The weeks after Roscoe died were a blur. When I started to find something resembling normalcy the summer was upon us. Lisa and I have a tradition with our oldest two kids- to watch a classic movie series from our own childhood together. Having knocked out The Karate Kid and Star Wars we took on the Rocky franchise this time around (not Rocky V of course, since even Stallone has pretended it never happened). I did not expect to find myself forcefully brought face to face with my grief in a movie starring “Mr. T.” Funny how providence works…
Mickey was more than Rocky’s trainer. He was a friend, partner and father-figure. Rocky just came from the worst beating of his career. Knocked out in the second round. Certainly he would have wanted Mickey’s wisdom and counsel (maybe something deeper than “you’re going to eat lightning and crap thunder”), but he simply expected to walk into that locker room and start brainstorming for the next battle. I think the most moving line in this little clip is Rocky’s tearfully choked, “We got more to do. We got more to do.”
That’s exactly how I felt in the days after Roscoe died. God simply could NOT have taken him because we had so much more to do. And I think that was the first time it dawned on me with mid-day clarity: I am now a pastor without a pastor. I simply never could have imagined doing what I “got to do” without Roscoe.
As I mentioned in my first post, this kind of experience is brand new to me. Almost 27 years as a believer, for the first time I am thinking a lot about Timothy and how he must have felt when Paul was called home. I would imagine that he spent much time looking back over the correspondence he had received from his own spiritual father. I’ve done this for months now with countless emails and my own remembrances of countless conversations.
Fortunately for us we have a few of those letters from Paul to Timothy. 2 Timothy (when Paul is anticipating the imminence of his own death) is quite personal in its tone. I’ve gotten a tremendous amount of encouragement out of this section.
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. (2 Timothy 2:1-6)
Many things stand out, so let me concentrate on just one in this post. Mentors are always temporary, and the best mentors prepare their apprentices to be without them. Even though Paul loved Timothy and called him his “child” (verse 1), the seasoned apostle did not let his protégé take his eye off the ball of verse 2.
“and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”
Paul prepared Timothy for what transcended even their own special relationship- “what you have heard from me” i.e. the gospel. Paul knew that one day he would be gone, but more importantly, he knew that one day even Timothy would be gone. What must remain? The gospel- here pictured as a baton that is passed on from Paul to Timothy to “faithful men” to “others” to…
When I think back on the countless conversations I had with Roscoe over our fifteen-year relationship, one phrase dominates all the others. He would say this to me at least once a week and ALWAYS on Sunday. “Greg, just preach the gospel.” While it breaks my heart to know that I’ll never him say those words to me again (obviously, he won’t be saying that to me in heaven!), he said it enough. I know what I need to do.
I am indebted to Roscoe for passing on the baton of his gospel-saturated life. By the grace of God, may I pass on the same to others so that when I’m gone, and they’re gone, and the next generation is gone…the gospel will remain!