Neither one of us could actually remember the last time we were together but we’re pretty sure it was around fifteen years ago, even though that didn’t actually seem possible. But time has a way of getting away from you and so we agreed on “fifteen.”
I first met Shayne when I worked as a developmental education specialist at Highland Community College in northeast Kansas. We ran a version of Supplemental Instruction, and I hired him and a couple of other football players as math study group leaders. All three were studious, friendly, and very courteous. Precisely the type of people you want in a position where peers have to be leaders.
In addition to that role, I hired Shayne, Tristan, and Tristan’s buddy Cody for personal chores as well. They provided very needed and much appreciated help with repairs and remodeling on the three-unit apartment building that Randa and I owned in Saint Joseph at the time. Any Saturday that we were going to be working began with breakfast at our house, usually waffles, sausage and scrambled eggs.
The meals were infused with getting to know each other and discussing issues of interest and concern. In other words, we got to know each other. Years later, Shayne told me how those meals had become an example to him of fellowship and building relationships. Of course, that aspect was something that continued as we worked after the meals, whether it was tearing out old cabinets, cleaning out the storage space or painting. Over the space of that year, I got to know these young men pretty well. And have continued intermittent communication with all three.
It was very affirming and comforting that each of them, on at least one occasion, conveyed to me how much they appreciated our relationship and the influence I’d had on them. It wasn’t something I’d given much thought to; I just enjoyed being around them and tried to offer meaningful commentary on the topics we discussed.
And so it was with particular delight that I responded a couple of weeks ago when Shayne let me know that he was going to be delivering a guest lecture to a group of engineering students at K-State this past Monday. It seemed fitting since he’d once arranged for me to deliver a guest lecture to the same group. Around fifteen years ago. We agreed to meet up in Topeka after his presentation when he’d be on his way back home to Bentonville, Arkansas. (He and Kristin and their three kids have lived there for several years as he continues his career as an engineer with Walmart.)
With keen anticipation, I rode my Honda Shadow over to Blind Tiger Brewery & Restaurant on Topeka’s south side. After the hostess led me back through a short maze of dining areas, I told her I was expecting a friend. “He’s about six-five, handsome, and around thirty-five years old.”
“Well,” she replied, “I’ll certainly look forward to bringing him to your table.”
In just a few minutes, she did just that. I stood up, grinning like possum in a persimmon patch and got one of the best hugs ever!
The next two hours seemed more like two minutes as we caught up, shared faith experiences, and just enjoyed seeing each other. The food was pretty good, too. And while I’d have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed and deeply appreciated every bit of our conversation, there was one aspect that was especially glorious.
Shayne shared with me the story of his own spiritual seeking and growth, how the Lord had led him beyond his background, and in his words, “out of my comfort zone.” He told me about new things he was doing, books he was reading, and how in all of it, he was becoming a stronger Christian. I can’t think of anything more rewarding, more comforting, more encouraging than learning that someone we love is not only being faithful to their calling but is growing in the Lord.
At the end of our visit, we walked outside, and had a brief moment of prayer together as I asked the Lord to continue his anointing on Shayne’s life. “Give him wisdom and insight, and help him to continue to be a blessing to his family and those around him.” I knew even as we hugged goodbye that God would be faithful but just a few minutes later, I had confirmation.
Shayne pulled out of the parking lot and headed to northwest Arkansas, I headed to northeast Kansas. As I rounded the curve onto the turnpike access, a red ball sun settled into the horizon. A few miles later, as I rode into the Kansas River valley, a stream of layered shades of red, pink, and blue stretched out from the west, like the layers of blessing upon blessing that God pours into the lives of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.
People like Shayne.