We all have our favorite photographs. We all keep a mental catalogue of those iconic images that have the ability to stir deep emotions and rekindle old memories. These are the pictures that we’ve gone back to time and time again, the pictures that we save on our computers and put in our scrapbooks and hang on our walls. Even now, you’re probably calling to mind that special picture of your grandfather or that beloved shot of your child as a baby or that gorgeous sunset you captured on vacation many years ago.
Personally, one of my favorite photographs also happens to be one of the worst. It’s a dark, blurry, low-resolution image I hastily captured a few years ago on my cheap phone. By all technical standards, it’s a disaster of photography. And yet it remains one of my favorite pictures.
One evening we were hanging out with a few friends over at Don and Sue Whipple’s house. Our oldest daughter was probably about 18 months old at the time, and as we were sitting and chatting on the back patio (as I recall), she snuck off with a new-found friend and began exploring the back yard. I don’t remember many details of the moment, other than that I happened to catch a glimpse of this unlikely pair, and immediately thought to myself, “Kodak moment!” So I grabbed my phone, and quickly tried to get a picture from a distance before the moment slipped away. What I got was this:
For the neutral observer, this may seem like the least interesting photograph ever taken. But for me, it is jam-packed with meaning.
At a personal level, it captures the essence of the kind of boss, mentor, and colleague that Don has been (and continues to be). Not only has he invested into me as an individual, but he has also consistently shown nothing but care and compassion toward my family. For example, I recall the time right before Elizabeth and I were leaving for a little get-away, and Don popped in my office to toss some cash at me. Or there was also the time that Don and Sue gave up their Valentine’s Day so they could take Elizabeth and me to dinner and counsel us through a difficult situation. And then there’s the fact that for the past five years, anytime Don has seen me with my family around, I immediately become invisible, and it’s as if my kids are the only ones in the room. I love that!
But on a deeper level, there’s a symbolism in this picture that I can’t help but notice. Simply put, this image captures the essence of Don Whipple as a pastor. Over the course of 26 years, Don has held the hands of hundreds upon hundreds of people who have come through Kossuth, and he has walked with them patiently down the path of their lives. Many of you have experienced this very thing. You can relate to my daughter in this picture, because you’ve been there – unsteady and uncertain, but holding the strong hand of a man who loves you and cares for you. If you use your imagination, you can see how this picture is the picture of everyone Don has ever pastored.
This Sunday morning we have an incredible opportunity to honor this man and his ministry at Kossuth. I hope you’ll do all you can to be here. During the 9:15am service, Don will preach, and we’ll sing some of his favorite songs (with some very special musicians, as well!). Immediately thereafter, parents will go grab their kids and we’ll return to the auditorium for a combined time of celebrating Don and Sue. Come with your memories (and Kleenex) and help us honor a faithful servant of God.