Thursday, May 4, 2006

Real Influence

Last Saturday I did a funeral for my best friend’s father. I did the funeral in the same chapel and the graveside standing beside the grave where my best friend is buried. I did that funeral twelve years ago. On Saturday it seem like I did it yesterday. These funerals were more like family events than friends. I spent a significant part of my childhood playing in their yard, eating at their dinner table and playing games on their den floor. As the child of a single parent in the seventies I was an anomaly. The Evans family essentially adopted me into their lives as a surrogate son. Mr. Evans has definitely taught me life lessons I carry with me to this day.

Thomas Earl Evans is probably not a man that you know. He never wrote a book or climbed a mountain. He was the son of farmer who moved to Raleigh from Louisburg to marry his childhood sweetheart, Janet. They eventually scraped together enough money to buy a small starter home in an unassuming neighborhood filled with blue collar families, children up and down the block and several retirees. He went to church every Sunday, served in the National Guard for more than twenty years, worked hard all of his life and loved his family with every ounce of his being. He was a good man in an age where good men are rare things.

Mr. Evans (I just can’t call him Tom, even though he tried to insist that I should) taught me three life lessons that have molded who I am today. He taught me about how life brings sacrifice. He helped me understand the true meaning of success. He taught me about the importance of accepting a Savior in my life to help me navigate the tough waters of adulthood. Mr. Evans was a mentor with far more influence than I am sure he ever imagined.

Sacrifice is not a popular word. It was, however, a way of life. Mr. Evans worked hard, very hard, often double shifts, so that his wife could stay home and raise their two children. This was a mutual decision. A decision that they made early in their marriage. He drove older vehicles, pinched pennies and made things last to provide stability for his family.

Sacrifice, according to Tom Evans, is what brings success. Now if you measured success with bank accounts, annuities and possessions, then he may not measure up. He taught me long ago that this was not how you measure success. You measure success by the laughter of your children, the number of friends that you have and the depth of your faith. Success is more about inner contentment than outer possessions. Success is living a life without regret.

Lastly, Tom Evans taught me about the Savior. He used to take me to church with his family every Sunday morning and back again for youth group on Sunday nights. He lived out his faith daily. He taught me the value of praying before every meal as a spiritual discipline, no matter where you are. There was something about him that let you know that he was connected to God and wanted you to be connected too.

These are lessons I have learned from a good man. A man who lived with integrity and intensity. A man that if somebody told me I was like, I would take it as a compliment. I do not believe I will ever be able to fill his shoes but it is certainly a goal to strive toward. Thank God for people in our lives that mold us without ever knowing that they have real influence. I remain:

Lost in Grace,

Marty Cauley, Pastor

Gracious God, who loves us deeply and puts people in our lives to point us in the right direction, help us to embrace these mentors, to learn from their lives and to live for You with every ounce of our being. In the name of our Shepherd, Jesus, I pray. Amen

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