Last month Pastor Robert Frederich went Home to be with his lovely wife and the Lord he loved. From where I sit he left the best possible pastoral/personal legacy one can leave. When I met Robert Frederich in the late 90’s at a two day retreat in New England, he had the sweet scent of the Father all over him. He exuded a gracefulness which touched me deeply. I wanted to bottle and take with me his manner; his gentile presence, his stature, his natural leadership, his authenticity, his strength; I also wanted his beautiful wavy white hair. I wanted to make His Godly observable qualities mine. The hair thing surely did not work but I continue to pray the rest of his qualities are at least taking root in my soul’s soil.
Over the course of the retreat I watched him. I saw in him what I wanted to be; what I desired to pass on. God allowed me to capture in my memory a video clip of a real Man of God in action. That moving picture plays yet in the corners of my heart. I still see him moving among those he loved and led. Every touch of his carried with it all the graces of a genuine gentleman. He did this with comfortable ease. The eyes of his Mentees, the pastors he served, beamed their love and respect for him. His confident, ear to ear smile charmed us all. I’ve rarely met or been with a pastor whose essence so powerfully moved me to emulate him. I thank God for Robert Frederich.
The pastors in my early days and young adulthood were not like Robert Frederich. Some I’ve ministered with over the years have been his antithesis. These pastors were distant, angry, arrogant and harsh. Some could skillfully teach the Bible but they suffered the little children to run from them. They were honored and even sought out because of their extensive Biblical knowledge but grace, compassion and winsomeness eluded them. They preached the good news of the gospel but their personal presence was often bad news. They used fear and finely honed manipulation to lead us. As we followed them we found it necessary to try to respect the office of the pastor instead of the person himself. Only their words represented the Father well. Their lives misrepresented the Father. Though I no longer seek to emulate these men, they left their marks on my life too.
When I think about what kind of legacy I will leave, it is clear to me yet that I have lots of work to do. The real me is not always as gracious, winsome, confident and authentic as I want to be. Too often I’m more like the defective pastoral models in my life than like Robert Frederich. I have no idea if Robert Frederich was a good Bible teacher. Not once did I hear him speak. I don’t know if he ever wrote any published pieces. It doesn’t matter to me. Tucked away in my memory are the more valuable moving pictures of the kind of person/pastor I aspire to be. Robert Frederich gave me this. He lived right in front of me what Jesus wants me to be. We all leave legacies even if by default. Do you know a Robert Frederich? Do you have a good picture of what you would like to be? Are you clear about what you need to change to leave the legacy you wish to leave? Are you becoming the legacy you would like to leave?
As you think about leaving a legacy I encourage you to think about finishing well. Quality legacies are often built toward the ends of our lives. The way we live in our latter weeks, months and years tends to overshadow our earlier years. Many are remembered most because of the way they lived and fought so fearlessly and courageously during their terminal illnesses. Some leaders’ legacies are marred and muddied in their later days. Coach Joe Paterno whose legendary legacy of winning is now being measured against his poor handling of more consequential matters which occurred on his watch in the last decade of his life.
Whenever I think of death, dying and legacy leaving I think of an acquaintance, Robert Ringer, who turned an old adage on its head in his book Million Dollar Habits. He said, “Forget about this being the first day of the rest of your life, this may be the last day of your life.” Use today to build the legacy you wish to leave.