A friend of mine—and in many ways a mentor—recently received a call to be president of a new overseas Missionary Training Center. In the time that I’ve known him, he’s already been a bishop, a stake president and a mission president. When he vacated his most recent position– high priest group leader– I took his place, but am too embarrassed by my own inadequacies to say I replaced him. As I said in another entry, I am a child clomping around in his father’s shoes.
I wonder at the spiritual stature of my friend. Never speaking ill of anyone, never complaining about troubling issues, he is jokingly self-deprecating. He never raises his voice and I have yet to see him cross. If, in class, someone brings up an uncomfortable subject, rather than call them on it, he will smoothly change the subject, acting as if another thought suddenly struck him, so as to spare the instigator of mortification. He calls his fellow members “Brother” and “Sister,” but uses their first names instead of their last, as if using terms of endearment. As a leader he effortlessly makes people feel complimented by asking for their help. He is the king of delegation, utilizing his counselors liberally and giving them opportunities of service for which he’s already an old hat. Not that he passes the buck; if bodies are needed, he will be there, always. He is open to the suggestions of those around him and commonly responds with, “That’s a good idea. Why don’t we run with that?”
He is loved and revered, and he would just tell you he’s been fortunate to know so many good people. I look at my friend and wonder, how in the world could I reach that level? How can I undo so many bad habits and counter-productive characteristics, and be the kind of man he is? On the one hand, I am not him, I am me, and hoping that I can become a facsimile of him is foolhardy. On the other hand, looking at him, I see how far I have yet to go in my own self-progression. He is the Kenyan marathon runner and I, the guy bringing up the rear, holding his sides at mile seven.
The thing I have going for me is, he is my friend. I spend time with him, I talk with him, I learn from him—and he encourages me with his attention and friendship. While he is miles ahead, his place is a more reachable goal to aspire to in my journey to perfection. And if I ever reach that place, the next one beyond that will seem that much more plausible. I have work to do.