Saturday, June 28, 2008
My First Hero
Whenever I think about those who have influenced my spiritual journey, I always remember my first spiritual hero. I met him at the library in Waycross, Georgia when I was eight or nine years old. My mother enrolled me in the summer reading club. I not only read my required twenty-five books which gave me my star filled certificate, but also discovered what would be a life long passion for reading. One of those books I read was about Albert Schweitzer. Even as a child I was fascinated and amazed with his life. Born in 1875, he lived until 1965. He was an accomplished organist, noted music scholar, theologian, and medical doctor. What fascinated me about him was the fact that such a gifted man went to Africa as a missionary doctor. At the age of 30, he resigned his post as a theology teacher and re-entered the university to complete a seven year Doctorate in Medicine degree. He did it because of of God's call on his life to go to Africa as a missionary doctor. In 1913 he and his wife established the Lambarene Hospital in western Africa. It was there that this man who could have been on the center of many stages in Europe spent his life serving God and humanity. A primitive hospital in a forgotten corner of Africa became his passion for the rest of his life!
As a young boy I was enthralled by his story. I fantasized about going one day to Lambarene Hospital to serve. I read everything I could find about Albert Schweitzer. In a very real way he became my first spiritual hero! His story was my earliest lesson about what it meant to serve God. To be honest is to admit that I did not understand at the time of the summer reading program the way his life was impacting my own. It would be much later in one of those middle adult years filled with reflection about the past that I would suddenly come to a moment of knowing that this man whom I never met, surely influenced my journey of faith even though our paths never crossed. So, when I think of how I got to this point in the journey, I know that this missionary doctor's life inspired a boy whose faith was still somewhat smaller than a mustard seed.
It is interesting to remember those who have influenced our journey of faith. When we start thinking back, we may be surprised at who they are. And what will be even more surprising is that one day someone in the future may remember us in such a way.