A good friend of mine recently died. He was a true gentlemen and kind soul. We worked together in ministry for two years but I knew him about five since our paths crossed during other duties and church activities. I was very sad I couldn’t attend his funeral. I was out of town because of important family commitments and couldn’t get back in time to celebrate his life with the many men and women who came to say goodby to a man we all loved. My friend Mike was a true example of service to others and when I reflect on his life I’ve come to appreciate the fact one of the greatest ways to have a flourishing life is to give it away in service to others. That’s the kind of life Mike lived and in my opinion he was one of the most resilient and centered men I have ever met. It’s only when we hang on to our lives and use them to serve our selfish needs and desires do we end up alone, unhappy, and unfulfilled. Mike was first and foremost a husband to a wonderful women. They knew each other in high school and were married right out of college. They were together an amazing amount of years before he died and you can tell he lived to serve and care for her in a very loving way. Along with his love and service to his wife, Mike loved and cared for his children. He raised two boys and a girl into adulthood. While I don’t know them, I know he was very proud of them and while he may not have approved of EVERYTHING they did, he always described them as solid good human beings who took the values he and his wife raised them with and actualized them in their lives. Mike loved his family and he willingly gave his life for them.
Mike also served in the Navy. He retired as a Captain after many years of service. That’s not an easy thing to do and it required him to offer his time and talents to his country. Mike, like many other men and women who choose a military vocation, sacrificed many things we take for granted so we can live in the freedom to take many other things for granted. For example, that very family Mike loved often had to wait months and months for him to return home to be with them. Mike, like many other military people make sacrifices for people they may never meet; people like you and I who live freely under the safety of the men and women serving our country. Mike lived a life of service.
Lastly, Mike heard the call of God at a time in life when many retired Navy Captains take a deep breath and relax. However, my friend decided to tackle a seminary education and offer his time, talent, and gifts to serve God as an Episcopal priest. His service to God required him and his wife to pack things up and move wherever he was called. He served small little churches that often could barely afford an Episcopal priest and churches that many in higher stations considered unimportant or nominal in stature and standing. Mike, now Fr. Mike, went willingly and he loved and served the people in those churches as if each were Jesus Christ himself. Mike understood service. To top things off, Mike also volunteered as an EMT, waking up at all hours of the night to help someone in need of quick medical attention. This is a man who understood the word service.
Mike died while doing something he loved. At 77 years of age he went for a walk on the beach where he used to listen to the waves that once beckoned him to sea and meditate on the goodness of God. Knowing Mike I’m sure his prayers were those of gratitude for the Creator who made all he enjoyed and reflected a continued willingness to offer himself to God in any way He desired. Up to the day he took his last breath on that beach Mike was willing to offer himself in service to others, even if it meant retiring from ministry to spend more time with his now frail yet tenacious and loving wife. I loved Mike, he was a mentor and friend to me. I last saw him at a lunch in which we ate with a number of people who participated in a bible study we both taught. We hugged each other and promised one another we would soon meet for lunch again just so the two of us could catch up. However, that lunch will never happen. Mike got called to serve once again, but this time in the heavenly choirs of paradise with God. Mike went off again to serve the Lord in whatever way God needed him.
We all need to follow the example of this good man and give our lives to others. In psychology, numerous studies indicate the best way to develop a strong, flourishing, and resilient life is to live a life of service. We need to get out of our heads and into the hearts of others. I believe this with all I am and many of you who read this blog know I spend a great deal of time studying and sharing how to live a good life with others. My friend Mike, while not a psychologist, understood how to do this better than I can ever explain it and he taught others by how he lived. Even in his passing from this life to Glory, Mike taught me what it means to live well for God, others, and the gospel. To all my readers, I hope this brief introduction into the life of a good and humble man helps you see what we all need to do to live life well. Live a life of service and you’ll be fulfilled. Never believe life is all about you, it’s indeed about loving a God who created you, those he places in your life, and caring for the creation he has blessed you with. Farewell my friend Mike, we will meet again one day to share that lunch together in paradise.