A few years ago I met a man named Woodrow, and I can’t get him off of my mind. I met him in a church on a Sunday morning and the following Wednesday I found myself still thinking about him.
I walked in the door of the church where David preached that impactful Sunday morning, he was preaching for our friend Tommy who had been in the hospital earlier that week. It’s a very sweet church and everyone is very friendly, so it isn’t unusual to walk in and have someone greet you with a smile and a handshake that you know they really mean. I was blessed as I watched a woman enter whose son had died tragically the week before and when the women in the vestibule saw her they surrounded her and “did life” with her. They wept with her, hugged her neck, encouraged and prayed for her right there. I overheard her say something like “I couldn’t not come and worship with my church family today”.
That interlude was enough to bless me, and to tell you the truth I could have gone home right then. I was blessed to watch the body do what the body is supposed to do, Love God with all their heart, soul and mind and love their neighbor as themselves. As it got closer to time for Sunday School to start more people arrived and they were asking Carol how their pastor was doing, was there anything they could do to help out? etc. In the midst of their concern for Carol and Tommy they didn’t overlook me standing there, they greeted me and engaged in conversation with me. Tommy and Carol have done well teaching and training their church how to truly love God by loving people.
I was thinking about the circumstances which had brought us to this particular place on this Sunday morning and was thanking God for all Carol and Tommy had invested in us in both ministry and friendship over the years. I was suddenly aware of someone speaking to me. His voice is what drew me out of my fog, but it was his smile that drew me to his heart.
He stood before me with a smile the size of Texas and he said “Hi, I am Woodrow!”. I replied, “Hi Woodrow I am BJ”, as I reached out my hand to shake his. Woodrow’s hand went right past mine as he wrapped his arms around me and gave me a huge bear hug, all the while he was smiling and his eyes were sparkling. It wasn’t a lengthy encounter, in fact as soon as he gave me that great big hug he was off to greet someone else who had caught his eye. It wasn’t too long after Woodrow parted that I realized he was a thief, you see Woodrow in the twinkle of an eye had stolen my heart. I still can’t get him off of my mind.
What I didn’t tell you about Woodrow is that he was about 70, he only came up to my shoulder, he had large ears and the cutest face on which he kept that huge smile. His heart was like pure gold! Woodrow had special needs; some may even say he is “simple”. Except for that brief engagement, I don’t know much about Woodrow personally, other than he lived with his parents until they passed away. At that time his niece Lynda and her husband became his caretaker. They were unable to care for him anymore and at the time of our meeting he lived in a home with others who had special needs. Lynda and Clint took him to their home every weekend and brought him to church on Sunday, Woodrow’s favorite day of the week.
Although small in stature, in my eyes he was a spiritual giant who lived out God’s plan and purpose for his life with everything he had. In his simple, child like faith Woodrow was doing that which God wants from us more than anything, to Love Him with all our heart, and with all our soul and with all our mind; and to love our neighbor as ourselves. It was obvious that God lived in him. One day Woodrow will stand confidently before God’s throne perfected in love, sporting a grin the size of Texas, and perhaps while giving Him a bear hug, he will hear God say “Well done my good and faithful servant”.
What about you?1 John 4 tells us that loving others is what gives us confidence before God’s throne in the Day of Judgment – how are you doing with that? Will you stand confidently or will you bow in shame? Just askin’.
Woodrow thank you for invading my space and stealing my heart! I want to be just like you when I grow up. Woodrow passed away a few years ago now, but he still lives on in my heart and the heart of many others. My prayer is that I will never be able to get Woodrow off of my mind!