Thursday, August 06, 2009

"I want to show you how a Christian man dies."

Posted by Robert Sagers

In his book The Walk, Michael Card recounts the many ways that biblical scholar William L. Lane mentored him, beginning with Card's time at Western Kentucky University and ending with Professor Lane's death. Indeed, his retelling of their friendship is the telling of their discipleship:
"I would like to speak to you now about discipleship. I could do so in technical, academic words that would bore us both to death. Instead, I will do what Christians from the beginning have done—I will tell you a story because something as important as discipleship cannot be reduced to a definition or contained in a program. The truth of it must be lived out to be properly understood. It is organic; it flexes and moves and defies definition. That is the way of discipleship."
The means of discipleship, according to Card, is a walk. It is two (or more) people walking together for months, or even years, in the context of living life together. Indeed, as Card points out, this is the model of discipleship evidenced in the life of Jesus with his own disciples.

Card recalls his time in college with Lane as "the golden years," in part because Lane was able to show Card just how good those years really were:
"After all, that's one of the tasks of the discipler, to wake us up to what is really going on around us, to encourage us to take our eyes off ourselves and see that our world is not the only world. That outside the narrow confines of the self there exists a world that truly is golden. And they allow us to borrow their eyes until we can see it for ourselves."
Card also recalls what occurred when Lane learned that he had cancer, near the end of his life. The mentor and his wife decided to move to Franklin, Tennessee, to be nearer his disciple:
"During the conversation Bill told me why he wanted to spend his last days here. He didn't feel that Seattle was home, even after eight years there. Neither did he want to go back to Bowling Green, even though his years there had been some of the happiest of his life. 'I want to come to Franklin,' he said. 'I want to show you how a Christian man dies.'"
And that is exactly what he did.

It was only after Lane's death that Card began to understand the full meaning of that statement:
"Bill had said, 'I want to show you how a Christian man dies.' I have only recently realized that this lesson began the first moment we met. It continued for twenty years or more, because each time I was within Bill's reach, I was being powerfully taught or even more powerfully shown the life of faith and Spirit. And it is that life that best prepares us for the slumber Jesus spoke about."
May God raise up more men and women who will demonstrate to their disciples not only what it means to live for Jesus, but also what it means to die in him.