One of the wisest men I’ve ever known is walking with Jesus today. Of that, I am certain.
For the past 10 years, I’ve taken every opportunity to learn from this much-loved, retired pastor, a patriarch in the family God chose as my second group of people. I spent many afternoons or evenings asking him questions about the Bible, theology, and loving others well.
We’ve known this past decade that time was a gift. My heart is deeply thankful for the final lesson on loving kindness that I gleaned this past summer.
I pulled up my lawn chair to his as children slid down the inflatable water slide and splashed in a blown-up baby pool. We caught up on the ordinary just before I asked the question that I knew he’d answer with great wisdom from decades and decades of pastoral experience. I asked him about loving the “hard to love.” God had blessed me with several women in ministry and friendship that were walking a most hard road. How could I love them better, I asked. He didn’t skip a beat. He knew just the story.
Hands folded in his lap, the corners of his mouth formed a kind smile. He told me of a long ago time, when he had been assigned a task. The job was to convince a man, one who had been labeled “unreasonable” to take his medicine. His coworkers insisted the man was quite difficult.
“He’ll never listen to you,” the others said, “We’ve tried every trick in the book. He cannot be reasoned with.”
The coworkers didn’t know how a man sold out for Jesus could love the uneasy to love. He would form his own thoughts and not be swayed by the opinions of coworkers.
The wise man arrived at the home of the “unreasonable” one with an open mind and the Holy Spirit dwelling within. The unreasonable opened the door to invite the wise man inside. I’m sure the unreasonable was greeted with a kind smile that resembled the love of The Most High.
The wise man told me of the cockroaches and dirt he saw that day, but when the unreasonable invited him to sit, he gladly took a chair. He began talking with the unreasonable and it wasn’t long before he was offered a piece of pie.
The wise man looked at the pests crawling on the counter. He looked at the pie. He saw the dirt, but he looked in the eyes of the unreasonable. “Can I offer you a piece of pie?” asked the unreasonable.
I can imagine the warm smile of the wise man as he graciously accepted the piece of pie. “I would love a piece of pie,” said the wise man.
When the unreasonable sat across the table from him with his own plate of pie, the wise man pushed aside thoughts of roaches and pests. He began eating the piece of pie.
When he looked up from the plate, sticky with crumbs, he was stunned at the sight. The unreasonable sat across from him, sobbing over his own piece of pie.
The wise man asked the unreasonable why he cried. With puffy eyes, the unreasonable lifted his head and said the words that the wise man remembered so many years later.
“No one has eaten at the table with me since I was a child.”
As I listened from my lawn chair, captivated by the wise man’s story of mercy, I noticed him smiling as he watched his great-grandchildren splash across his lawn. He spoke quietly and I had to lean in to hear him say,
It is God’s lovingkindness that draws us in. It is the lovingkindness that changes our hearts. No one had shown this man the lovingkindness. That was all he needed.”
The wise man continued the story, “When I returned back to the office, they expected me to say he hadn’t taken his medicine…but he had. He took his medicine. They all asked me how I had convinced him. I just told them I hadn’t done anything special except show the man lovingkindness. They all wanted to know what I meant by that, of course. I told them about the pie and they said they hoped I didn’t eat anything in that house. I told them I simply ate the pie.”
The wise man remembered every detail of the beautiful story of how a man who had been labeled “unreasonable” needed to see the love of Jesus. He could remember the details of the story, but he couldn’t remember the short-term things. I was blessed to hear that story again a few minutes later, and then once more after that.
I treasured the wisdom in each retelling. I was blessed to listen three times. Each account began with, “Did I ever tell you about the man who offered me a piece of pie?” I was honored to be the recipient of that story each time. I am even more honored and blessed by that final lesson of lovingkindness on this day.
“You see, people need to see the lovingkindness. They need to know you care about them. It’s with lovingkindness that God reaches our hearts. I just showed the man kindness. I didn’t do anything special. I just ate a piece of pie.”
And a part of the world is a better place because of the wise man who lived a lifetime serving people. The world is better when we care more about reaching hearts than our own personal welfare.
Thanksgiving will never be the same for me. I have seen every Thanksgiving prayer and abbreviated sermon from the wise man as a gift. God gifted me with a decade of Thanksgivings blessed with the resonant sounds of a deep and booming prayer. God saw it fitting that I would marry into a family where the patriarch would lead us in a beautiful singing of The Doxology around a table of blended harmonies.
For that, I will always be thankful and on the day set aside for the giving of thanks, my heart will surely remember the loving kindness of the wise man.
I’ve promised some loved ones that I will never write about them, but this one would want your heart to be encouraged by his lesson on loving kindness. I feel complete peace in sharing this story with you, sweet readers. The wise man was not one to hide light beneath a bushel, after all.
Let the story move you to compassion. Let the light shine on and on and on.
May our lives reflect the light of Jesus, shining to every part of the world. May we live to tell of the Lord’s loving kindness all the days of our lives. May our stories repeat the mercy and compassion of the Savior. May we live much like a wise man I’ve known.
From my heart to yours,
For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations. ~Psalm 100:5