(A re-post from last year; in case you missed it.)
You ever know someone that's nearly perfect?
Someone that everyone gets along with?
Someone who has quietly succeeded in a career without fanfare?
Someone who's a role model for many?
Who pours himself out in service to others, again without fanfare?
Whose face always has a smile on it and is quick to laugh?
Who seeks the good in everyone and who never feels compelled to judge nor to air out dirty laundry about people?
I know such a guy.
Even better, I'm related to him.
Better still, I grew up alongside him.
Even better (well, for me...) I got to room with him in college.
My cousin Gary had a birthday last week. One of those big, change-the-first-digit birthdays...that results in lots of cards & letters from the AARP. I'd mock him, but I had that same birthday last year...
Gary is who I want to be when I grow up, even though I'm 9 months older than he. He's really quite a guy, and has always been quite a guy. Even-keeled...a man with strong convictions who is still friendly with those who don't share those convictions...everybody's friend.
He's an absolute bedrock type guy in our home church where he & his family are members. Serves on all kinds of committees, because he's known as a behind-the-scenes worker bee. Every church needs guys like Gary. Lots of guys like Gary.
But much more, every guy--especially every deeply flawed guy like me--needs guys like Gary as friends. If relatives and friends, well, so much the better. And if relatives and friends and roommates,...that's almost too good!
I moved into an apt. with Gary when I transferred to the U. of Alabama after flaming out in my first attempt at college. Worse for him, I didn't just move into an apt...I moved into his room in the apt.! I'm a knucklehead now, but I was a HUGE knucklehead back then. And yet, Gary showed me nothing but loving grace and patience.
I recently wrote about a couple of Sunday School teachers who matter greatly to me. Well, Gary is not a teacher to me, but rather, an up-close role model & example to me. Those who know my story may connect that I was pretty chapped at God & at life when I arrived @ Bama. In His gracious providence, God moved me in with someone who had experienced the same tragic loss I had...and his Dad died younger than mine at an earlier stage of Gary's life than when my Dad died...and yet, there was Gary, living out a settled, joyful faith in that same God I was so furious about and Whom I so strongly doubted.
I have laughed & said that Gary helped me come to know the Lord and helped me meet my wife, but other than that, he hasn't been all that important to me...*huge grin* Well, both are totally true. In addition, Gary helped me get back on course when our orbits coincided again there in Tuscaloosa.
He never preached to me nor at me...but he lived life before me. There are far too many these days who preach at without living life before. Their message tends to fall on deaf ears.
A word that's in far-too-short supply these days applies: HONOR. Gary honored his mother (who, incidentally, is another hero of mine), and he honored his friends, and he honored his pastor, and he honored his future wife. Most of all, he lived a life that honored his Lord. Our Lord.
And I took note.
And my taking note bore fruit down the road. I trust it still bears fruit today!
So, whenever you pay a tax in Okaloosa County, FL (think "Destin"), that tax will funnel through the county finance office. Which is run by this great guy who graduated from Alabama in accounting, despite having this hammerheaded roommate that he was related to gumming up the works...and which hammerheaded roommate is now oh-so-grateful for what he saw of God's grace lived out on a daily basis in the accounting dude's life. That same grace-filled life is now lived before the locals there back home and in First Baptist Church of Ft. Walton Beach, and is still planting seeds in the lives of teenagers and adults, who may not even realize just how grateful they are to see that life lived out before them.
Gary will be terribly embarrassed at this, for he prefers to be unnoticed & behind the scenes. But his life & faith matter so very greatly to my own life & faith, that I can't not write about him.
Happy Belated Birthday, Cuz! Love you very much. And thanks! As the song says, "Thank you...I am a life that was changed..."
(Some verses that come to mind about Gary...)
I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world.
I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus...
1 Corinthians 1:4
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you
I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints...For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you.
p.s. - Ironically, Gary's Mom & my Mom were also roommates at Alabama before they were sisters-in-law...I've always thought this was very cool that 2 generations were roomies there. But that's another story for another day...