I have been reminded again recently of how much we are shaped by the people God places in our lives. Whether it is a long-time friend or people whom we know rather casually for a brief period, we are influenced in many ways by those with whom we "do life".
As I look back on my life, I am especially mindful of the people that God has placed there to give me a greater heart for Him. When I was growing up, my Dad wasn't a Christian, and my Mom didn't drive, so if I wanted to go to church, I had to hitch a ride from someone. That "someone" happened to be our Pastor, Bro. Bill "Hi" Johnson.
Every Sunday morning, Bro. Hi (as he was affectionately known) and his wife Janet would come by and pick up my Mom & me. They often picked up a widow lady and a never-married older woman as well, and the six of us would ride to church together. Then, of course, he had to drop us all off again after church. (Except for the time he left me at a church in Leavenworth after a revival service, but that's the subject for another blog.)
Even after Bro. Hi & Janet moved to a parsonage on the grounds of our new church building nearly 10 miles from us, they continued to make that drive, picking us (and anyone else who needed a ride) up on Sunday mornings, Sunday nights and Wednesday nights.
Until I became a pastor, I never truly appreciated the sacrifice that represented. On Sunday mornings, after I preach, I am exhausted. I am usually anxious to return home and crash for a while (or watch the Chiefs' crash, as the case may be). Yet for years, my former Pastor & his wife drove all over Kansas City, Kansas providing personal transportation.
Of course, picking me up for church was just one of many ways in which the Lord used Bro. Hi to shape my heart towards God. But if he hadn't been willing to make such sacrifices, I doubt that I would have been saved as a child, let alone a pastor of one of His churches today.
And there were so many others who spent time and showed interest in me. Sunday School teachers, neighbors, friends and others who in ways big and small have influenced my life in a Godly direction.
As I consider how others have been there for me, it humbles me to wonder whether I have been there for others in the same way. Am I willing to pause for a few minutes on a busy Sunday morning to talk with someone who needs a word of encouragement? Will I pick up the phone and take a few minutes to check on someone going through a rough patch? Will I go out of my way to reach out to those who just need someone to be there for them?
I am grateful to the Lord for those people who have been willing to invest a bit of themselves in me, from childhood through this very day. And I resolve to be more intentional about investing my time and energy in others--to pause from my daily pursuits just long enough that someone, young or old, may know that because God cares for them, I do, too.