Friday, June 1, 2012
He was a short, stocky man, older than you realized at first, sporting glasses and short, wiry curls. He moved stiffly and an actual smile rarely crossed his lips even when his words were dripping with joy. His nasal voice was piercing and usually a little too loud. Dexter was "special", that lovely euphemism we use these days to describe the mentally handicapped.
But, Dexter loved his Jesus, and nobody left a worship service at First Baptist unaware of that fact. He would tell you all about it as he greeted you. Rarely a service went by without an extemporaneous expression of praise from Dexter. Sometimes it was a rambling comment during prayer requests about the latest thing he was thankful for. Sometimes it was a loud, nasal "A-a-a-amen!!" punctuating his loud, off-key rendering of his favorite hymn. Sometimes it was a comment or question shouted out to the pastor during the sermon. "That's right, Pastor!" "How do we do that, Pastor?" And I've even known him to simply stand up in the middle of a service, ask "Can I say something, Pastor?" and take the floor to testify to his Jesus he loved. Dexter would have fit right in at a little black Baptist church in rural Georgia.
As I said, he was a fixture, and the congregation loved him. I'm sure there were days when he got on their last nerve. When a visitor was present who visibly looked uncomfortable with his interjections, I'm sure they were wishing Dexter had been sick that morning. But he was Dexter, he was theirs, and the man loved his Jesus.
I recently got word that Dexter passed away, and my heart ached for his congregation who was surely mourning deeply. He left a hole there, and interestingly enough, I felt a hole in my life, too. Even though I hardly knew the man, God had used him to teach me. In the midst of my complicated religious life, with the ups and downs and intellectual gyrations, Dexter was a regular reminder that faith . . . actual, genuine, for-real faith . . . is simple. As simple as loving your Jesus.