I’ve had this blank page open on my desk for hours. One of those “I know I have to write but I don’t know what to say” experiences. Maybe it’s frustrating because when I last wrote about Reverend Tom Collins in November the words came so easily. Maybe it’s heartbreaking because our last conversation just two weeks ago was so inspiring that his words will forever be imprinted on my heart. Maybe it’s difficult because I know he impacted so many other lives more deeply than my own that anything I have to say feels inadequate. But nevertheless, when a man like Reverend Tom Collins passes away, you fight through the writer’s block to get the words out.
As someone who was (and still is) so unbelievably naive and inexperienced in this whole theological/ministerial pursuit, the people who inspired me to be here do not have world renowned names. It was small university chaplains and high school small group leaders and supportive congregation members who helped me get here. And on that list is my grandmother’s small town, retirement community pastor, Mr. Collins. We barely had two handfuls of interactions, but the combination of how he talked about the ministry he got to do and how he talked about me gave me the confidence to know that I can face any obstacle that may try to get in my way of pursuing this call. Most of you will never have known him, yet he is a substantial legend in my life.
When my grandmother called me to let me know that Mr. Collins had passed away, she informed me that he spent his last days telling people how grateful he was that I had made time for him on my short visit to see my grandmother over break. It’s funny because that is exactly the kind of man he was, always giving others credit, making himself lower so that God could be higher. It took very little effort for me to go chat with him two weeks ago. And I barely contributed because his words were always so much more powerful than my own. So to set the record straight that the difference and effort he made is more valuable than anything I said then or could say now, I’d like to share a piece of inspiration I gained the last time Mr. Collins and I spoke.
After reminiscing of his classes and professors at Princeton Seminary and emphasizing his frustration that he could no longer engage in his life’s calling to preach because of his health, Mr. Collins looked me square in the eye and said, “I didn’t know love until I met my wife, Leslie. And I didn’t know fulfillment until I went into ministry. I pray you will find the same.” So in the spirit of Reverend Tom Collins, I pray that you find love and fulfillment in your life, and that you will pursue those gifts until your very last breath.