Gordon MacDonald's Influencer, Recovery, and Provocation
The men and women who have powerfully shaped my life as mentors and spiritual guardians are almost all gone now. I lost another of them this past month.
This was the man …
- Who invited me to take a room in his apartment when I was a junior in college. Over the two years I lived under his influence, I learned to make my bed and put the toilet seat down, pay my bills on time (especially my rent), pray and read the Scriptures on a regular basis, and spiff up my conversation skills to a reasonable level of intelligence.
- Who did not overreact or berate me when—after quitting competitive running—I decided to experiment with smoking cigarettes. All he asked was that I not smoke in his apartment. I quit some weeks later when I didn't have enough money for both food and cigarettes and realized that he would not be donating to my "poverty."
- Who was unafraid to inform me (respectfully) when I was not conducting myself as a young man with dignity, Christian honor, humility, and consistency. He was quite aware that I had more growing up to do than just not smoking.
- Of whom it was said, "He can do two things extraordinarily well: spot a reliable used car a mile away and introduce you to a woman who is perfectly suited to live a long and wonderful life with you." He did both for me. While the used car is long gone now, the woman (Gail) he introduced me to (the only finder's fee was a dinner out) has now shared life with me for 47 years.
- Who convinced me that a theological education was like the strong foundation beneath a house. Once I was convinced, he helped me select the appropriate graduate school and checked on me regularly during the course of my studies (I crammed three years into four) to make sure I wasn't flunking out.
- Who one day connected me with a rancher who had been tasked by his tiny country church to find a young, inexpensive pastor. Soo
- Who was there when, many years later, my life fell apart because of a failure for which I was totally responsible. In our worst moments of shame and humiliation, he came and lived in our home for a week and helped us do a searing examination of our lives. We will always remember his words: "You are both momentarily in a great darkness. You have a choice to make. You can—as do so many—deny this terrible pain, or blame it on others, or run away from it. Or, you can embrace this pain together and let it do its purifying work as you hear the things God means to whisper into your hearts during the process. If you choose the latter, I expect you will have an adventurous future modeling what true repentance and grace is all about."
- Who probably was the first reader to finish any book I've ever written and, once finished, to tell me what it meant to him, in considerable detail. An author survives on such conversations.
- Who, on a monthly basis (for years) has talked to me by phone from his home in Arizona to ours in New Hampshire to say, "You know that I pray for you and Gail every day. I do it because God enables you do to things that I could never have done. I'm so satisfied with how He uses you."