What do you remember about a friend or loved one who is no longer alive or who is no longer near you? Two things stand out:

  1. The sound of his/her voice – accent, commonly used phrases, laughter. I can close my eyes and listen. I can hold those impressions for a long time. Laughter is one of my favorites – the deep rumble of my dad’s dad, the wheeze while my dad’s mother would hold one hand to her mouth and slap her leg, the contagious mirth of my sister-in-law – soon to be followed by her three daughters, and many more
  2. The image of his/her face – the shape of the face, the smile, but mostly the eyes. I can close my eyes and picture many faces I won’t get to see again until heaven.

That’s one of the reasons I look forward to heaven. I want to look into their eyes and hear the sound of their voices. For some of them, the last thing I saw and heard was caused by the pain of their last days. Those are things I don’t dwell on. That’s not how I choose to remember them.

As precious as those memories may be, voices and faces are not nearly as significant as the impact their lives had on mine. Mentors, examples, encouragers, teammates, family … the intersections of our lives with the people God puts in our path gives us a chance to learn, to grow, and to mature. I said “gives us a chance” – it’s up to us to heed the advice and follow the counsel.

Who are some of the people who have made such a difference in your life? Are they still around? If they are, let them know of your gratitude. Recently, a friend told me that one of the favorite teachers of his senior class was able to attend a reunion. He watched as, one by one, his classmates greeted their old teacher. There were hugs and handshakes but there were also brief conversations. He overheard a couple:

“Thanks for expecting the best out of me.”

“You straightened me out even as you kicked my butt.”

“Thanks for loving me when I wasn’t very lovable.”

Some of those kinds of folks have gone on. You’ll have to wait a while. But if they are still around …

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About Mark Wilbanks

Dr. Wilbanks became Wieuca’s fifth senior pastor in February of 2012. Mark’s father, Oliver Wilbanks, served as Associate Pastor here from 1966 to 1982. Wieuca had a tremendous influence in shaping Mark’s call to ministry during his teenage and young adult years. A graduate of both Southern and New Orleans Baptist Theological seminaries, Mark has served churches in Kentucky, Florida, and Georgia. He pastored Southside Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida for 17 years and Bradfordville First Baptist Church in Tallahassee, Florida for ten years. He and his wife, Kim, were married in 1979 and have two sons, Andy and Jordan. Andy is married to Lindsay and they have a son, Cade, a daughter, Ruthie, and welcomed their third child, Samuel, in October.

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