As a High School JROTC student in Hanau American High School in the late 1970's, I would frequently bid adieu to my Senior Army Instructor, CW4 Donald M. Lesch with a hearty, “Take it easy, Mr. Lesch!” He would invariably respond with a pause, upward glance, and a smirk I now recognize as wisdom while saying, “I’ll take it like it comes!” That wisdom came from surviving as a combat infantryman in multiple campaigns of WWII, Korea and Vietnam, and always caused me to stop and consider what he had said and why he had said it.
As I reflect on the year 2017, Mr. Lesch’s wisdom is more profound than ever. 2017 has been filled with a variety of happenings that were both anticipated and unforeseen that helped me to understand more completely how every person must prepare themselves to encounter a very broad spectrum of happenings, ranging from the highly desirable to the least desirable human experiences.
2017 has brought the jarring news of the unexpected deaths of several dear friends. It also marked the expected yet nonetheless painful earthly departure of my personal lifetime hero and ultimate icon, my father, Command Sergeant Major Sam Jackson. In his passing, I saw more urgency in living my own life well and leaving behind a legacy of love, devotion and goodness that hopefully will outlive me in the hearts of those who know me and can be passed on when I am long forgotten as an individual.
2017 caused me to face more unexpected challenges as a recurring pain in my hip ended up being a sign of major deterioration and signaled the need for corrective surgery and an unplanned period of physical limitation and self-reflection. Taking life as it comes has involved these challenges and the opportunities for experiencing humanity in the fullest as a husband, father, pastor, and friend. I have rejoiced with those who have rejoiced and overcome in life’s major challenges. I have mourned with those who mourn when death has interrupted life uninvited and tragedy has numbed the most stout-hearted souls. Life has come in a vast variety of ways that has called me time and time again to rely on the God I serve to strengthen me in my now more easily recognized weaknesses and to comfort me in the mysteries that sometimes continue to confound me when it seems life just isn’t transpiring the way I believe that it should.
I am thankful for Mr. Lesch’s wisdom and the seeds planted to recognize that sometimes life doesn’t give one the option to “take it easy.” But, if one is willing to take life as it comes – the good, bad and ugly – one can persevere and emerge through even the most tumultuous times with joy of heart and peace of mind. This truth is at the heart of what the Apostle Paul meant when he penned the words, “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.” This is not an athletic or business performance verse, but rather a verse that anticipates that life will confront every human with experiences that will both “bless” and “curse.” For those who know the Hope that exists in Christ, there are resources of the soul available to uplift, strengthen and encourage, even in the most trying times – even at the point of death – to cause one to be “more than a conqueror” if one perseveres and does not faint. This truth is reflected in the portion of the serenity prayer that pleads for Christ-likeness in,
Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it...
With those thoughts in mind, I pray for a great 2018 for all of you, my friends, but also pray for your continual encouragement and perseverance knowing that greatness often emerges from trial, and sunshine is seldom appreciated apart from stormy seasons. May the Lord bless us all as we enter into another New Year with all the challenges and potential that await us, taking life as it comes!