Randy and Susan

Last Saturday night, I attended a farewell party for Randy and Susan Templeton, my youth pastors during my years in high school. Randy accepted a job as a fire chief near Boulder, CO, fulfilling a dream that he's been pursuing for at least 15 years, and they will be moving there next month.

Randy and Susan were a vital influence on my life during the time where I faced hard issues, became serious about my Christian faith, and grew up rapidly. In the Youth Group, they gave us all a strong Scriptural foundation in the big issues of life, and demanded honesty and excellence out of us. Randy was the big, burly fireman with a deep, twangy baritone that instilled the fear of God, and yet had a talent for friendship that made clear that he loved you, no matter how tough his rebuke. Susan was the young-hearted mother of four who laughed easily at the worst of my jokes, but in the next breath she would ask a stunningly direct question that would leave you stammering for a suitable answer. I can trace many of the my best qualities - my love for foreign missions, valuing character over image, and my ability to endure adversity - to Randy and Susan's timely guidance.

Over the last few years, I've typically seen Randy and Susan about once a year, and not for long enough to talk about anything significant. Therefore, on my way out to their house in Bastrop, I wondered if they've changed, how they've changed, and whether they would approve of the changes in me over my (rapidly-ending) twenties. Would they still like me?

I need not have worried. I hadn't been in their house for five minutes before Randy had me in a big bear hug (As a linebacker in high school, Randy averaged 32 tackles a game. It's not hard to tell why...). We talked for almost an hour about the challenges of Randy's new job and how he planned to approach them, and about my reasons for going back to graduate school. True to form, Randy encouraged me to bite the bullet and write a thesis as part of my program, in an exchange that went something like this:

Randy: So are you going to write a thesis?
Me (resigned): I was initially thinking I could skirt by with a professional report, but the more I think about it, the more I realize that I'll probably do one.
Randy (with command presence): Do it. Embrace the discipline. You'll be better off for it.
Me (thoughtfully): Okay...
Randy (feeling his oats): Do you remember the definition I gave you for maturity?
Me (confidently): Of course - "Maturity is the ability to endure present suffering for future good."
Randy (twangy baritone in full effect): Right!

I've probably had hundreds of exchanges like this with Randy and Susan over the years, and almost every one of them carried this underlying message - "We love you. Now grow up, make the hard decision, and go do the will of God confidently." To have one more - at this time of transition, where I've traveled a good distance with my feet still on the right road, but still with the greatest challenges ahead of me - that is a special Grace. God is good.

Around his 50th birthday, I gave Randy a copy of John Adams, the definitive biography of the second U.S. President by David McCullough. It is one of my favorite books, and part of the reason why is the uncanny parallels I saw between John and Abigail Adams and Randy and Susan. Both couples had four children, an older daughter and three sons. Both had marriages that are at once deep love affairs and corraborative partnerships. John Adams was a stocky, passionate man with equal talents for leadership and friendship; so is Randy. Abigail Adams was a beautiful woman of high character who abhorred pretense and fearlessly confronted anyone she saw it in; so is Susan. Most importantly, both the Adamses and the Templetons have left an undeniable mark wherever they went. John and Abigail are buried in Braintree, Massachusetts, but Randy and Susan are still very much alive, and (God-willing) have many good years of meddling ahead of them. God help us all...


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