When I was a in sophomore in high school, I had a Sunday School teacher who was a mountain of a man. He seemed to cast a shadow wherever he went. He was a former marine, and by all appearances,
there was no doubt to this. He stood with broad shoulders, a sharp jawline, and a Magnum P.I. like mustache. He held a room’s attention whenever he walked in. Never having to raise his voice, words from him fell like a heavy rain. Why he volunteered to teach middle school students Bible class was a mystery at first. But as the school year went on, we all learned so much more than we bargained
for from him.
It began with him teaching our classes; first walking through the “heroes of faith” in the Old Testament, then guiding us through the Gospels. He taught with a simplicity that made the
lessons memorable, but also challenging to our hearts and minds. He used a few props, but still found ways to engage us as he breathed a fresh life into the Bible stories that had become, to me at least, a little redundant and stale. The big marine found a way to tap into our imaginations, and unleash the power of God’s story in our classes.
Then, he did something that was completely off the script.
I remember it clearly. I was asleep in bed one mundane Saturday morning, when my mother quickly revoked my happy slumber. She told me I had a phone call, and that it was from my Sunday school teacher. This, on a Saturday, was a shocking new turn of developments. Was I in trouble? Did I do something to earn the ire of the monster of a man? Should I run? I slowly picked up the phone and gave my best pubescent, crackly-voiced,
He greeted me warmly and quickly, asking if I was awake. He gave me no time to answer, as he followed he question with a, “Get dressed, David. I’m in your driveway”. Few thoughts could have been more sobering that the idea that the former marine not only called me from my driveway, but was now waiting for my eminent arrival to his vehicle. I quickly dressed however, more out of fear than anything else. I walked out to his truck, which was as monstrous in size as he was. I got in, buckled up, and we began our impromptu adventure. Little did I know what he had planned for us that day.
We spent the morning visiting the shut-ins of our church, mowing their lawns, bringing gallons of milk, sweeping out carports, and doing whatever needed to be done for them. We spent time with the senior members of our church laughing, listening, and just spending time
with them. We must have spent seven hours that day with the various members of the church. At the end of the day, he took me to his favorite hole-in-the-wall taco shop, and we ate more tacos than felt humanly possible.
At the end of the day, he drove me back home. As we pulled into my driveway again, he paused me from jumping out of the giant truck, and said, “David. What we did today? That is the church. What we spent our time doing today means more than you will know for a long
time. Today, you followed Jesus. Don’t forget that”. And with that, he let me out.
This episode in my life has never let go of me. In my ministry and my life, it is a part of how I view what I do as a Christian, and as a man. Church is bigger than programs,
events, curriculum, and full calendars (each absolutely has its place, make no mistake).Church is about the life of a community lived together. About marines and teens in mentoring relationships,
about the widow and orphan being loved and cared for, and about the foundations of faith and legacy of grace and compassion that is lived out in real life.
May you have a “marine” in your life who calls you to move forward in your faith. May you have a “teen” to love and challenge to not be satisfied with complacency and a life of mediocrity.