Tribute to a Pastor

It’s always hard to retrain your mind to begin thinking of a person in the past tense who was so enormously a part of your present. When I hear a particular song, it always, and without fail, reminds me of my pastor. The song came out many years ago and faded somewhat into obscurity until Philips, Craig and Dean revived it. The first line of the chorus always makes me think not of the parable of the Prodigal Son, about which it is written, or even of God, about whom the parable speaks. That first line of the chorus makes me think of the very first time I met John Thorson.

I met him 30 years ago, December 1986. I walked into his church a lost, introverted, terrified kid under heavy conviction. God was calling to me and led me to this little church in the backwoods of nowhere. I came late so as not to have to meet anyone, and as soon as this short, balding, bespectacled preacher dismissed service I hit the back door, the front steps, the sidewalk and a few more stairs and bolted for my Cougar so fast only one guy in the house managed to shake my hand in passing on the way out.

I put the car in Reverse, backed out of my spot, pointed the car toward Oak Hill Road, slapped it into Drive and was just moving my foot from the brake pedal to the gas, ready to lay rubber on the road, when I saw a flash of movement up in my rear view mirror. I don’t even know how it caught my attention but forty or so feet behind me that little preacher burst out the door, took the first set of steps two at a time, made a hard right on that sidewalk, down the next couple of steps and was barreling across the lot toward my car before I could react.

I’m sure I was impressed, as he made this trek nearly as fast as I did though he was double my age, and apparently my determination level as well.

In a split second, I ran through my options. The most attractive of these was: Hit. The. Gas. I mean, I could always pretend I never saw him, right?

There are times in your life where you make split-second decisions that ultimately change the course of your life. This was mine.

I left my foot on the brake.

A few short seconds later his face was in my window. I don’t remember what he said. I don’t remember if he asked for my phone number or gave me his. I don’t remember what he preached that day. I really only remember one thing; He Ran to Me.

Perhaps my desire to bolt was overridden by the impression that anyone pursuing his prey this hard deserves to catch it. Perhaps it was because I’d never seen anyone his age run so fast, let alone in a suit and dress shoes. Perhaps it was just that He Ran to Me.

Yes, that was it. If he hadn’t run, he wouldn’t have been out the door in time to catch me. If he hadn’t run, I wouldn’t have noticed him bursting out the door. If he hadn’t run, I wouldn’t have known how much he cared.

But he did care. Enough to run to me.

I’m here today, because he ran to me.

I’m serving God today, because he ran to me.

I’ll see him again, because he ran to me.

The first time I saw him, he ran to me. And the next time I see him; the next time he sees me, I’m sure he will run to me. Take me in his arms, hold my head to his chest, and say “my son, one of my many sons and daughters in The Lord, has come home”.

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