I got a phone call this evening from someone in a town where we used to live, work and worship. He called to tell me that a man I've known more than half my life is 'going home to the Lord,' probably in the next few hours. This elderly gentleman has lived a long life of faithfulness to his God. He's an engineer by profession and has approached every task very methodically and logically. An incredibly faithful man who retired from a job in California, moved north with his wife and built a geodesic dome and two guest houses from which to do retreat ministry.
His wife, now suffering from dementia, is a spiritual giant in my world, a woman with a designated prayer closet in the basement of her home where she daily spent time on her knees in the years that I lived near her. She was the heart of their large family, while her husband, the mind. They gave both of these things in abundance to their seven children, the youngest of whom was one of my college roommates (ok, just to be clear, I had eleven different roommates during the years I was in college--and that doesn't count the four women I lived with in Holland), and a dear friend. It was a boon to move, long after I lived with the woman I used to call 'Barn-head' (she called me Crain-face), to the town where her parents' 'King's Dome' was located. As I had known the daughter, so I began to know her parents. We attended the same church, the church where Mr. Barn-head was always the first to greet visitors in his light blue leisure suit he continued to wear with great aplomb into the 21st century (when he wasn't wearing the crimson sports coat with plait pants). This is a man who cheerfully did the church's book-keeping well into his 80s when he finally had to give up this service that so fit his mathematical brain. I served on a few committees with him over the years we worshipped together. Though I was often a square peg in a round hole at such meetings, being allergic to agendas, goal-setting, and the like, this man loved them, loved ticking off things from his list, seeing things accomplished.
I think Mr. Barn-head was a pretty tough dad back in the days he was working and raising them. I've heard a story or two about his discipline, his sarcasm, his temper. His sharp brain expected sharp things of his 4 sons and 3 daughters, and I think they lived up for it more than he acknowledged. Some dads can be like that. But here's a telling thing. All seven of those kids grew up to love the Lord, to live lives worthy of the gospel. Sure, they might not have done things exactly as Grandpa did, but they did do them. They are faithful, good people. Though I think the youngest is still the pick of the litter (just like I think the youngest of Beve's clan is definitely the pick of that litter!), there are things to admire about all of them. They got their hearts for the Lord from their mother, and their brilliant minds from their dad.
That dad around whose bed they are currently gathered. I know they are, because I know them. In spirit I am standing with them, praying for this old saint, a man so different from me that you wouldn't imagine us ever in the same family. But we are. We're in that 1 Corinthians 12 family of God, where I've needed him and he, oddly enough, also needed me. A family, er, a Body, where he was the hand holding the pencil, doing sums, and I...well, I might well be a little toenail, for all I know. And that's ok. Tonight, as I pray for him on what may well be his last night of breathing on this earth, pray him on his way, I'm thinking of how much I need engineers, mathematicians, those with logical brains who keep my feet to earth and my quick emotions in balance. And I'm glad God, who is also the creator of such a variety of dogs, for example, employs glorious creativity in creating us, each of us complete in His image, yet so diverse in abilities, interests, gifts, talents. Mr. Barn-head and me, both and each part of the Body of Christ. How cool is that? I will miss what he brings. I will miss who he is.