One Man’s Legacy - - “He Stood At The Door…”
Today being Valentine’s Day our thoughts turn to love. Modern day psychology identifies seven different types of love, but this week I want to briefly touch on just two: Philia (brotherly love or friendship…as in Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love); and Agape – or the Love of God.
Recently I had the opportunity to be reacquainted with a man who demonstrated both and in doing so impacted hundreds of lives, a city and the world.
If you, a family member or friend have ever been exposed to the work of Alcoholics Anonymous or any of the spin-off groups that are based on their iconic 12-step program, if you’ve ever participated in a small group bible study at your church or fellowship group in your community, if you’ve ever watched the National Prayer Breakfast or participated in a prayer breakfast in your community commemorating the National Day of Prayer, you’ve been impacted by the life of Father Sam Shoemaker.
Father Sam was an Episcopal priest who moved to Pittsburgh in 1952. Over the next 9 years Shoemaker’s ministry had a profound impact on the city and the world that is still felt to this day.
Shoemaker was best known for remarking that his vision was that “one day Pittsburgh would be as famous for God as it was for steel.”
During his lifetime he accomplished that goal and so much more. In recognition of the impact his ministry made on the world, seven years after his death in 1963, the Episcopal Church in American proclaimed January 31 on the liturgical calendar as a feast day in his honor.
You can learn more about the life of Sam Shoemaker and the impact his ministry had on modern day culture and the marketplace by reading this week’s book recommendation, Steel Faithful.
I leave you this week with a poem by Sam Shoemaker. Happy Valentine’s Day.
An Apologia for my Life By Sam Shoemaker (from the Oxford Group) I stand by the door. I neither go to far in, nor stay to far out. The door is the most important door in the world - It is the door through which men walk when they find God. There is no use my going way inside and staying there, When so many are still outside and they, as much as I, Crave to know where the door is. And all that so many ever find Is only the wall where the door ought to be. They creep along the wall like blind men, With outstretched, groping hands, Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door, Yet they never find it. So I stand by the door.
The most tremendous thing in the world Is for men to find that door - the door to God. The most important thing that any man can do Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands And put it on the latch - the latch that only clicks And opens to the man's own touch.
Men die outside the door, as starving beggars die On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter. Die for want of what is within their grasp. They live on the other side of it - live because they have not found it.
Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it, And open it, and walk in, and find Him. So I stand by the door.
Go in great saints; go all the way in - Go way down into the cavernous cellars, And way up into the spacious attics. It is a vast, roomy house, this house where God is. Go into the deepest of hidden casements, Of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood. Some must inhabit those inner rooms And know the depths and heights of God, And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is. Sometimes I take a deeper look in. Sometimes venture in a little farther, But my place seems closer to the opening. So I stand by the door.
There is another reason why I stand there. Some people get part way in and become afraid Lest God and the zeal of His house devour them; For God is so very great and asks all of us. And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia And want to get out. 'Let me out!' they cry. And the people way inside only terrify them more. Somebody must be by the door to tell them that they are spoiled. For the old life, they have seen too much: One taste of God and nothing but God will do any more. Somebody must be watching for the frightened Who seek to sneak out just where they came in, To tell them how much better it is inside. The people too far in do not see how near these are To leaving - preoccupied with the wonder of it all. Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door But would like to run away. So for them too, I stand by the door.
I admire the people who go way in. But I wish they would not forget how it was Before they got in. Then they would be able to help The people who have not yet even found the door. Or the people who want to run away again from God. You can go in too deeply and stay in too long And forget the people outside the door. As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place, Near enough to God to hear Him and know He is there, But not so far from men as not to hear them, And remember they are there too.
Where? Outside the door - Thousands of them. Millions of them. But - more important for me - One of them, two of them, ten of them. Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch. So I shall stand by the door and wait For those who seek it.
'I had rather be a door-keeper So I stand by the door.