“I’m writing this in part to tell you that if you ever wonder what you’ve done in your life, and everyone does wonder sooner or later, you have been God’s grace to me…” – Marilynne Robinson, Gilead
What is it about sunsets?
What is it about them that stirs our hearts so deeply?
Is it because they’re beautiful? I’m sure that’s part of it, but it can’t be the whole story. There’s beauty to be found in every nook and cranny of this grand old world God made.
No, there’s more to it.
I think it’s because they don’t last.
Sunsets are fleeting. In our hearts we know such beauty should stay around longer. But it doesn’t. We can’t push pause or hurry to another part of the world to see it again. It’s here and then it fades. We’re certain to see one again soon, but not the same sunset, not in the same place, not in the same way.
Last evening as I was driving home from my son’s basketball game, I saw the sun setting over a neighborhood near my house. It was beautiful. And I’m certain it was gone by the time I arrived home minutes later. But somewhere in that neighborhood beneath the glory of another setting sun, a man was at home, maybe putting the finishing touches on his Sunday morning sermon. Just as he has done thousands of other times. Probably sitting near his wife, who’s the closest thing to an angel on earth as you will ever meet. I imagine his eyes, wrinkled with age and wisdom, moving back and forth between his sermon notes and the face of the woman he’s loved all of his life.
His heart heavy and yet full to overflowing.
Not just any preacher. Not just any pastor. Not just any man.
A man who stirred my heart for local church ministry once again. A man who cared for me, understood me, mentored me, and gave me freedom to do what I’ve been called to do. A pastor who never cared who got the credit (preferring that everyone else receive it instead). A pastor who loves and lives as if Jesus really meant the things He said. A pastor who chose to lead with equal parts compassion, kindness, and wisdom. A preacher who encourages all who know him to simply do the “next right thing.” A preacher whose greatest sermon has lasted more than 2 years and continues even now by the way he lives out his faith with his body in the grip of the hideous talons of cancer.
A man who impacted not only a church but an entire community in such a profound way that an entire city would give him a day all his own.
Today is Mack Hannah Day in Dunwoody, Georgia. It’s a real thing, decreed by the Mayor and everything.
Mack Hannah is a man. Mack Hannah a preacher. Mack Hannah is a pastor.
He’s my pastor.
Today, he will retire after eleven plus years serving the people of Dunwoody Baptist Church, the city of Dunwoody, the state of Georgia, and various places all over the world. He’ll preach his last sermon, his “final thoughts.” He’ll do this in the same way he always has – delivering the gospel casually and confidently, putting you at ease. Like you’re two old friends discussing deep and profound truth over a cup of coffee.
That’s why, when I drove past Mack’s neighborhood last night and the sun was taking its final breathtaking bow, even more than usual, my heart swelled at the beauty of it all, at the same time it ached for all the things that we wish could last forever
Beauty is fleeting on this side of things.
Breath is ephemeral.
Being is temporary.
The sun always sets on our days, on our times, on our physical lives.
But there are things that last. Ancient things. Eternal things. Things not easily recognized or quantified. Things between the edges of our existence, weaving in and out and through the hidden places of our souls. Things that make the setting sun’s glory pale in comparison.
What is it about Mack Hannah’s life that is so beautiful?
What is it about him that stirs our hearts so deeply?
In a world where almost everything is temporary, he has given us something that lasts.
A legacy of selflessness, kindness, openness, and hope. And legacy of integrity, laughter, stories, and joy. A legacy of authenticity, passion, leadership, and faith.
Faith that doesn’t waver, even after the sun has set and the darkness of night has crept in.
Faith in the new sun that rises each morning, bringing with it beauty once again.
And God’s mercies made new.