Today I was deeply sadden by the news that Doug Goins had succumbed to his three year struggle with cancer. Like many people, and especially Candy, I will miss him, and look forward to seeing him in the next life. As I pedaled my way into work today I couldn’t stop crying and thinking about the powerful influence Doug and Candy had on my life. In the midst of the sadness, there was also a joy and thankfulness for Doug’s amazing life. Here are a number of things that came to my mind.
Help Adapting to the Bay Area
After living in Palo Alto for a few months I found myself feeling frustrated. Doug said “You are suffering culture shock”. I said “that can’t be true, I love it here” Doug then helped me see how there were things in the Bay Area culture that didn’t fit with my values and previous experience. He encouraged me to adjust my expectations, but also to hold onto things that were valuable, even if they didn’t “fit in” with Bay Area culture.
For example, I was used to spontaneously getting together with people in Columbus. In the Bay Area it seemed like no one was prepared to do something spontaneously. I would suggest getting together with someone, and they would pull out their Day Planner and say “I have 1.5 hours free three thursdays from now at 7pm. Should I pencil you in?” Doug’s response was different. Like others he was often busy, but he said “I would love to join you but I already have something scheduled tonight, but please keep inviting me to do things spontaneously, and please continue to invite others to do things spontaneously because this is something our community needs.” Doug provided a great example of caring for others and making space for them. Though he was unable to respond to spontaneous invitations, Doug was wonderfully hospitable and made a point to welcome me, and many other people into his life. I took Doug’s encouragement to heart in three ways. The first was I continued to invite people to do things spontaneously. Second, I purposely left a couple of nights unscheduled each week, so there would be room to be available to others when unexpected things came up, to have margin. Third, I tried to invite at least one person to come over for dinner each week.
A Model of Trusting People and God
Doug and Candy opened their home for a young couples bible study. My late wife Libby and I had been married for ten years, but we were about the same age as everyone in the group, so we decided to give the group a try. After the study ended we were talking with Doug and Candy in their kitchen. At the end of the evening Doug said to me. “If you are interested, I lead a Sunday school in the west wing of the church. If you would like to take a turn teaching that group, or here in the couples group, I would be happy to give you a slot”.
In the church I grew up in this would never happen. You had to prove yourself. When one of the church’s elders switched to our house church, he didn’t start teaching until people in our house church got to know him. How could Doug offer to let me teach having just met me? Doug had seen me interact with people during the couples group and had reason to believe I had a decent grasp of the Bible. Odds are that I would do an adequate job… but more than this, He trusted his God. Doug knew that even if I was a crackpot, that God was bigger than me. If I taught something crazy God would use it for good. He trusted that people would know I was wrong, corrections would be made, and everyone would grow.
Doug’s trust in the Lord enabled him to extend amazing trust to others. To give broken people extraordinary opportunities to try things, to take risks. Sometimes these things went better than planned. Sometimes they “failed” spectacularly… but people always learned, grew, and God was magnified.
An Authentic Life
As I got to know people in the young couples group I noticed that there were couples that I was drawn toward, and others than I never got close to. Some couples looked “great” on the outside. I came to notice that they seemed to have a protective bubble around themselves which kept everything safe. Then there were the people who seemed most influenced by Doug and Candy. The best word I could use for them was “authentic.” Their lives were messy, but they lived with wholeness, honesty and courage that was so attractive. Doug and Candy modeled this authenticity and encouraged others to join them. We watched as a number of couples started to drop their defenses and started to honestly engage with each other, maybe for the first time. I saw numbers lives and marriages transformed. The example made me feel welcome and encouraged us to “keep it real”.
A Model of Godly Parenting
I grew up in a non-Christian home, as did many of my friends. Many people I saw who grew up in “Christian homes” seemed worse off. They struggled with legalistic and were often extremely hypocritical. I honestly wondered if it might be better to grow up in a non-Christian home.
Doug and Candy changed my perspective. I saw what a difference parents could make in the lives of their children. I saw how a mature faith could be a blessing to children rather than a lodestone. Candy and Doug models how to love children. Their example gave me the courage to start a family. Their example and words of wisdom made me a better parent.
Before getting to know Doug I could be pretty narrow minded when it came to interpreting the Bible and thinking about how a Christian life should be lived. I was happy to tell others how things should be, done, or understood. Doug by example and teaching helps me learn some humility. He helped me see that there are different, but equally valid ways to look at many topics. There are absolute truths, but the number of these is much smaller than the number of things I was prepared to take a stand on. Doug taught me to understand what was essential, and what was just my opinion. Doug taught me how to extent respect to people who looked at the world a bit differently than I did, and to learn from them. Over the years Doug’s humility and gentile spirit inspired me to find common ground with others, to learn from great authors like Henri Nouwen, and to be able to see the faith journeys of others who were seeking the same Lord I was.
You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for:
If we have died with him, we will also live with him;
if we endure, we will also reign with him;II Timothy 2:1-13
if we deny him, he also will deny us;
if we are faithless, he remains faithful—
for he cannot deny himself.