When a great man leaves this world, it leaves behind a sad emptiness and an inspiring legacy. It’s like a tragedy that makes you cry but enriches you as a person. I’ve been crying all day upon learning that Howard Hendricks passed away this morning. He was an influential mentor to me. Both he and his wife Jeanne became dearly beloved friends to my wife and me.
“Prof” as he was fondly called, poured into so many lives, including mine. On a number of occasions, people referred to me as one of “Howie’s boys.” I learned later that “Howie’s boy” was a term given to those who sat under his mentorship. I came to proudly embrace the term, however it was not a term of elitism because anyone could’ve been Howie’s boy. He discipled generously. It was what he called his “ministry of multiplication.” In the end, the legacy he left behind were not grand stadiums or shiney trophies, but ever-blazing torches he fanned in the souls of many who would live for God with relentless passion.
As a professor and mentor, he spoke to me candidly. When I gave my first crack at being a writer, I showed him thirty pages of a book manuscript I wrote. He read it. We met. And he said, “Your idea is great. Your writing needs A LOOOT of work. Have you ever taken a writing class ever in your life?” HaHa. That instigated me to diligently study writing at seminary. He’s one of the reasons I disciple others and pour into others’ lives, because he said, “I do this for you so you can do it for others.” He’s one of the reasons I found my passion in teaching the Bible when he said to me, “You’re the guy we’re looking for” to validate me as a teacher. He could never be found at fault in building up himself, because he was focused on building up others. He’s the reason I don’t believe in retirement, that as long as God has me here on earth I’m here to serve Him. As Prof said, retirement will be in heaven and we have all eternity for that. He helped me to believe that “the man of God is immortal until God calls him home,” as he exemplified. But he always said that behind the great man that everyone perceived him to be was his wife Jeanne. If you met her, you would know what a pair they made and the grace she was in his life.
My wife and I saw him and Jeanne only months ago last September. I was moved to see an old man who was like a spirited child before God with an unwavering faithfulness. During our visit with them, I was amused by the few times he repeated to me, “I think I’ve concluded that you have not change a bit! You look exactly the same! Incredible!” Then he laughed. The most touching moment was when the four of us stood together with our arms around each other in a circle to pray and before we prayed he looked over to Jeanne and said with a big, warm smile, “This is my lovely wife.” What a man he was. There are those who inspire by what they teach. There are those who inspire by what they do. Then there are those who inspire by who they are. In his life and in his passing, I am inspired to live well.
My tears of sadness over losing him are paradoxically juxtaposed by delightful visions of him joyously dancing before Jesus with his one index finger waving in the air. Good-bye, Prof. I’ll miss you deeply, but I will see you at home one day.