“You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven”(Matthew 5:13-16).
“Go ahead and talk to him if you like,” Vickie said quietly, choking back tears. I was choking back tears of my own. Her husband John was linked via tubes and wires to all sorts of equipment, his hands completely wrapped in heavy gauze and a ventilator helping him breathe. The intensive care units of any hospital are not pleasant places to visit, much less reside in.
John had been through the wringer in the previous 48 hours and was being kept under total sedation. Yet even now his tired face seemed to reveal a man at peace with himself, his situation, and the God who made him.
John and I became acquainted when we were teenagers. We attended the same church and the same high school. Being the same age, we had some classes together and eventually became close friends. John was a popular guy; he had grown up with our classmates in the Nashville suburb of Donelson.
I was the newcomer, a transfer from Knoxville our junior year, a shy, skinny heap of awkward. My classmates were kind and personable, but John offered me true friendship.
There was another difference between us, however. John had just a year or so earlier become quite serious about his relationship with the Lord. Many of us professed Christ; John lived it.
He was more concerned about setting a good example than about being cool. Although he engaged in some occasional teenage foolishness with the rest of us, he refused to participate in cussing, dirty jokes, and other destructive behavior. I know. I watched. He had an impact for good on me and others, like salt seasoning the stew. Before the end of our senior year, he had a group of us gathering in the library every morning for a devotional and on occasion fanning out to share our faith with other students.
And nothing seemed to rattle him, not even his own mistakes. He was learning to take life in stride, live it by faith, trusting Christ no matter what. e was a man at peace with God, with others, and with himself. He reminded me of the Proverb, “When a man’s ways please the LORD, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
John and I went on to be roommates at the University of Tennessee at Martin after graduation. I, the engineering student, took chemistry and physics classes and loathed English composition.
John initially declared a major, honest to goodness, in something called Municipal Management.
His stated reason for that major was that it was the only one available that did not require any chemistry. Somewhere along the way, he changed his major to education and became, honest to goodness, a chemistry and physics teacher for a Christian school in Nashville. So year after year for decades now, John has had a quiet, steady influence on other up-and-coming teens.
Ironically, composition—writing—has become a vital part of what I do as a minister. I even tutor some college students in the subject.
Last Friday I got the word that John had suffered a major stroke, right in the classroom. We nearly lost him. Only the quick action of his students and medics saved his life. School officials held a hastily-called assembly to inform the student body about John’s condition. Then they prayed. As the mass of students filed out of the auditorium afterward, no one uttered a word.
The students love Mr. Claxton.
Two days later, still under heavy sedation, his long-range prospects seemed uncertain. But an MRI later that day revealed minimal damage; he may even be able eventually to return to his classroom.
Thank God! He is not President. He’s not a superhero. He would not be the best material for any action film.
He doesn’t even drive a fast sporty car.
But his godly influence continues.