I had planned all week to write about this today, and it seems only appropriate that I go through with that. Though of course, it now has a little different turn to it.
This past Monday, I spent about three hours in Harold's barn learning to change out the brakes on my car. Harold has been a member of my church longer than I have, a former elder, and precisely the man who only needs a first name. Everybody knows Harold. He was the kind of man whose handshake turned into a conversation, whose friendship turned into brotherhood, and whose every thought was worthy of a mini-sermon (and often became one).
As we wrapped up working on the brakes, I thanked Harold again and again. And he kept telling me it was no problem at all, that he was glad to do it, because "So often, those mechanics try to rip you off." It was true. A mechanic would have charged more than $200 for what Harold and I accomplished for $15.
But you know Harold wasn't just talking about mechanics and brakes. He might have thought he was, but when you look at Harold's life, you see that he was all about getting involved, getting in there, doing it himself, getting his hands dirty - because he didn't want this world to rip him off. And he didn't want to rip off this world.
Harold knew that when you learn to do for yourself, when you put your hands to work, when you set about doing the things you're capable of here - the world doesn't get a chance to rip you off. You take control of your own life, your own opportunities, your own service. You take hold of the heart God has put in you. You don't miss out on things, not even on a single moment, because you decide that each moment matters and you determine to make the most of it.
Like a mechanic, the world wants to say, hey, you leave your life with me for a bit and I'll fix it all up for you. Behind the garage door, you don't know what they're doing, what quality of parts they are using, what care they are taking or not taking with your personal property. But you learn to fix those brakes yourself, and you decide - you decide what every step is. You decide what defines a quality part. You decide what kind of care to take of your person. You know exactly what's going on because you're in it, and you get to troubleshoot and you get to maintain and you get to direct and control what's going on around it. See, Harold knew you live your own life, and you don't hand it over to anyone else, even if they claim to be an expert on living.
Harold was the real expert on living. One minute with Harold inspired you to be fully engaged in your own life, to take back your every moment, to commit to quality and to living life yourself - doing the things you want to do, valuing the things you want to value, being the things you want to be, living as you would want to live. Even when it doesn't fit another standard. Even when it doesn't seem to make sense.
One minute with Harold inspired you to this. And one minute with Harold strengthened you to do it. Because looking at Harold, you couldn't help but see what it meant to be fully sold-out to everything God made in you. Harold was that. If he was nothing else, he was sold-out and just lived being as God created him. There's a whole congregation of people who have no church but have one preacher - Harold - who would tell you what an honor it would be to live one tiny bit of the way Harold lives. And Harold would look at you and shrug that off and tell you not to live like him, but to live like you. To live fully and wholly what God put in you.
Harold knew that living this way, the world couldn't rip him off. Nobody was going to tell him he couldn't do something he wanted to do, couldn't have something he wanted to have, couldn't love someone the way he loved. But Harold also knew that living this way, he would never rip off the world. Everyone who got one bit of Harold got all of him. God got all of him.
I planned on writing today about working with Harold this past Monday. About this - about living your own life so you know you're not getting ripped off. Because it's one of many things I learned from Harold. (There are many, many more I treasure in my heart.) And I hope that in some way, choosing to go ahead with this piece brings a little more honor to what is a bittersweet day for many of us.
Harold passed away this morning. Unexpectedly. The email from our pastor says that while packing for a trip, Harold accidentally unplugged himself from his heart pump's power source. It is a heartbreaking time for so many of us, for the handful that is by blood Harold's family and the countless others who are his family by love.
I am so thankful to God for this man named Harold, who I have come to know in incredible new ways over the past several months. Whether we were working on my mangled lugnut in his barn or he was calling my house at 10 o'clock at night to tell me how impressed he was with my book. Or whether, as had become custom, in the lobby at church, we made it a point to see each other just to say hi. And he made it a point to remind me what an "incredible young woman" God has made me out to be. I'm thankful for his constant encouragement and for the way he always made it personal. I'm thankful for his example of what it means to be sold-out to God and how to live as one marked by God - forever patient, indiscriminately loving, humble, wise, honest, confident. Harold lived loved, and by his example, I pray we all find a way to live that. However that looks for us.
And I am thankful for God, who brings what little comfort there is to this morning and the days to come. Because we know Harold finally met His Lord face-to-face today....and the Lord finally met Harold. I'd like to think that's an honor for them both.