“If my friends could see me now…” Who hasn’t spoken these words before!
I just said that to Janita, you know, our office everything (she doesn’t like me to say the “s” word!). I think she and my wife have put me on a pedestal of virtue, so she was, naturally, shocked when I said that to her.
I’m not sure exactly how that comment came up, but it is likely a vague reference to something I might have done before I became a minister. You know…that Dan. I tried to reassure her that I wasn’t as bad as all the stories she might have heard about me if she had coffee with some of my old friends, but I’m not sure she entirely believed me. My friend’s mother, Clair Hanson, and I were talking about this topic some time ago and she said, “You were never bad, but you were certainly a rascal.” Yeah, I’ll stick with that story.
After all, I never got into any real trouble. Heck, I think I only had three speeding tickets in all my years of driving. The most memorable was when I was in seminary in Minneapolis and was asked to fill the pulpit for a pastor in a small town in Iowa, about three hours away. I was driving my ’69 Corvette and was late so I was going with the traffic flow, i.e., speeding. When the Trooper asked what my rush was I told him I was heading to a specific town to preach. He stepped back, looked at the Corvette, and said, “Sure you are.”, as he wrote out the ticket. I should’ve worn my collar.
Looking back I can see that my “rascally” days started in elementary school. I grew familiar with the taste of soap, had my mouth taped shut more than once, and spent more than a couple of afternoons after school washing blackboards. Most of those celebrations of the human spirit came about with the collaboration of my best bud, Charlie McClavey, who’s likely in prison now. Middle school was unmemorable except for not having Beatle boots. High school was more colorful and I was sort of on a “first-name basis” with my high school principal, Mr. St. Thomas, who was a very nice man when veins in his head weren’t exposed. In retrospect I think he just liked my witty conversation and pleasant company because he never looked angry when he would roll his eyes and say, “Mr. Herman. I’ll see you now.”
My college years saw a level of sophistication of being a rascal (I’m still sticking with Clair’s description of me), but I still never got in any trouble. Looking back I would suspect that my college friends would be more surprised than anyone that I actually became a minister, even though I had told all of them that my call was to become a pastor.
So, why am I talking about this with all of you? Because the changes that have come about in my life haven’t simply been a matter of years. I had to make a choice. My mother made sure I always had a
a connection with you and your church from birth through high school. Even in college I attended the local UCC church fairly regularly, even if I had to really push myself out of bed from the night before. I can say that I think the real changes in my life came when I decided I had wanted to be a representative of Christ. Sounds corny, I know, but it’s true. No matter where I was in my development as a person I knew I always had the light of the question of what Jesus would want of me: a light to encourage me or push me to challenge who I was and what I was doing.
When I get lazy now I can allow my opinions to lead my actions. When I’m on my game I try to place the stories of Jesus and scripture before my opinions. When I do that I hear the words of the prophet Micah when he said, “What does the Lord require but that do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly before him.” No matter who I used to be I see now that my choices must always reflect your command to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly before you in life.
I’m grateful for the stories of fun I had in life, some of which I’ll just keep to myself, and that you protected me in all my years. And I’m grateful for the compass you have given to me follow. I liked who I was before, but I like who I am now even more.
As always, thanks for listening and thanks for seeing me through my years. I love you. Dan