The Shadow Behind Us
We all cast a shadow. It follows us wherever we go. We don’t often pay attention to what is lingering behind us. But it is there.
He was a pest and a nuisance to me. He was my brother, Bobby. He was 9, I was 16. I called him “my shadow” because every time I turned around, he was there asking me the same two questions: “Where are you going? Can I come?” He would ask me these questions as I was leaving the house to put gas in my car, on my way to the 7 Eleven store, or going out the door to see my girlfriend. Out of nowhere, he would suddenly appear and ask, “Where are you going? Can I come?”
One day I was walking down the upstairs hallway and made a left turn into the bathroom. Bobby came running out of his room shouting, “Where are you going?” I told him, “To the bathroom! Do you mind?” With a smile on his face he smirked, “Can I come?” I think I hit him!
My mother pulled me aside one day and told me how much Bobby looked up to me and how he wanted to be just like me when he grew up. I was stunned. I hadn’t really noticed before. I was a typical teenager completely consumed with my little selfish world. I had completely missed what was obvious to everyone around me. As I reflected on her words my mind took off at mock speed. I felt like Chuck reacting to the Intersect in his mind. (It is a popular TV show, trust me.) The video replay in my mind showed me that Bobby was always trying to dress like me, walk like me, and talk like me.
My mother finished her challenge to me with a comment that still echoes in my mind, “Because he looks up to you so much, you have a great opportunity to really influence his life.” My relationship with my brother changed that day. I stopped viewing him as a pest and began seeing him as a person who I wanted to have a positive influence. Instead of seeing him as someone to avoid, I began looking for opportunities to spend time with him. My shadow remained, but now I didn’t mind if he was behind me.
Everyone has a shadow behind them. Moses had Joshua. Elijah had Elisha. Naomi had Ruth. Elizabeth had Mary. Woody had Buzz Lightyear! Who do you have?
In 20 plus years of ministry, I’ve had the privilege of seeing over a dozen young men follow my lead into the ministry. It was a joy to hear that I helped influence their lives. Ultimately, it was God who called them to serve Him, but am blessed to have been a tool He used to influence their hearts. In time, I will stand in their shadow, learning from them.
My highest calling as a shadow of influence, is being a father. I am shadowing, for my three girls, what the image of a man is. I am influencing their perspective of what a husband looks like, what a father looks like, and what a man after God’s heart looks like. I am praying that when they see my shadow, it will closely resemble the image of Jesus Christ.
Leaving a shadow behind us is a daunting task. It carries the weight of responsibility and accountability. It is a weight worth bearing. Since we all leave a shadow behind us, we might as well make it a shadow worth following.
My mother probably didn’t realize it at the time, but she tapped into my heart what every man’s number one need is — significance. That is, the desire to make a difference. At 16, I took her challenge and Bobby became one of my best friends. Even today, over 30 years later, my mother’s words still echo in my ears. I am still striving to live up to her challenge.