“If you never see me, again”

Several years ago, I pastored a church in a suburb of Atlanta.  We had been there four years, when I accepted the call of a church in North Carolina.  I resigned from the Atlanta church, giving them notice, and during the following weeks, we said our goodbyes to some of the finest folks we had ever met.

Robert and Gail, a young couple who had joined during our time there, were wishing us well one Sunday after church.  After the usual “we’ll miss you” and “let’s stay in touch” and all the other things you say to friends who are moving, Gail turned to me and asked,

“If you never see me, again, what is the one thing you would say to me?”

I stammered around for what seemed like an eternity, and lamely said, “I’m not sure, let me think about it.”  I never gave Gail an answer. 

I’ve thought about Gail’s question a lot over the years.  I’ve thought about folks I have seen for the last time, not knowing until after their death that it was the last time.  I’ve thought about friends we left behind at churches we served.  I’ve thought about my children and grandchildren.  If I never see them, again, have I said or done something they will carry with them? 

All of us want to have a meaningful life and ministry.  Small-church ministry can make us question our own legacy because we’re not speaking to thousands each Sunday.  But, ministry still happens one person at a time.  If I could see Gail, again, I think I might say, “Gail, the one thing I would tell you is love God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength; and, love your neighbor as yourself.”  That pretty well sums it up.