Big Jim’s Last Ride

This morning I set out on an adventure.

Along with a couple of men that have, as much as anyone I have ever known, demonstrated what it means to look after someone, I’m taking Big Jim for his last ride.

Big Jim… what a mess… what a headache… what a character… what a learning lab of grace.

I can already tell you it’s the quietest ride I’ve ever had with Jim – and we haven’t had to stop for a smoke break yet. Jim passed away a few weeks ago and we are taking his cremated remains back to his family in Colorado along with the very few possessions that might be of any value to them.

Jim wore me smooth out. He made me so angry sometimes. We argued a lot. We ribbed each other a lot. He was easy prey for my sarcastic streak. And he was not too shy to bounce it right back at me.

I don’t suppose anyone ever had to wonder how he felt about something. He was infuriatingly plainspoken. He was inflexible and demanding and obstinate. But he prayed for me. It’s what he had…and he gave it freely.

Dang it, I miss him.

God used him to teach me so many things I didn’t want but desperately needed to learn. God taught me that grace is so much more than a concept, that it is not always received in the ways it is given, that it is sometimes greatly appreciated and other times hardly recognized, and yet other times even resisted.

One of my last great lessons through Big Jim came as I drove away from his house ranting to myself in the solitude of the car, “Why does my help always have to come the way you envision it? Why is it so hard for you to accept the help I bring the way that I want to bring it? Why don’t you trust me to do what I can do without telling me how I must do it?”

Amidst my ranting and fuming, that still, small voice that seems to come from just behind my left ear whispers, “Yeah, I know how you feel.” (cue dramatic impact music that somehow expresses instant conviction by the Holy Spirit)

In that instant and again now as I write I feel the tear well up in the corner of my eye at the recognition that Jim was once again doing to me what I do constantly to God. I come up with some way that I see could be a convenient way for God to meet a need that I have (which may or may not even really be a legitimate need). I set about asking God to fetch that for me and deliver this to me and I will surely be grateful. I’ll tell Him so – as surely as I tell Him that what He has given is not exactly what I asked Him to bring.

But my Father never quits teaching me how to more appropriately respond to His manifold manifestations of grace…AND He never stops manifesting His grace to me despite my foolish, selfish, and often ungrateful responses.

Big Jim and I will someday share the seat he no doubt occupies right now. It’s the seat reserved for the prodigals who are just self-aware enough to know we cannot possibly deserve His grace and forgiveness. But today, I’m honored to tag along for Big Jim’s last ride.

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