Choices. They line the path of our lives like colorful memory stones. Like jewels reflecting in the light that is the vibrance of our lives. Our paths are filled with them; good and bad. Light and dark. And we arrive at our final destination at the mercy of the choices we make.
You will never arrive at the island of Hawaii by train. To arrive there your feet must leave solid ground. To arrive at your dreams your choices must urge your feet to do the same. But to arrive at a destination is not an elective; the path builds even if your choice is to do nothing.
I knew a man who made choices that lined his path with jewels. In his youth he chose a bride and didn’t leave her side until she made her journey into the arms of Jesus; a journey she embarked on while holding her husband’s hand. Together they raised four jewels and those jewels had their own jewels until the couple could claim ten grandchildren and four great grandchildren.
In 1959, the man made a choice that took a road less traveled. A road that altered their lives as dramatically as his choice of salvation and his choice of a spouse. He left a well paying job filled with money, authority and satisfaction, to pursue the call God had placed on his life. He chose to enter the ministry as a pastor.
Pastoral ministry may sound glorious to some – a position where you stand in the spotlight as the leader of a dedicated congregation. But most of true pastoring takes place outside of the pulpit. Visiting a troubled family or a dying congregation member. Taking time out of your day to comfort, counsel, guide, and console. Owning pain that doesn’t belong to you as if it did. Only true pastors know the sacrifices they make. It is sometimes a thankless job that siphons energy and life. A pastor is a special servant who allows himself to be inconvenienced consistently by the needs of others. It involves a repeated choice of throwing your own life ring out to someone else, to your own neglect.
His well lighted path glows with jewels from prayers for the sick, baptisms of the converted, marriage ceremonies, baby dedications, and funerals. There are stones laid with sharp angles that cut him, there were others that healed. Hours upon hours, days upon days, months upon months, and years upon years of choices that placed him in counseling sessions for those in torment or confusion, and in homes to console grieving loved ones. There were jewels molded by the pressure of poverty. There were others polished and laid in hours of pacing the floor at 2am in prayer; not once. Not twice, but with tiring regularity. Answering the phone in the night hours for an emergency situation; these built jewel after jewel of his path.
His was a life filled with choices right and wrong, like any one of the rest of us, but he never regretted setting down the large paycheck to bind up the broken hearted, and there are lives today that have been bettered by the jewels he laid.
One thing to be learned from the life of Len Schmautz is that choices create a path that only one can walk and that the choice of apathy or indifference is no less a choice. Choosing not to choose is still, in and of itself, a choice. More stones, more jewels, or more rocks.
As for Len, three months to the very day he had held the hand of his precious bride as she stepped across the distinction between her jeweled path and that golden road, he followed. He never could find contentment without her, so now he is once again complete.
Len, may God rest your dedicated soul for laying your life down and being a man of deliberate choices. An example to us all.