbye, and knowing Jerry, I’m certain he imparted some wisdom and encouragement to each of them.
So time stood still for a few minutes yesterday so that I could enjoy a short conversation, sharing with someone I’d never met before, how much we both learned from our mutual friend. And then, time took off again.
Can’t you just picture God himself holding back the arms of a big grandfather clock? I can. He did that for me yesterday, and reminded me not only of my friend, but of who our most important audience is, and it is not those around us.
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:3-4