My Cloud of Witnesses
By Lt. Sean Wise
I’ve spent most of my life pretty well sheltered from personal loss. While I had my fair share of mourning with others who had lost loved ones, I hadn’t dealt with a lot of the passing away of anyone who was close to me. That all changed within the past five months, in which time I lost not only one close friend, but five Salvation Army officers who had a tremendous impact on my life.
While I did spend some time in mourning over each of them, it wasn’t until the most recent Promotion to Glory that this thought came into my mind – “I don’t want to live in a world without Steve in it.” What struck me as strange about that thought was that Steve wasn’t any more or less a part of my life than the other four, but for a few reasons, his passing affected me more than the others.
My friends Dorothy, George, Bob, and Irene were all in what’s expected to be the later stages of life and had dealt for many years with several forms of illness. Steve, however, was in his mid-40s, much closer to my age. He was one that I considered among the godly men to serve as a father-figure (or at the very least, an image of what a father should be) in the time after my father left me. Even though I had more long-term connections with the others, perhaps this is why losing Steve took a bigger toll on me, causing me to think more about the quality of people who are leaving this earth to go Home.
So why would I think that I don’t want to live in this world without him? Or without the rest of them? It’s ultimately about the quality of people that they were. All of those friends were mirror images of the love of Christ. They were my encouragers when others were decidedly naysayers. They were my mentors as I grew up knowing that I, too, wanted to be an officer, showing me the right kind of person to be for the tremendous calling I was following in. They were quality people – and (pardon the expression), they were among a dying breed.
I want to clarify that my thought was not that I don’t want to live anymore. I believe it was a kind of message to my mind that I need to remember the impact they had on my life. It’s my turn now to live out the example that my friends gave to me. It’s my turn to be Christ’s love. It’s my turn to be an encourager. It’s my turn to be a mentor. It’s my turn to step up and be quality. If we all took on that challenge, the world wouldn’t run out of quality people. There wouldn’t even be fear of a shortage. There are so many who have gone before us who have exemplified that kind of personality.
It’s impossible for me to think of those who have made it Home already without thinking of Hebrews 12:1-3. Their example challenges me to live a life more free from sin. Their encouragement caused me to fix my eyes on Jesus. Their motivation has driven me to press on in the race set before me. Their success in this life leads me to not grow weary.
May we all find such encouragement from our own cloud of witnesses. While we often say that our loss is Heaven’s gain, we can also know that their memory can be our motivation.
Servants of God, well done!