It's a devastating thing, finding out that someone you looked up to has fallen from grace.
I had someone like that in my life. From the time I was just 15, this man took me in. He made me a part of his family. He saw potential in me that no one else cared to look for. He saw more than a problem kid that got packed up and shipped from foster home to foster home. He saw more than a boy who had a tendency to rebel against anything that would stand still long enough to be rebelled against. He saw the man I would become.
Joe was a pastor. His church was one of those small places that met in an old storefront downtown. They weren't a big congregation, but they were good people. From what I could tell, they were genuine people. Joe brought me in one Sunday morning and introduced me to the crowd. I didn't want to be there. I didn't want a bunch of holy rollers looking at me and judging me. But they didn't.
To them I was just a lost kid who needed to be loved. And love is exactly what they showed me. For the first couple years I stayed skeptical. But Joe was persistent. He was constantly on my case about my grades. He was always hovering around me whenever I had free time, expecting me to make good decisions and getting in my face whenever I made a bad one. But he never came down on me in a way that made me feel like he was angry or resentful. Everything he said and did came from a place of real love.
I finally understood where that love came from the day I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. I understood what it meant to reach out to a lost soul in love. I understood that Christ had called Joe to reach out to me, to teach me, to disciple me and bring me to Him. I understood that Christ had called me to do the same thing for someone else, to share the love that was shown to me.
I'm 25 years old now. After I graduated from high school I went to college. Joe helped me to find ways to pay for it. All through my four years at Tech, I kept in touch with Joe. He kept asking all the same tough questions that he liked to ask. I kept giving him the honest answers, whether it was what he wanted to hear or not. Slowly, though, we drifted apart.
I didn't forget about the things that he taught me. I never forgot how to love strangers the way he showed me to. I guess I just forgot to keep thanking him for showing me what God's grace looked like.
Imagine my shock when I found out that Joe had walked away from his ministry. An old friend from that small church called me up last week and told me all about the drama that had unfolded over recent months. Joe walked out on his church. He walked out on his family. He walked out on God.
I thanked my friend for letting me know. If for nothing else, so that I could at least pray for my old mentor. But as I hung up the phone, I was hit with a crisis of faith. If this man who had shown me so much in my life, who had laid a foundation and built so much upon it, could drop everything and just walk away, how much of it was real?
So I prayed. I dropped to my knees and I prayed to the God that I know is real. I prayed to the God that I knew would hear my prayers. I prayed to the God that I knew was in my life, shaping me and molding me, and would continue to do so for as long as I had breath. My crisis of faith melted away. It didn't matter what Joe had done in the past or in the present, or what he would do in the future. The same God that led Joe to me is the same God that would lead me to Joe.
Joe was my mentor. He was a man that taught me so much about the character and nature of God. I had to admit that there was a very real possibility that all that time, Joe was just talking the talk. He may have known the right things to do and to say in order to put on a good mask for the world to see. Maybe his faith was really dead on the inside. Maybe it wasn't though. It's not for me to say.
All I know is what I know God is calling me to do right now. He's calling me to find my old friend and mentor. He's calling me to reach out to him in love, the same way he reached out to a problem kid that got packed up and shipped from foster home to foster home. God isn't done teaching me, and I have a feeling He's not done teaching Joe either.