This week’s blog may not be for all.
Perhaps it is just for me, and thank you if you take the time to listen in. But in doing so, I hope you might consider it may have to say to you as well.
I lost a friend today.
He did not know my name. I am only blessed to call him friend because he considered so many to be so, and I was happy to be lost in that crowd. He was one of those people who made you feel his easy grin was just for you, until you looked around and saw so many others who believed the same.
He let us know him like few others understand or are willing to do; he knew us, or at least his words, his smile, his heart made us feel that he did. In a larger sense, he knew us better than we knew ourselves.
Chuck Smith was the pastor of Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa for four decades, but he was known far outside those walls as the voice and the face of what led a generation of “hippies” to be the “Jesus Movement.” At first reluctant to even be around people he thought first needed to just take a bath and wear some clean clothes, he let his heart be broken, and in doing so reached theirs. Four million at best guess. Around the world.
He was an immensely humble man, as comfortable with his passion for people as he was with his own place in their lives, yet he mastered that delicacy of speaking the truth in love. I never shook his hand, but I remember as a college student his strong grip on my shoulders as he rinsed me under the ocean waters off the beaches of Corona del Mar in California. I found a path that—despite my failures—has never failed me.
It was lung cancer that today finally ushered him from this world, but he went in peace and hope, knowing that his work was done.
Few of us will ever achieve the level of impact of Chuck, yet I reflect today on the simple elements of his leadership that are more within our grasp than we dare admit, regardless of the depth, direction or expression of our spiritual lives.
A willingness to be open to things and people outside of our zone of safety and understanding. The courage to be just as authentic in front of friends and strangers, realizing the latter could become the former. The humility to carry something other than our own burdens. Being unguarded enough that others feel safe around us, less alone in their hopes, fears and dreams and failures. Holding to some truths with a stubborn gentleness. Realizing that it really is not about us, but also appreciating that how we conduct ourselves is still the measure.
We talk about wanting to be an influence, to be consequential. I don’t doubt there were hundreds of thousands—more like millions—who clutched for a breath today at the news of Chuck’s passing. But then we breathe again and go on, perhaps renewed in our understanding of what we were given, and refreshed in our conviction to forward it on.