The Long Shadow Of John Shearer
Can it really be nearly thirty years now he has been gone? I was fresh out of preaching school and working back at my home congregation when I met John Shearer, Christian. I didn’t meet him at the church building though. He was confined to home. Age and arthritis had bested his body. He was skin and bones…hands terribly deformed by the disease…pain a constant companion for him. He had a pair of those glasses…they looked like someone had cut out the bottoms of coke bottles and placed them in frames…made his eyes look so large…so searching.
His hair was pure white. His bones had become so brittle that he broke one once…just by shifting the wrong way in his stuffed chair.
But, my what a spirit old John had! He always welcomed my visits…no matter how much pain the night had brought him. He would smile…ask about me and everyone down at church…loved to have me read some Bible…and always, always asked me to pray.
After years of battling, the pain was becoming unbearable. It was then Br. John began to ask me, as he looked at me with those large, searching eyes of his, “Doug, why doesn’t He take me home?” I (who at that point had never known any real pain) told him, “He will, John. He will.” And then he would fix me with his gaze and ask, with all the fervor he could muster, “When?” I would try to answer the best I could (both of us knowing I had no idea about the when or the why). John and I would have that exchange repeatedly over the next year or so, until one day the Lord answered his request and took him home, leaving all the pain and questions behind.
But he also left something else behind. Years later I realized one of the answers to John’s question, “Why doesn’t He take me home?” You see, on some level I thought (at least at first) I was being the kind and comforting local preacher doing something for a poor shut-in, when I went to visit John. I thought the real victories were the public kind being won in pulpits across the land. I knew almost nothing of the resistance movement John was part of in his nearly forgotten, quiet way in his lonely cubicle of pain. He daily (and nightly) resisted the agony…resisted bitterness…resisted doubt and despair…resisted quitting…resisted complaining and murmuring. He did this with a strength I could not have imagined…a strength that could come only from His Lord. It was a heroic struggle. A struggle he won by grace through faith. He was (is) a hero as far as I am concerned. God kept him on earth for that time to begin showing an upstart preacher boy (who thought he had so many answers) real strength and the victory that overcomes the world.
I wish you could have know John Shearer. You would have loved him too. One of these days…