First, The best perspective…
He that walketh with wise men shall be wise…
– Proverbs 13:20a
Think about those special people who have impacted your life. The list might include parents, grandparents, a beloved aunt or uncle, a close friend, and others. These are the people who assisted in your development over time because of their long-term involvement in your life and because of the close and loving relationship that you have enjoyed. These close and influential people shaped your life, helping you to become the person you are today.
What about those who entered your life for only a brief amount of time? Some people come into our lives through chance meetings or through introductions provided by friends or family. Many of these contacts turn out to be short-term, but is it possible that at least a few of these folks have built something of deep value into your life, perhaps even life-altering? It may be they gave a bit of influence, offering something of themselves by example or with a few timely words that were used of God to shape or mold you for good.
As I think back on my own life, I see some of these men and women – people who entered my life at key points in time. Each one provided their brief moment of influence, and then they were gone. It may have been only a few days, a matter of months, or in some cases, perhaps a year or longer. Unknowingly they had a purpose, a mission, a small bit of influence to share through word or deed. The impression they left was genuine and lasting, but often went unrealized in my personal understanding for years, until a few moments of contemplation brought recognition, clarity, and some deeper understanding.
I think of two men who taught my class at Vacation Bible School in Norfolk, Virginia when I was nine years old. These men were the very first to introduce me to the Lord Jesus, sharing the Gospel and then pointing me down the path of knowing Him personally. Their direct influence was for only a few days, but they had a lasting impact.
I remember Mr. Bill Rega, who was the Troop 123 Scoutmaster in Naha, Okinawa when I was ten. I was a scout for only six months, but he instilled in me a love for the great outdoors and the importance of the Bible. Weekend camping excursions always included a Sunday morning time of focus on God’s Word and a few moments of prayer.
There’s my best friend in junior high school, Joe Basile. He taught me how to play chess and we shared a few other interests. His influence carries on to the present day, even though I recently discovered that he passed away a number of years ago…
How about Mr. Stan Schaeffer? He was involved in the church bus ministry and would visit our home on Saturday to make sure I was coming to church the next day. On Sunday morning, I was greeted
by his friendly spirit and smiling face, serving as a great example.
Mr. Donald Churchill taught the teen Sunday School class at North Syracuse Baptist Church when I was fourteen. I remember few of his actual words, but I do recall his love for the Lord and his passionate devotion for helping us as young teens to grow and walk with God. Many in that class eventually went into full-time Christian ministry.
And what of Ron and Lorraine Hodge, a godly couple who chose to invest their time and treasure in establishing a wonderful Christian retreat center known as The Braes in Redfield, New York. I attended
a number of special weekends at The Braes during my teen years and the Hodges had a very real spiritual impact on my life.
I went to college in Columbus, Ohio and found myself in the company of several Christian roommates and at least one additional person who shared Christ by word and example. These are just some of the people who had an impact in my life during my youth and late teen years, but there are others – people who had a brief but important part in my personal and spiritual development. And the process has continued throughout my adult years.
The input that comes from short-term friendships and occasional brief relationships has great value as each one imparts something helpful to your development as a person. Never undervalue the short-term influence of others. Instead, take time to consider what you can gain from those whom God sends your way. Although you may not realize the impact at the time, their words or example could be a gift from God Himself to build qualities into your life that will help you in some practical way, ultimately to help and encourage others. Their role provides the seasoning of life, a type of refinement that enhances your very being, helping you to reach full potential.
So then, some people enter our lives for brief periods of time, and then they are gone. These are temporary relationships and likely not nearly so deep as with others who are closer to us in a relational sense. In the midst of these experiences, we may not realize God’s purpose at the time, but surely He has something He wants us to see, to hear, and to learn. There is a concept to acquire or some experience we need in order to grow as a person and to enrich our lives. these are designed to enable us to reach new depths in our understanding of spiritual truth or to help us gain understanding of others, or even ourselves. These often subtle influences have great value and God uses them to shape and mold our lives into what He wants us to become. You and I must be alert to catch the messages sent by the Lord through people of short-term relationship and influence.
Who are the people who have had this type of impact in your life? Unsure? Why not take some quiet time to think back. Consider the ways that others have had a helpful and special effect on the person you have become and take a moment to give God thanks. Then… if that person is yet living, take a moment sometime soon to give a call or send a note to let them know how much you appreciate what they have done in your life. Make sure to do this before they are gone!
But, how about the other direction? What kind of influence or impact do you and I have on those around us, especially in those short-term relationships? As the Lord guides us along the path of His choosing, He allows us to come in contact with many people, some for a long period of time (those closest to us) and those who are part of our lives for a very brief time. It may be that our spirit, our actions, our words are just what’s needed to help someone along the way. The long-term effect might be greater than you could ever imagine!