In my childhood The Stuart Ranch was known for outstanding Brahman cattle who had strong breeding and gentle spirits. Growing up around the purebred cattle business one of the lessons you quickly learn is the value of production, in every sense of the word. Do the females produce a calf every year? Do the bulls produce bred cows? Do the cows produce enough milk for their calves to grow? Even in the cattle show world there is a class called “Get of Sire.” This is a class where multiple offspring (usually 4) of one bull are judged against other groupings of offspring from other bulls and the standard is all about the idea of production. Is the gene pool strong enough from one bull to produce not just one outstanding calf, but to do it repeatedly? The idea is that outstanding breeding begets outstanding offspring.
This is not only how bovine genetics work, but it is also true for most things, whether it is sin begetting more sin or virtue producing more virtue. The question is, what are we begetting?
This is what has dominated my thinking for the past several weeks as I have grieved with dear friends over the loss of their grandfather, father, and husband. A man who was like a second father to me, battled valiantly the cancer that was ravaging his body, but in the end his physical body gave way and he passed from grace to glory and suffers no more.
As I repeatedly answered their phone and their door, I was often greeted with amazing stories and tears as friends rehearsed how this man had changed their lives. Many would tell me that John was their best friend. These stories and my own experience as well shared common themes. First, John treated all with dignity regardless of age, status, station in life, gender, race, occupation, etc. At times he did this by just asking someone their name and flashing a warm smile. He was famous for asking wait staff their names before he would allow an order to be placed, and then he proceeded to call them by their name throughout the meal. He was genuinely interested in people, all people. His extension of dignity to others made everyone feel worthier and more valuable—what a gift.
Second, John possessed traits like kindness, life-long learner, humility, attention to detail, joy, discipline, and character. Whether it was this list and/or the dignity that he conveyed to others, all of it emanated from a saving faith in Jesus Christ. John was fallen like the rest of us, but God was pleased to use his life in powerful ways for all who crossed his path. Perhaps the most compelling example of this was his five, twenty-something grandchildren whose first response through their tears were ones of gratitude. They recognized that they had been given a gift in having had John as their “Pappy,” and they were unbelievably grateful for it. I heard it not only in casual conversations with their friends but also in their public reflections during the funeral and when one of them offered the blessing before a meal. John’s own adult children bear powerful marks of his impact on them as their father, and their gratefulness for their own family is palpable. It should be no surprise at all that the three of them are thriving and making significant contributions in and through their own callings.
Friends patiently waited in line for two and half hours to greet John’s family during visitation. After a young couple had seen the family, they called me on their way home to express their amazement for the depth and breadth of John’s effect on so many people. While glad he was no longer suffering, they longed for more time with him because he made them want to be better people. This extremely successful salesman went on to say that he no longer wanted to squash people like bugs but would strive to be more kind. Their observation of depth and breadth was accurate. This was a man who had everyone from a boat mechanic in the Keys to the Governor of Florida and everyone in between visiting and calling on him.
The truths of Scripture were on full display these two weeks and especially the passage in Ecclesiastes, it is better to go to a house of mourning than to a celebration (roughly paraphrased.) One of the reasons this is true is because death always causes us to contemplate our own mortality and, in doing so, consider our own lives. This was inescapable for all of us who were around whether it was just for a visit or a couple of days or longer. We all came away yearning to live better and wondering what am I begetting with my life? We came away full of gratitude for the tangible expression of God’s grace that we each experienced in and through our friendship with John.
Why is any of this relevant to The Collaborative? It is relevant because John was a living testimony to what it means to integrate faith and work. It was second nature to him. He lived a fully engaged life where the lines between work, worship, and service were blurred, as they should be. As an elder in his church or heading up a Rotary committee or running a publicly held corporation, John approached it all with the same level of enthusiasm, commitment to excellence, and passion. John’s life flourished and it brought out the best in others and made them want to strive for the more important things in life—flourishing begets flourishing. This was what was so compelling about all the stories and my own friendship with John.
This is not meant to be a eulogy disguised as a blog post, but a disclaimer is probably appropriate given my favorable biases when it comes to this man. He is someone I don’t ever remember “meeting” which is true for his whole family. They are people I have always known, and our two families share friendships that go back four generations. I shot my first turkey with John and caught my first lobster with him. One of the things I cherished most was his enthusiasm for others’ successes. He was always as equally excited as I was when I shot a turkey or caught a lobster. We have done a lot of life together which always reveals one another’s flaws. Regardless of my shortcomings, this family has loved me well throughout the decades and I still reserve my highest admiration for him. So yes, I am biased. While I write with a heart that still aches with grief, I do so inspired to live more fully.
Despite my biases nothing is diminished in terms of the value of introducing you to someone who seemed to be about so much of what we are striving for as imperfect people in an imperfect world. Christ is always our standard and the one to which we look. But how encouraging and stirring is it to encounter someone who is truly flourishing and whose life points us back to our Heavenly Father.
Strong genes beget outstanding offspring. Sin begets sin. Flourishing begets flourishing. What does your life beget?
Crosland Stuart works with The Collaborative in the areas of content creation, communications, and recruitment.
WHAT ARE WE THINKING ABOUT
Definition: Beget—to procreate, to generate, to cause,
to produce as an effect.
Fun Fact: Brahman cattle produce the marbling that
creates great flavor in the steaks you enjoy.
Quote: Never underestimate the five minute conversation
with a sixteen year old teenage boy,
you might just change their lives.
– GK Chesterton