I remember him as a large man, built like a concrete block. He wore a crew cut, neckties, and short-sleeved white shirts with an ever-present pocket protector. I was one of four fourth-grade boys who attended his Bible study each Wednesday at the Parkview Church of Christ in Odessa, Texas. The classroom held at least a dozen desks. I do not remember the teacher’s name. Nor do I recall any details about his life. Was he a plumber or a postman? I have no idea.
What I recall with startling detail is the evening of February 10, 1965. He attempted to teach his handful of ten-year-old boys the meaning of the seventh chapter of Romans. That is the section in which the apostle Paul confessed the civil war that raged within his heart. The topic was a heavy one for a covey of kids. When he talked about a troubled conscience and the need for forgiveness, I took note.
I gave the teacher no reason to think the class had made an impression on me. I didn’t ask any questions or thank him for his words. He likely went home with little or no understanding of the impact of the lesson. If his wife had asked him, “How was your class?” he would have shrugged and said, “I dunno. Those kids don’t talk much.” What he didn’t know is that the freckle-faced redhead on the second row was listening.
That night I stepped into my father’s bedroom and asked him about heaven. Dad took a seat on the edge of the bed and invited me to join him. He told me about grace. I asked Jesus to forgive me. The following Sunday I was baptized. A new me began.
Over the years I’ve often thought about that teacher. He wasn’t a pastor. He wasn’t dynamic. He was prone to fumble over his words. He didn’t have a title, seminary degree, or reserved parking place. He never filled a stadium. As far as I know, he never planted a church. He wasn’t an expert on church growth or how to solve world hunger. If he left a sizable donation to a nonprofit in his will, I never heard about it. Yet his teaching rerouted my path.
I’ve not seen him since, but I’ve seen thousands like him. Quiet servants. The supporting cast of the kingdom of God. They seek to do what is right. They show up. Open doors. Cook dinners. Visit the sick. You seldom see them in front of an audience. That’s the last place most of them want to be. They don’t stand behind a pulpit; they make sure the pulpit is there. They don’t wear a microphone but make certain it’s turned on.
They embody this verse: “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal. 5:13). These words appear toward the end of a document on liberation. For five chapters the apostle Paul proclaimed, “You are free! Free from sin. Free from guilt. Free from rules. Free from regulations. The yoke of slavery is off, and the liberation has begun.”
Max Lucado, How Happiness Happens: Finding Lasting Joy in a World of Comparison, Disappointment, and Unmet Expectations (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2019).
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