Pablo Casals was considered to be the preeminent cellist of the first half of the 20th century. When he was still playing his cello in the middle of his tenth decade of life, a young reporter asked, “Mr. Casals, you are 95 years old and the greatest cellist that ever lived. Why do you still practice 6 hours a day?”
During the Easter season, my wife and I attended a church service where the participants sought to model the events that Jesus and His disciples experienced on the night before He was crucified. As part of the service, the church staff members washed the feet of some of the church volunteers. As I watched, I wondered which was more humbling in our day—to wash another person’s feet or to have someone else wash yours. Both those who were serving and those being served were presenting distinct pictures of humility.
Recently I asked my older sister, Mary Ann, if she remembered when our family moved into the house where we lived for many years. She replied, “You were about 9 months old, and I remember that Mother and Daddy stayed up all night packing boxes and listening to the radio. It was June 6, 1944, and they were listening to live coverage of the Normandy Invasion.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life was at risk every day he stayed in Hitler’s Germany, but he stayed nonetheless. I imagine he shared the apostle Paul’s view that being in heaven was his heart’s desire, but staying where he was needed was God’s present purpose (Phil. 1:21). So stay he did; as a pastor he offered clandestine worship services and resisted the evil regime under Hitler.
When the British Broadcasting Corporation asked for examples of important-sounding, obscure, and even bizarre job titles, one writer offered hers: Underwater Ceramic Technician. She was a dishwasher at a restaurant. Sometimes titles are used to make a job sound more important.
Not long ago my wife, Janet, and I bought a quantity of beef from a friend who raised cattle on a small farm. It was less expensive than meat from a grocery store, and we put it in the freezer to use throughout the coming months.
Last summer, our church invited a young man to join the staff. As Caleb shared how he grew up in Costa Rica while his family was serving Christ there, he reflected on the words of 2 Timothy 3:14-17. From his childhood, he reminisced, he had known the Bible. His mother and father had taught him the truths of the Scriptures that were “able to make [him] wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (v.15). He acknowledged that his preparation to be a pastor had begun when he was still a child.
If you Google “person of influence,” the search will take you to various lists of “the most influential people in the world.” These lists usually include political leaders; business entrepreneurs and athletes; along with people in science, the arts, and entertainment. You will not find the names of cooks and cleaners who work for them. Yet those in so-called lowly positions often influence the people they serve.
My first bike had one gear. Whether I was going fast or slow, uphill or downhill, that gear did everything. My next bike had three gears: one for level surfaces, one for going uphill, and one for going downhill. My third bike had ten gears, allowing me an even broader range of choices. Even though my last bike had several gears to choose from, I didn’t use all of them every time I rode. Some were best suited for starting and climbing, others were reserved for gaining speed, and others were best for a leisurely pace. But the thing about gears is this: Even though I wasn’t using all of them at the time, it didn’t mean I would never need them.