I’m still processing my feelings around this, so it may sound like a jumble of thoughts…
Very recently, I lost a mentor, a friend, and in many respects, a father. I have on many occasions spoken of the men who stepped up in my life and taught me how to be a man. There were four men in my church that spoke into my life, taught me how to dress and how to behave around women, demonstrated humble leadership and overcoming odds, and helped instill in me the desire to be the same for the generation that followed me.
About a week ago, one of these men, James McCullough, passed from this life to the next. As I sit here writing and remembering, I find myself wanting to turn back time, wanting to have one more conversation, one more time for him to tell me what he saw in me, one more time for him to “father” me.
There was one time that was so critical for me, in the early days of my ministry. I was still a kid, but had already been preaching and carrying out various ministry tasks in the church. We had a new senior pastor who came in and scaled back my activities, telling me that I wasn’t authorized to do those things yet. While I didn’t understand it all, the only thing I could do was comply. A short while later, I was approached by Mr. McCullough. He told me that he had been watching what had happened and specifically, how I handled it. He told me how proud he was for me handling it the way I did. That told me something – it told me that even when I don’t see it, there are people watching me, and watching out for me. It told me that someone cared, even though I never asked him to. He cared about my character, about how things would affect me, and about my development as a young man. While I didn’t make any overt declarations that day, something in me moved to want to be the man that Mr. McCullough saw in me.
Earlier, I said that I “lost” a mentor… Lost is such a weird word. I have lost a lot of things in my life… for the life of me, I don’t know why, but I remember losing one particular shirt. It was a favorite of mine, kind of unique in its style and I think it looked good on me. Yet, when coming home from a business trip, the shirt was gone. I think I might have left it in the closet of the hotel, but could never be sure… there was no recovering that shirt. What’s more, is that I could never find a replacement… it was truly lost.
Am I actually missing something in the loss of that shirt? No… For sure, I have lost some things that are much more valuable. But to say I lost my mentor… I could only have really lost him if I “misplaced” or threw away all that he poured into me. In reality, I haven’t lost him at all for I carry him with me daily, and I am the man that I am in part due to what he has been for me.
I read somewhere that the original concept for eternal life for the Hebrews was not some mansion in the clouds, but being able to pass on your family name and traits to the next generation. The older I get, the more I see merit in this way of thinking. Sure, I want to have my own successes, but if I really want to live, how much better to outlive this life by pouring into others who can carry my values and instruction for a generation to come?
As I was processing this, my son Jon posted about the loss of one his mentors, Nipsey Hussle. I also saw the myriad of posts about his death, mostly people arguing about the cause of his death. But for this man, who was a mentor and example to so many (or even if he were an example to just one), what is the best way to ensure his life is eternal? Wouldn’t it be to take his example and live from it? To embody what he was demonstrating, so that the spirit of the man becomes so much larger than the physical presence?
I continue to process my thoughts about Mr. McCullough. I miss him for sure, but I think I am even more resolved to live a life that would make him proud, to make good on all that he deposited in me, not just for myself, but for those that will take up the mantle after me.
Bled Jon mentioned that his second release, and first music video, “Leap of Faith” was written largely in part due to Nipsey Hussle. I think it makes sense to see what pouring into someone, mentoring, friending and fathering someone can produce in them: