Perspectives

A different look at every day issues.

That Sinking Feeling

The western banks of the Hudson River in New York used to be the anchorage point for dozens of WW II battle ships. For decades their shells bobbed lifelessly as they awaited the inevitable time when they would be dragged out to sea and used for target practice or simply sunk.

These ships once sailed the wartime oceans filled with fuel, munitions, and supplies that would launch an army into the heart of the Axis empire. But, for the last several decades, they have simply been a shadow of their former usage.

About ten years ago I talked with a man I considered influential to my work ethic. He was on my short list of people I allowed to speak into my life. I looked forward to hearing his inspiration as we exchanged greetings and began our impromptu discussion. But as we talked he shared his disappointments in not receiving credit for things he’d accomplished. I noted the far-away look in his eyes as he recounted the things he did—mostly for others, and all for the Kingdom of God. Others had been honored—he had not. In his senior years he became a cynical man. I was shocked at the bitterness that seeped from deep within his soul.

I realized he was like those ships—once useful, now overlooked in his contribution to the lives of countless others. He appeared to be waiting for the time when he could be taken to sea and sunk. The passion was gone from his voice—the glint from his eye.

Yet, I knew him as a man full of passion—full of purpose. He was the type of individual who inspired others to reach for greatness. He never accepted excuses—a no nonsense kind of guy. He affected the lives of all who dared to risk the inevitable challenges they knew came from simply being in his presence. He made people want to try harder—to excel at life and ministry. Now, he visibly mirrored a passionless heart.

I couldn’t help but wonder if his perspective would have been different if he knew the real impact he had on so many younger men who emulated his style and drive.

I remember mostly the pace of his life and the things he accomplished. I remember his excellent Bible studies—the kind that makes a person say, “Wow! I never saw that before!” But I also remember watching him look down, shake his head in apparent futility, and walk away muttering something to himself as if trying come to grips with his disappointment.

If you haven’t guessed by now, I believe that how we end up is more important than how we start out. My dear friend lost something along the way that he never recovered. In his final years he lived without the acclaim he rightly should have enjoyed, yet he finished his race just ahead of the dark cloud that had nearly engulfed him earlier.

I feel inspired anew just thinking of how I wanted to please him and gain his approval. Yet, through his foray into despair, he taught me not to look to men for the approval that can only come from God . . . . . I think he knows that now.

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