The last time I wrote to all of you I had just attended a wedding, a significant moment we share in community that reminds us of sacrifice and love. And now I have just attended a funeral, a significant moment that reminds us of grace and legacy.
About two weeks ago, my grandfather passed away after complications with heart surgery. He was a man who cared about his family, and desired relationship, but did not follow Jesus in his life. This created many difficult chapters for my Grandfather. I am thankful that in recent years my family has been able to reestablish healthy relationships with him, and we have some hope that he responded to the gospel at the end of his life.
At the funeral, the pastor, who didn't know my grandfather, commented that two things that stuck out to him in the various eulogies by family members were the legacy of a man, and the thread of the gospel. Even though there were many rocky times in my family, in the room were all the lives my grandfather influenced – his legacy. And, by God's grace, many of those people in the room have experienced the joy of accepting the gospel message. Many stories of joy and difficulty, fun times and difficult times revealed a thread of God's redemptive work in our family.
My grandfather's funeral ended up being the same weekend as my big fall race I had been training for. Against some common sense, and the advice of my doctor, I am a bit of a hard-core runner. I gladly exchange some tight muscles and sore knees to that feeling of sailing along, heart pounding, and the thrill of finishing a good run. God often teaches me simple lessons on my runs, and the length gives me time to reflect and deepen my understanding. It has been natural for me to reflect about my Grandfather and about legacy on recent runs.
I've been enjoying the colors of autumn and noticing again the majesty of trees. I feel like I don't really notice trees during the summer, they are just there. But then, suddenly, they burst forth in color – screaming at our eyes, “look at me!” I just ran a race on Saturday, and honestly it was not my best run even though it was a PR (personal record) for that particular distance. Actually, it was probably my worst run ever in competition. It was really cold, my muscles were sore, and I never hit a good stride. The entire journey felt labored and challenging. I was glad to finish, but frustrated with my overall performance.
The first lesson I have been learning from running lately is that what place we finish pales in comparison to the way that the race is run. I think I've heard this analogy many times in my life, but it means so much more now that I am actually a runner. (side note: experience makes lessons come alive) Even though I had my best time ever, I felt terrible after the race because I had not done well throughout. How often we focus on how we compare to others at the finish line rather than making each moment a quality response of praise to our creator.
The second lesson I have been learning is a more simple and reflective truth: God is always creating beauty and redemption. Even though the leaves are dying and the trees are doing dormant, beauty emerges – it shouts at us. It's been a gentle reminder that all of God's works are redemptive. He is making all things new and beautiful. No matter what we are facing, or fear we will face in the future, it is all for His glory and the good of His children.
Sitting there at the funeral, I was reminded that our success in life is not measured in all the results of our work, but rather the legacy we leave with those we love. We all reach the finish line, either quickly or slowly, but what matters is how we run the race. As I sat there listening to my Uncle describe his love for his brother even though they had fought for many years, I was reminded that God brings redemption and healing, even through death.
Brian Simmons, president of ACSI, often reminds us that we should have the 10 and 10,000 year goal in mind for ourselves and our students. Do we know what God is calling us to work toward in the short term, are we focusing on our pace, our muscles, our stride? And are we confident we will be sharing in eternity with our Heavenly Father 10,000 years from now – sharing that experience with those we have shared Christ with in this life?
BCS family, I challenge you: Are we leading our students to a finish line with a the thread of the gospel woven throughout their whole race? Are we helping our students measure success in the right way: by Kingdom building not treasure building? I challenge you to teach our students to measure success by lives impacted for Christ, not high grade percentages, promotions, popularity, or politics. I challenge you to develop the 10 and 10,000 year view for your life and in the lives of those you impact.
Run well my friends.
Grace and Peace,
Philip S. Warner, administrator of Berks Christian School.