The late Fred Craddock once wrote, “When I was in my late teens, I wanted to be a preacher. When I was in my late twenties, I wanted to be a good preacher. Now that I am older, I want more than anything else to be a Christian. To live simply, to love generously, to speak truthfully, to serve faithfully, and to leave everything else to God.”
At the end of his memoir, Hannah’s Child, Stanley Hauerwas reflects on what he has learned about himself in the process of writing about his life: “In fact, what I have learned is quite simple — I am a Christian. How interesting.”
I think these two statements, made by two great teachers towards the end of their careers, are telling. Perhaps the most important task for a Christian is to become a Christian. I suppose, in putting it this way, they are saying that it will not always be easy. But it is to be desired more than anything else.
Does it take a lifetime of faithful service to be able to say things so simply and clearly? Perhaps so. As I prepare for a new ministry in Africa at the age of 53, I find myself thinking of Craddock’s words and wanting that too. And, who knows, maybe at some point, I will learn that through the miracle of God’s grace that I too am a Christian.
I suspect Craddock’s and Hauerwas’s reflections are pointing to something we all truly desire whenever we have the wisdom or the opportunity to cut through the nonsense and realize it: To live simply, to love generously, to speak truthfully, to serve faithfully, and to leave everything else to God.