Deuteronomy 28, 29 Luke 7:31-50
Therefore I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little. Luke 7:47
His name was Brian Wallace. The information on his guest card described him as a single parent of two young daughters. He desired a pastoral visit. As I thoughtfully poured over this information, I wondered how he had happened to find our church.
I recalled seeing him in the audience at last Sunday’s service. He did not appear to be a physically healthy person. I hadn’t thought too much about it then since everyone comes with their own situational history. He must have some special need to indicate that he would like to have a pastor visit him.
Seated behind my desk that Monday morning, I wondered what his need could be–prayer for his health? financial help? Little did I know that morning the profound lasting affect that Brian would have on me and on our entire congregation.
At my next convenience, I drove across the west side of South Bend to a small house near the Notre Dame campus. A knock on the door opened me to the world of Brian; a world of disappointment, disease, and some disillusionment.
I soon learned that I had accurately assessed his physical condition. He had been a diabetic from birth. Having taken little care of himself, his disease manifested early in vision problems and late stage kidney failure. A few years earlier he had received a kidney and pancreas transplant from his mother. His careless lifestyle brought about early rejection and continued deterioration in his health. He readily confessed his failures, including the loss of his wife, the love of his life. He didn’t blame her for leaving him.
Despite the setbacks he had experienced, he came across as bright, happy, and with a quick sense of humor. He made me glad hat I had come to see him.
In no way was Brian’s decision to explore God and His church a “fox hole” decision. He was quick to repent of his sin. He devoured the Word. His fast devotion to the church was exceptional.
Phyllis and I had left Murphyboro in 2003. when we had been invited to South Bend to become interim pastor of Christian Tabenacle. We knew that church, having served there as an associate pastor from 1993 to 1997. When we moved to join the staff in Murphysboro, we had left behind many friends. It was with great optimism that we now returned. We looked forward to our new assignment.
Life has taught me that expectations don’t always match reality. The folks in South Bend had been serving for several years under the leadership of some fine elders. They had their set ways of leading the congregation. As one might expect, my leadership was tested early. All of that notwithstanding, we loved the people and tried to serve faithfully.
Toward the end of our first year of service, Phyllis was driving us home after church. Sitting at red light, I turned to her and asked. “Have I made the biggest mistake of our career in returning to South Bend? “
“Do you feel that way,too?” she responded. I was surprised, but relieved that she shared some of my sentiment. Those kinds of episodes sometimes rapidly come and go in ministerial life.
Brian’s first visit to our church came very soon after that bout of self doubt. His entrance into the body of our church gave me an accurate glimpse of the quality of people that we served. Our people soon noticed his plight and were quick to help in any way possible.
One of our men was rehabbing an old house for resale. When he learned that the place where Brian had been living was sold, he felt led to make that house available to Brian so that Brian would have a place where his two daughters could come to spend time with him.
Other church people offered assistance and the old house was made habitable. Brian offered profuse appreciation for all that was done for him. He looked for ways that he, in turn, might contribute. Brian was an artist. He offered free lessons for any young people who cared to take an art class. He got involved in the vacation Bible school by designing the props.
He loved music and moved proficiently in the hip hop genre. The year that he led the Christmas program lives on in all of our memories. Kids sang and danced their hearts out.
Amid all of this joy was the realization in all of us that our young friend was deteriorating medically. There were times when we couldn’t awaken him on Sunday morning and the EMT would be summoned for emergency treatment. These episodes became more and more frequent. Once in the middle of the service, Brian went into a diabetic coma and the ambulance had to called.
From this vantage point several years removed. I note that Brian’s presence changed all of us in profound ways. Our hearts began to reach outward as we found ways of serving our brother and others like him. The church began to grow. Like the woman who brought precious ointment and anointed Jesus’s feet, Brian loved much. He had been forgiven much.
The day of Brian’s baptism was a day of great rejoicing. His ex-wife and daughters were present to help celebrate the great change in him. For all of us ,it was a day of pure joy and celebration.
In 2007 we finished our assignment and left the church in good hands to return to Murphysboro. Painfully, I bid farewell to my young brother, Brian.
Two years ago I received the phone call that I knew would some day come. Brian had experienced a severe stroke and was now in his final sleep from which even the EMT could not awaken. The family requested that I return to preach his funeral.
The room was filled with friends he had made since he had come to Christ. The service was a celebration filled with tears and laughter as friends shared the difference Brian had made in their lives.
Just this morning I was panning my cell phone numbers, there in the “W’s” I saw B WALLACE. I haven’t been able to delete it. Seeing his name evoked a sentimental journey that I have now shared with my readers.
Thank you, Brian. You were forgiven much. And you loved much.