Heroes don’t try to be heroes

By Gerry Lewis | Published Saturday, July 21, 2018

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Heroes. Everybody needs them.

Some people aspire to be heroes and, by that aspiration, they almost always fail. Being a hero who is noticed for heroic deeds is highly overrated.

There is a big difference between heroism and bravery. Heroism tends to be recognized. Bravery often happens quietly, under the radar.

Those who become true heroes usually resist the title. They simply risk stepping into someone else’s stuff, not to garner attention, but to lift the other person to reach their fullest potential. They are simply heroic in the course of life.

It takes a lot more bravery to be a hero-maker who guides heroes than it does to be one.

One of my heroes died last week.

Lew Shaffer was a veteran of the United States Air Force and co-founder of an international ministry. There was a time in his life that he was on a hero path. Driven to achieve and accomplish, he was confident, competent, powerful communicator.

Then, at 49, he suffered a massive stroke and lost almost every ability he had. No more preaching, teaching and leading all over the world. He became increasingly dependent on his dear wife, Sandy, and others, to care for some of his most basic needs. He faced difficulties in communicating because his speech was severely and permanently affected.

But God used those extreme physical limitations to form in him the kind of heroism that never could have been possible on his original pathway.

For the past 31 years, he has bravely encouraged and empowered other people. His life and ministry did not end at 49. His earthly journey ended at 80. His quiet, tender, and gracious encouragement as a hero-maker will bear fruit for eternity.

There is a community service award named after him that is presented each year at an event he co-founded 26 years ago. The kind of service that bears his name is service that was noticed after his stroke.

The last letter I got from him arrived three weeks ago. It is the last of many similar ones I have received from him over the past 25-plus years of friendship. I don’t know how many thousands of those yellow letters he has written to people. I know every one of them was prayed over and written with love for Jesus and love for people. This one contained only two words: “Jesus” and “Lew.” As a friend to so many, he wanted everyone to know his best friend.

His unsought, quiet, unassuming heroism is indelibly etched on my heart.

Maybe that’s the understanding I’m looking for. The deepest heroism is found in brave hero-makers who empower others, without any need to have their heroism publicly lauded.

Your life – the quiet, under-the-radar part that few will ever notice – matters to God.

Who has bravely invested in you and inspired you to bravely invest in others?

Dr. Gerry Lewis, author, blogger, church consultant and leadership coach, serves as executive director of the Harvest Baptist Association in Decatur.

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