Praise for a Mentor, Farewell to a Friend

I am passionate about mentoring. I believe that anybody who has ever benefitted from being mentored should be, because we are deeply and profoundly indebted to such people. Older, wiser, more experienced people who invest in us and offer us their time.

Who are the people in our lives who have shaped and influenced us? How can we celebrate them?

Rob was one such mentor. Every Friday after school, for almost two years, I would go to his house. There, he would cook me dinner and spend time with me. He saw something in me when I was fifteen years old that I did not. I remember feeling confused at first. Awkward in fact. Why did this sixty-year-old man want to talk with me?

It was in this house that I first was challenged to read my Bible every day — to go through the whole thing once a year. And then once I had done that, I should start over again right at the beginning.

It was in this house that I was first exposed to the beautiful weightiness of sound theology. I remember studying Isaiah 6, and considering for the first time what it meant to know a holy God. I left Rob’s house that Friday in awe of God for the first time.

It was in this house that I was told about men of old. Theologians. Pastors. Christian heroes. I heard names for the first time— such as Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Barth — which remained only whispers in my memory until I came to Durham to study theology, and began to discover the richness of these people’s ideas for myself.

It was in this house that I watched a really cheesy film — it was made by Christians — about the life of Charles Spurgeon. It was through this film though that I was first exposed to a man, the Prince of Preachers, who endeavoured to know God deeply and truly whilst also loving and serving the poor. Spurgeon took the God of the Bible seriously and founded orphanages for poor children. This witness influences me to this day.

It was in this house that I was taught of the “Otherness” of God, and that God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ is a wonderful and terrifying thing. I learnt how the Scriptures have authority in their witness to this person Jesus, and that the role of the Church was to herald and proclaim this Jesus of the Scriptures through preaching. Only when coming to university did I realise that I knew Barth before I had read him.

It was in this house that I began to realise how much I loved theology, insofar as it led me to God Himself. Perhaps medicine, although a sensible and respectable profession, was not for me. Instead, I thought about studying something that I love. And today, theology still makes me come alive.

It was in this house that I began to love and respect this man. The awkwardness passed. The confusion went. What remained was admiration and gratitude. This gratitude grows more and more with time, as I continue to draw upon Rob’s influence in my life for the new experiences that I encounter in life.

This week I received news that Rob had died. It was expected, for he had been unwell for some time, but still brought sadness. But at the same time, I was able to rejoice for him, for Jesus was his living hope.

I have been pondering more than usual these past few days about what it means to leave a legacy. Does it rest in the acquisition of fame or power? I don’t think so. Reflecting upon Rob’s life, I realise that true legacy has to do with the small, one-by-one influence that a person can have on the life of another. The positive guiding a friend can offer through the twists and turns of our own sapiential journey.

Even if it is just one person — such as between Rob and I — that is a legacy. I know, however, that Rob left his impression on many more than just myself. His influence is manifold. And I am sure that each one of us, in our own way, can celebrate Rob’s life.

Thank you, Rob.