The man in this picture, Dr. James Gardner, was my pastor for about 9 years, from my early teens into my twenties. He pastored a very traditional church in a town in the South. He was my pastor when I had hair down to my waist and was an unsaved wretch.
And he showed me Christ. Not as much in what he spoke from the pulpit, because, sadly, most Sundays I wasn’t listening. But he showed me Christ in the love he had for me. In all my sin, in all my stupidity, I never once felt like this man judged me. He loved me. He encouraged me. He urged me to use my life and my gifts for Jesus Christ. I did not come to a saving knowledge of Christ during a service Dr. Gardner preached, but his life and his love had a huge mark on me. In a time when many people in the church judged me (or so I thought), he never did.
He exuded joy to all he met. You could not meet this man and not be impacted. He was a giant of a man in both size and heart, and the fact that he is not on this planet anymore is a detriment to us all.
But he’s home, and I rejoice with him! He suffered from poor health for years, even dying once and coming back to finish what the Lord had begun in him. I know part of that work was to show the love of Christ to a skinny long-haired goofball drummer. And I’m so thankful I got the chance to know him. One day, I’ll tell him in person.
And when he arrived, I know the Lord met him with the words “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master.”