I beg my reader’s indulgence as this week’s writing takes on a more personal note. On March 19, 2017, a man who influenced my life in more ways than I can count, lost his battle with cancer. Don Rousu was my pastor for 25 years. He faithfully prayed for me and taught me profound lessons, both from the pulpit and by his example. Don suffered from Ankylosing Spondylitis, an inflammatory disease that, over time, caused the vertebrae in his spine to fuse, and caused major problems throughout his body. Modern treatments and medications that slow this disease’s progress came long after the damage was done.
I live with a disability as well, but my disability is by no means as severe as the disability Don lived with. There were many Sundays that I wanted to skip church just because I was too tired or I didn’t want to deal with snow and ice. On such Sundays, I would say to myself, “If Don can do it, so can I!” Don was by nature an introvert but week after week; he would spy newcomers to church and go out of his way to greet them. I am more of an introvert than an extrovert, and yet I would follow Don’s lead. “If Don can do it, so can I!”
Don had an unusual gift mix. He was a brilliant theologian, teacher, and pastoral counsellor. In his younger days, before Ankylosing Spondylitis crippled his fingers, he was a talented worship leader. On the rare occasions that Don would grace us by singing a capella during his sermons, I felt as if I was receiving a father’s blessing. Although Don’s prowess as a bible scholar and teacher were legendary, his most profound lessons were taught by everyday acts of kindness and service.
In the last year of Don’s life, it became clear to everyone who knew him that his health was rapidly failing. And yet, Don continued to sacrifice his time, energy, and personal space to serve others. “If Don can do it, so can I!”
I would like to thank Don and all the other pastors, leaders, mentors and spiritual parents I have had the privilege to be influenced by. Many of whom are much younger than I!
I want to thank you for speaking into my life. It might have appeared that whatever truth you were trying to impart was met by steely resistance. Your love planted a seed in my heart that eventually bore fruit. I am a slow processor, and it’s rare that I experience an immediate ‘a-ha’ moment. I am profoundly grateful for each one of you who touched my life by speaking truth through your story and by listening to mine. Although our encounter might have been brief and taken place decades ago, the impact of your love, mentorship, and time investment into my life is now felt by every person who is reading this devotion today.
As I write these inspirational snippets, I find thoughts popping into my mind, and I wonder, “Where did that nugget come from? I’m not that smart!” Naturally, as I spend time with the Lord, He speaks directly through His word and through times of quiet, intimate communion. But so many times, as I sit in front of my laptop, searching for inspiration, the Lord will remind me of teachings that impact me today, even more than when I first heard them.
God reminds me of the lessons I learned as I listened to a friend over a cup of coffee on a rainy day in Hawaii. He brings to mind a gentle rebuke given in jest as a friend called me out on a character defect. I passed along insights a bible scholar gave me on a difficult Bible passage to a friend who struggled with the same passage. I gained practical wisdom by observing those who walked through difficult times with grace, dignity, and integrity. If they can do it, so can I.
I wish I could sit down with every person who poured into my life and say, “It was worth it!” Perhaps there was no immediate transformation or even a faint inkling at the time that your words hit good soil. Words of correction, exhortation or encouragement you speak today might bear fruit years from now, long after your life and mine no longer intersect. But, your lessons will bear fruit! You were an ambassador of Christ, speaking the words He called you to deliver, and His promises are sure. His word will not return empty.
Perhaps you are a pastor, a mentor or a spiritual parent. Perhaps you wonder if the life lessons you imparted to others had any impact. The seeds you planted in the fertile soil of your unconditional love, trusting obedience and risk-taking transparency will bear a bountiful harvest.
Isaiah 55:8-11 –
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”
All Bible verses, unless otherwise attributed, are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
Until Next Week
©2017 Katherine Walden
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