He Taught Me How To Love

Hi, my name is Chris Lang and I’m the son-in-law of Mark Stansell. I married his beautiful daughter Kerry 11 years ago and our family includes my daughter Sadie who is 9 and my son Levi who is 7. They spent many hours with Mark, who all the grandchildren called Popo.

You see when I first met Mark, I was a man without a father. As the product of an adulterous affair, I never knew my biological father. And as my mother married an abusive and hateful man when I was six, I grew up resenting male authority. I knew that my children would never have to experience the life that I had led. They would never know abuse and hate towards themselves or another because I would love them in such a way that they would never doubt the love of their father. I would be sure to shower them with hugs, kisses and words of encouragement.

So when both my mother and step-father died within a week of each other four years ago. There was a man who would drive me back home and comfort me along the way. So as I cried all the way from New Mexico back to the pain of Oklahoma my wife held me in her loving arms while her father Mark and her mother Cynthia sat in the front of the truck pushing along the highway. They pushed against the night and as the light beams of the headlights scattered the highway darkness I became overwhelmed as I began to realize.

That night I realized that one man was there for me and he was sent by God. He was by my side and he was there to teach me if I could just put aside my arrogance. He would show me what it meant to serve a wife. He would show me how to love each of his children. He would show me how to care for my home. He would show me how to provide for his family with hard work and sacrifice. He would teach me how to serve the local church through the talents that God gives each and every one of us. He would show humility and grace to others around him. I watched, observed and wondered how I could ever fill the shoes that God have given me.

So I went to the scripture to find out the heart of the message.

Matthew 22:36–39 New International Version (NIV)

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b]

I pondered upon these verses and remembered these memories about Mark.

As a stamp maker, he would travel around all over the country selling these beautiful handcrafted stamps that he would personally make himself. The feeling of crafting these stamps and having people purchase them and create a gift card for a loving friend, I’m sure had a positive impact. But traveling around the country and selling stamps was so much more and I saw that first hand this year. My brother-in-law Tim and my wife had to work a stamp show in Albuquerque because Mark wasn’t strong enough to travel and Cynthia stayed by his side to take care of him. At that show, I saw that he didn’t just have a business but he had a ministry. I could not count the number of people who came and gave their sympathies and shared the reasons why they loved Mark. A few of those reasons were: Generosity, Caring, Sense of Humor but most of all was the greatest commandment — Love. He was traveling around the country sharing love. A woodworker and his precious wife just about the Lord’s business.

When I attended a men’s breakfast at First Baptist of Ruidoso and watched the men of the church hug Mark’s neck and hold his hands in prayer, I knew. I knew why they loved Mark. Why they cared for him in a way we all hope that our own church cares for us. It was because he served them. He was a servant of the Lord and he used his talents in the kitchen to serve his church in times of heartache, fellowship, and worship. He did this because of the greatest commandment — Love.

So when Mark fell ill and was bound to his bed due to cancer in his body he was not alone. His wife was by his side and was faithful in the little things. She provided a bell by his side so that when he would ring in his time of need, she would be there down on her knees holding his hands asking, “Honey, what do you need?” She was there in his greatest time of need. Faithful and trusting in God. Why was she there? She was there because of the greatest commandment — Love. Mark loved Cynthia.

His three children Shannon, Tim and Kerry and their families would gather around his bed every night. There was 17 of us in total, some kneeling, some sitting, some standing. And as our voices would rise in worship together and reach the throne room of the Heavens, God would send out His Holy Spirt and comfort Mark with the voices of his wife, children, and grandchildren. Why would God comfort Mark? Because Mark chose to follow the greatest of all commandments.

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment.

And you know what? Mark was at peace. He never complained. He was never bitter. He was strong and taught his family so many things. He was there for each and every one of us in a way that was needed for all us. And Mark was love. He loved God. He loved his children. He loved his grandchildren. He loved his church. And he loved his neighbors.

And as I’ve witnessed the love of Mark and Cynthia throughout the years I’ve always been amazed by their wanting of one another. To never be apart. To sacrifice for one another in a way that I wasn’t taught growing up. I never experienced that kind of love but my wife, she’s been giving me that love. A love that was taught to her by Mark and Cynthia. And I’m so grateful that God gave me an earthly father. I never called Mark my father. Mark thank you for being my father. He was God given to me and he taught me. He taught me how to love.

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