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The Chuck Colson I knew


Tributes to Chuck Colson are all over the Web. Some of the best ones I've seen are at WORLD, Christianity Today, NRO, the Christian Post, the Huntington News, and GetReligion.

But this one will be a little more personal.

I usually saw Chuck at meetings, about once a month. In a way, I regret that. I have never been at my best in meetings. Chuck considered them an unending source of energy and inspiration. I consider them a tool of Satan to keep any actual work from getting done.

So I would be sitting there glumly in the conference room, waiting for things to get started. Then Chuck would walk in, drop a hand on my shoulder, and give me his usual warm greeting. And for a moment -- only a moment, mind you -- meetings would seem worthwhile.

That was Chuck Colson. Hard-charging, opinionated, tenacious, he nonetheless always had time to offer encouragement or concern, to listen and to care. His heart was as big as his intellect, and we all know how big that was.

It's been a very rough weekend, and at times it's been hard to focus on anything but the immediate and overwhelming grief that we're all facing. But I have been truly comforted by the assurance that we have in Christ, of eternal life in glory. "But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope." (1 Thess. 4:13, NKJV)

I have seldom been more grateful for that hope. I can't wait to see you again, Chuck.

Comments:

Ah, beloved G, Rolley also connected his stubbornness with hope, and it's a highly endearing quality of both of you that *that* is where you are stubborn. In contrast, those of us who euphemize ourselves as "realists" are actually confessing our lack of faith. You two inspire me to do better.
I think I was under the same delusion you were, Lee. I stubbornly held on to hope until the very end. Don't think any of us were truly ready.
"May the king live forever!"
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It's a strange, startling statement, coming as it does from the lips of a Jew committed to the rebuilding of Jerusalem and re-establishment of tne nation of Israel, and being said to a non-Jewish king. But it's right there, recorded in Nehemiah 2:3: may Artaxerxes, king of Persia, live forever.

Of course, there are many ways to interpret that statement. Maybe, for example, it was a standard form of address before speaking to whoever was sitting on the throne, as Britons - even British Christians - say "Your Majesty" to the Queen, and said it to her predecessors, and will say it to her throne's heir. If so, then we shouldn't read into it anything more than the recognition and courtesy afforded to someone holding high office, irrespective of how the speaker might feel toward the hearer.

Or, perhaps it was more than required. It's possible that Nehemiah, like the pre-Watergate Chuck Colson, would say or do anything to get into a position of power and influence. We could look at Nehemiah chapter 1 as a time of spiritual conversion, when Nehemiah suddenly realized that his pursuit of politics had succeeded, but had proven to be a hollow victory. Shattered, but falling back on what had helped him get this far, Nehemiah blurts out a familiar phrase in the hopes it could secure him what was needed for a new phase of his life. If true, it clearly worked. Flattery can get you anywhere, in some circles.

Or maybe it was utterly sincere. Maybe Nehemiah detected something in Artaxerxes that was worth keeping. Maybe, like the PFM-era Chuck Colson, just maybe this king was incredibly intelligent, opinionated, driven, engaged and engaging, and yet amazingly sensitive to the least and the lost. A king who takes the time to notice the downcast countenance of one of his servants and to not only inquire about it, but to want to immediately do something about it. A king who would devote enormous resources to provide not always for himself, but for others, to the point of turning their dreams into reality. The kind of king, then, that you would indeed want to rule forever.

I'm still rather stunned, and trying to process the fact that Chuck Colson is gone. Perhaps I internalized a delusion that he could, and would, live forever. Or perhaps I was simply in denial that there are no exceptions to this most obvious effect of the Fall. If I didn't realize that a man of 80, no matter how energetic and apparently healthy, might soon be gone, then I was fooling myself. As the late Walter Martin liked to say, "The death rate is unchanging; it's still 'one per person.'"

But I never actually met Chuck Colson. I never even had the privilege of seeing him from a distance. I have only heard about him from others, albeit others I trust, but I can't say this is a personal relationship of mine that has ended. So it's not really he, himself, that I would hope would continue, but rather all the good that was associated with him. I would want his legacy to continue, and even to grow, in his absence. I would want others to take the inspiration they received from knowing Chuck firsthand, and to apply it - and greatly expand it. 180 years after his death, William Wilberforce still moves people to not only attempt but to achieve tremendous positive changes in society. If the Lord's return is delayed that long, I want Mr. Colson to still be influencing people in 2182. May Chuck's example live forever.

Besides, I think the *real* meaning of what Nehemiah was saying to Artaxerxes was "May you find eternal life!" Chuck Colson certainly found it, and passed it on to many others. As C.S. Lewis reminded us, we've never met a truly mortal human being. We who persevere will see Chuck again.

No doubt he'll be easy to find. I suspect he'll be talking with Wilberforce, and Lewis, and maybe with Nehemiah, too.
Gina, thank you for this. =) I wish so much I'd had the opportunity to spend more time with Chuck, but I'm thankful for the overlap my path found with this great man of God. I look forward to becoming more a part of the work--and the team--to which he dedicated himself.

And yes, seeing him again will be wonderful. Although... Chuck Colson facing all eternity with no cultural battles to fight. Can you imagine? ;D