June 19, 2019"If in some way, my faith might serve as a three-watt night light in a very dark world..."
The words trailed off. They were part of closing remarks David Powlison (1949-2019) had prepared for Westminster Theological Seminary's commencement on May 23 of this year. Because he was in hospice, dying of pancreatic cancer, he was unable to attend; but requested that in his absence someone else read his message.
He died two weeks later—on June 7—peacefully, at home, surrounded by loved ones. These words, as well as the rest of the address, however, linger, having been published on social media. They appeared along with his obituary and a very interesting story detailing his early life and coming of age in Hawaii, his study at Harvard, and his existentialist world/life view before coming to a living relationship with Jesus Christ. In the '70s, the Holy Spirit used a more-confrontational-than-usual conversation with his former Harvard classmate and longtime buddy, Bob Kramer, as a sword to pierce through his "self-sufficient" armor.
Though the moment was radical and unexpected, the journey was long and circuitous. After adding seminary at Westminster to his original training in psychiatry and counseling at Harvard, Powlison for a time felt clinical counseling was redundant, thinking faith could routinely take the place of counseling. It was a wonderful day when he finally recognized the value of Christ-based clinical counseling and became part of CCEF (Christian Counseling and Education Foundation, Inc.—Google for more information.)
In his remarks to the 2019 Westminster graduating class, he held out this challenge: "My deepest hope for you is that in both your personal life and your ministry to others, you would be unafraid to be publicly weak as the doorway to the strength of God Himself."
So...how did all this Life Made Perfect in Weakness discussion come to my attention in the first place?
The person who shared it is my cousin Kathy's son Joel Hoksbergen, known to some of you as Joe Hox, Illustrator.
One of Joel's original reasons for having such empathy for the story was that his mother-in-law is also dealing with pancreatic cancer. Having worked with Powlison on a book for children about anxiety (Zoe's Hiding Place), he was intrigued by the back story, and sent it to me (along with many others), via Facebook.
Joel also has first-hand experience with God using people in their weakness. First off, he was the typical Iowa farm boy. But his web page tells how his family pegged him as "not a farmer" when they saw his not-straight rows at planting time. As a young adult, he contracted Lyme disease, which further narrowed down his choices at very physical stuff. This helped him home in on what eventually became his life work—the doodle pad which was constantly within reach during his formative years. If you've seen any of his illustrations (or work on an Etch-a-Sketch) you will know that his chosen work has him exactly where he belongs—using his work as a three-watt night light in a dark world. I could say more, about his being exactly where God put him, and about me being exactly where God put me; but here we are again—with a too-long Perspective!
Social Media—one of our freedoms—freedom preserved by those who, in many cases, gave their very lives; preserved, in other instances, by those who, like Joel's grandfather and my father, lived to raise the next generation to passionately cling to it as a freedom—not a birthright.
P.S. I sat on this two days before hitting the SEND button. Long or not long, I can't NOT add this Father's Day post: Kathy Hoksbergen (10 minutes ago): "So thankful for our old dad. At 97, dementia has robbed him, and us all, of so much. We haven't heard him pray for so long. But while we were visiting him in the nursing home, he was so sleepy. Spontaneously, he started praying a beautiful bedtime prayer filled with grace and gratitude. We were in awe...They say music has the most staying power with the elderly, and indeed it does with our dad. But prayer was so much a pattern of his life, that it came forth effortlessly, even though he can no longer emit a full coherent sentence in conversation. What a gift and what a legacy."
A friend responded: "His mind forgets things, but his spirit is on top of it. Hallelujah!"
What was that thing again, about life being made perfect in weakness? Point taken. SEND.
Email Willene at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Willene Tanis is a longtime resident of the Imlay City area and an active volunteer in the community. Many readers find her 'Perspectives' column to universal and uplifting.