Teresa of Avila: Interior Castle: Seventh Mansions: Chapter Three
[She] has now died, full of joy at having found rest, and within her lives Christ. Let us see what her new life is like, and how different it is from her earlier one. (Teresa of Avila)
He worked the soul like he worked the land
He spoke in ways that anyone could understand
Simple words of simple faith
And when it came to love
He would go out of his way
A helping hand
A soothing chat
And he practiced what he preached imagine that (Michael W. Smith)
The metaphor of death and new life is common in spiritual literature. In order to have new life, we must die to our previous existence. Sometimes this death is nearly imperceptible, other times it’s significant events like a book, an illness, or a person that catalyzes our transformation.
About twenty years ago, I went to a two-day conference on hiring employees. The speaker, Vic, was illustrating character and generosity. He shared a story about growing up in the 50s in a tiny town — 110 people as I write this — called Cannon City, Minnesota. When Vic was in eighth grade, he desperately wanted to play the trumpet. But his family was too poor to afford the instrument.
There was a senior in high school that would often be on the tractor as Vic walked by. Vic would occasionally stop and talk with this older boy. One day, Vic mentioned his desire to play the trumpet. The older boy said, “I’m leaving for the military soon — you can have my trumpet.”
This story caught my attention because my wife attended church in Cannon City when we were dating. I met some of the people she went to church with, including the school teacher who preached on Sundays.
At the break in our conference, I stopped and talked to Vic. I said, “It’s possible we could have a mutual acquaintance. Did you by any chance know a Bix Nauman when you grew up in Cannon City?” He looked at me stunned: “That’s the boy who gave me the trumpet!” He asked me how I knew Bix. And then Vic said, “Bix Nauman was the most Christian person I ever met.”
I saw Bix a few years later. We talked for a short time. As I walked away, he stopped me. He pulled a folded piece a paper from his pocket and handed it to me: Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor. (John 12.24-26)
Bix understood the Christian life was about dying. Dying to self and selfishness — and dying to our previous existence and following Christ into a new life.
Is Bix the most Christian person I ever met? Probably. Some may suggest his pastoral talents weren’t fully used by preaching to less than a 100 people on Sunday and teaching science during the week. I disagree. From what I’ve seen — from what I’ve heard — the seed fell into the ground and died and bore much fruit.