It is that time of the year again. November has arrived, and I am continuing my tradition of recording the things I (and the twins!) am thankful for every day (reminisce with previous years here...here...and here). The twins asked why we were doing this, and I responded, "Because November is the month of thankfulness." I suddenly realized that I also had a theme in mind for December...maybe every month will have to have a theme...
Unfortunately, November 1st was a bit of a crazy day. We woke up early to head home from Up North. We needed to get home before Lucas' afternoon Bible Study. Immediately after he got home from his Bible study I had to leave for a doctor's appointment. Then the twins had swim lessons. Then we had evening Bible study at our house. Nothing like jumping right back into real life. That said, I felt totally prepared for our crazy day.
Until Lucas was late getting back from Bible study - potentially throwing off the whole day's schedule. He walked in the door, and I was prepared to be furious, when he told me the reason he was late. Our former professor, the man who married us, Lucas' former mentor, and our friend passed away. It wasn't completely out of the blue - he had been sick and in the hospital - but we still weren't expecting it. Not yet.
And it wasn't until the next evening that I realized I had completely lost a day of thankfulness. My initial thought was that I didn't feel very thankful, but then I realized that my sorrow was actually born out of deep thanks.
So, November 1st I am thankful for:
I am thankful I had him as a professor. His specialty was fiction and faith, and it was through his classes that I learned some of the greatest lessons about both. In one class (entitled Fiction and Faith), we were startled to see some classic atheist works on the syllabus. He taught us that we shouldn't avoid reading these things because they aren't about God. We should read these things because they aren't about God. We as Christians can't expect to reach people unless we know where they are coming from. How can we have intelligent discourse with the world without knowing the worldview from which they are coming? And without intelligent discourse, how can we expect to tell them about Christ? He also taught me the importance of the story. He showed us that, throughout the Bible, God uses stories to teach people about himself. He showed us how every story - even those not intended to have a Christian message - whisper truths about God. He changed the way I read, and he changed the way I talk to others about God.
At church just after we announced our engagement to the congregation.
I am thankful I had him as a pastor. While listening to his sermons wasn't a lot different from sitting through a class (just shorter), he was one of the most incredible shepherds I have ever met. He cared for people so deeply, and was there for support whenever needed. It seemed he was always on his way to the hospital to visit someone - perhaps because any time he heard of anyone who was unwell he would respond, "Do they need a visit from a pastor? I would be happy to visit them." He had a great sense of what was sacred - and worked to treasure and protect those sacred things and teach us how and why to treasure and protect them. But he also knew what was nice but not necessary - to those things he never failed to add some levity to remind us not to take it too seriously.
Speaking at Lucas' ordination.
I am thankful I knew him as a person. He was an incredible man. Other people have written blog posts that attest to this in words far better than I could ever write. He was known for his jokes and one liners - he never took himself too seriously. He was a man of incredible faith - he lived it out every day. He was a shepherd not only to his congregation, but also to his students - it seemed everyone went to Dr. Reist with their problems, probably because he always had the time to listen and he always seemed to know the right things to say. He knew poetry and could recite it at the drop of a hat. He sang - barbershop quartets being a specialty. He quacked. He wore sleeve garters. He whistled. I can still hear his whistle. It always brought a smile to my face because it meant he was nearby, and if he was nearby, laughter was in my near future.
At our wedding - family members still quote memorable one-liners from his sermon!
I am thankful Lucas had him as a mentor. I have joked for years that Lucas wants to be Dr. Reist. And every now and then Lucas will do or say something classically "Reist" and I will think to myself, "It's happening. He is turning into him." But the reality is that there are very few men that would be a better model - especially for a pastor. I know that Dr. Reist played a large role in shaping Lucas and his ministry. Lucas has credited Dr. Reist with confirming his call to the ministry and showing him what it looks like to be a true shepherd. Every pastor should be so lucky.
Together at Rays.
If Allie had been a boy, we had planned for her middle name to be Reist. We figured Ryan was named after some of the most influential men in our lives. His name carried a legacy of role models and character traits we wanted to pass on. If we were having 2 boys, we wanted the other name to have the same, and so we thought of men we knew who we would want our son to grow up to be like. Dr Reist immediately came to mind. While we were more than thrilled to discover that we were having a boy and a girl, I was disappointed that I would never have a chance to say to my child, "I want to tell you about the man you were named after - an amazing man named Dr. Reist..." While the name isn't off the table for our adopted children, I am sad I never told him that we wanted to borrow his name - that he will never know we thought so highly of him that we wanted him to serve as a role model for our children. Although I know he probably would have made a joke - always self-deprecating, he refused to take himself too seriously, and usually responded to any sort of honor with a joke.
Mostly, I am thankful that I know that this isn't goodbye. What a great consolation to know that this life, this world isn't all! We are here just a brief moment, but we can look forward to an eternity together in the presence of God. Confident of his deep, sincere faith, I am confident I will see him again one day. When I get to heaven, I will be listening for his whistle.