What does a life look like that is trying to follow in the footsteps of Jesus? The short answer is that the life lived is a reflection of the image of God-the very image in which each human being is created; in the image of God.
Recently a good family friend passed away. Dean and his family were always a part of our family. Like other close families, we did life together. Growing up, the Griffins always stopped by on Christmas afternoon, for the annual Easter egg hunt, and summer family barbecues, to name but a few occasions. Dean’s family took me skiing in Canada. It is because his family hosted a French AFS student that Cora and I became lifelong best friends. Our family stories are intertwined.
Dean was a jokester and he talked to everyone around him, to include every waitress and nurse who cared for him. For Dean there were no strangers. Some called it flirting, but it was so much more. Dean was really about the person with whom he was talking. Dean cared about people. He listened to their stories. He was curious. So much so that his family hosted two exchange students. He loved people, and he loved life. (Ok, and he loved The Turtle, too.)
Dean had a life call on his heart to care about people. For that very reason he started teaching, and eventually became a family physician. Who knows how many patients Dean walked beside? Who knows how many he cared for? Yet in all his caring for people, in all his talking with “strangers,” Dean was reflecting the image of his maker, The Great Physician.
You see, there is another one who cared for people, One who was an abiding presence with humanity; none other than God in the flesh, Jesus the Christ. Jesus is the one who taught us to abide with each other, the one who taught us to care for each other, the one who taught us to serve each other, the One who taught us what love looks like.
Jesus washed the feet of his disciples and said, “Go and do likewise.” (John 13:15) In that same chapter Jesus tells us to love one another as he has loved. This is servant love, this is self sacrificing love, known as agape love. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” ( John 13:35)
Dean sacrificed of his time and of himself as he served others; on call as a physician, on the high school football team sidelines as team doctor, in numerous service clubs, for his community, and his family. His wife, kids, and grandkids were the apple of his eye. He cared for people he did not know by talking with them, listening, and learning their stories. He was an abiding presence in his community of Westminster and beyond.
Dean was not perfect, no human is sinless. But he followed the Perfect One who taught us how to love by offering himself on a cross for you and for me, to take our sins and imperfections upon himself, so that a gateway beyond this life would be open, and a future hope and promises by the God of all creation can be realized.
It is a gift to grow up in community who cares for each other. I am grateful that God brought our life paths together, and grateful for the gift of love and friendship that Dr. Dean Griffin and his family brought to my family and me. And, I am grateful that Dean followed in the footsteps of his Maker, reflecting the image of God in which he was created.