I was thinking this weekend about how important it is to invest in someone’s life and then thinking about how we can do it without failing. I mean, come on, let’s face it, in today’s world, no matter how hard you try, you’re going to let someone down. It’s just impossible to be there for someone all the time. Right?
So then I started thinking about the people who had been there for me throughout my life. There are so many that I cannot possibly name them all. But one particular person popped into my head. He and his wife have loved me and prayed for me and my family for as long as I can remember.
Who is this person and what makes him stand out to me? His name is Bill and he was my youth pastor growing up. He loved hanging out with us kids because he was a kid himself. He took us wherever we wanted to go and didn’t mind waiting on us. (This was before everyone got paranoid and started preventing men from working with kids without a chaperone.) And Bill listened to all my woes about boys and such. He was always there for me. But there was more to it than that. He taught me the Word.
The time came for my family to leave my childhood church because my dad became a preacher and accepted his first church. A year or so later, Bill began attending the new church with us and started working with the youth. That’s the summer we studied the book of James. That made such an impact on my life and has remained my favorite book in the Bible.
He eventually left the church and ended up landing at a great spot where he found his lovely wife…who just so happened to be my middle school gym teacher. What a small world. I was so thrilled when they asked me to participate in their wedding. But there’s more. There’s something else. Something more about this man.
Bill has been at every major event that has occurred in my life. My wedding. The birth of my children. The funerals of my parents. The graduation party in honor of my daughter, who he barely knew but loved because he loved me. The recent funeral of my brother-in-law. This man has kept me in the honored position of a family member. He loved my parents and he loved me and my sister and, therefore, has continued to love on my family. This “ain’t” your usual youth pastor. Especially not in today’s world.
One thing that saddens me as I reminisce about the impact that Bill has had in my life because of his constant presence in it, is that I have not done the same for him. I know he understands that being a wife and mother (especially a homeschooling one) can kind of be all-consuming, but still…this man sets an example that I hope to follow with the kids I have worked with at my church. I think investing in someone’s life is something we have to do intentionally but it’s also something we have to do genuinely. If you’re only doing it because you have to or because these people are “assigned” to you, then you may make a short-term difference in their lives but I don’t think you’ll make a long-term one. Kids are smart and they know when you’re faking or doing something out of duty. Bill had a genuine love for us and that’s why what he has continued to do for thirty + years has worked and why it means so much to me now.
May I always remember that impacting someone’s life is not a job. It’s a pleasure. And it brings joy to the life of the giver as much as the receiver. Thanks, Bill, for setting an awesome example!