In the past few weeks, I've heard a few sermons that really pushed me to think. Namely:
My friend, Dane, gave a sermon in which he related the story of his son's recent birth. He talked of the anxiety he felt the moment his son arrived, anxiety borne from knowing that there was now a second child to care for and the lifetime of decisions and guidance he would now be supplying. Dane talked, though, of how it seemed God spoke to him in his anxiety, reassuring him by saying relax, he's My son, too. It's helpful perspective: not just with my own children but with the children of other parents I work with daily. When they test my temper and patience, I need to remember that their His children, too.
Recently our senior pastor addressed the tragedy in South Carolina. He was rather pointed, pointed to the extent I felt a little uncomfortable. Still, I'm glad that he said what he said: that whites should pray for God's forgiveness of the sin of white supremacy. As he put it, the murderous act was an unstable act but one that sat atop a very stable foundation of racism, exclusivity, fear of "the other." Though I live hundreds of miles away from that crime, it's necessary for me to think of how I might, through action or inaction, contribute in some small way to the foundations atop which that crime could exist.
A few weeks back, our senior pastor challenged us to write obituaries for ourselves. His point was to get us to consider how full and meaningful we have been, and how we want that obituary to look when we do in fact die. And to that end, I think I'll pen one now. I know that might seem stark, but it's a though exercise. A spiritual exercise. In that spirit, I write:
Christopher (Chris) L. Johnson of Lansdale died yesterday of injuries from an accident. He was 39.
Mr. Johnson was born to Eugene E. and Betty J. (Smith) Johnson of Elverson, Pennsylvania where he grew up. He graduated from Owen J. Roberts High School in 1994 where he had a reputation for being an active student. Chris later went on to earn Bachelors and Masters degrees in History from Gettysburg College and Villanova University, respectively. At Gettysburg Chris played the trombone and it was in the music program there that he met his eventual wife, Sherry D. (Stevens) Johnson. He cultivated a keen interest in history during those years, an interest that led him into a career teaching. Mr. Johnson had just finished his seventeenth year teaching in the Central Bucks School District, where he was known for his energetic history and economics classes as well as his friendly demeanor in the hallways.
Chris married Sherry D. (Stevens) Johnson in 1999 and with her was a parent to two children, Samuel E., 9, and Caroline M., 7. He took great joy in his family and looked forward to weekend and summer trips throughout Pennsylvania, the U.S., and Canada. His family are members of Trinity Lutheran Church in Lansdale where all are involved in the music ministry of the congregation.
Surviving Chris is his loving wife and two children, his parents, his brother, Matthew S. Johnson, 38, of Lansdale, his sister Kendra J. (Johnson) Cook, 32, of Sinking Spring, his grandmother, Blanche (Shortlege) Smith, of McConnellsburg, several aunts, uncles, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, nephews, and nieces. He also leaves behind many friends from his childhood, his neighborhood, and the school where he taught.
Services will be held at Trinity Lutheran Church where Chris's remains will be interred.
Wow. That's stark. But it's where I am right now. I think it's pretty honest. My goal, by the way, is to live until I'm 100. So, I've got 61 years to make my life story more compelling.
As it is, though, it's a good story. Writing it has forced me to wonder what impact I'm having as a dad, husband, teacher, colleague, and friend. I think I'm having an impact. But would it get into my obituary? Unsure.