That lesson took place on 28 November 2004.
If a man could ever mark the defining moments of his life, then surely, at least for this man, that is a day of days never to be forgotten. As I look back on that time, and as I consider all of the events that led up to it, I lower my head, quite humbly, to say "wow!" Initially, the simple word is uttered with a degree of embarrassment and self-reproach, when I think of how stupid, deceptive, and uncaring I had become. But then the word is finished with a striking reverence, when I recognize just how far The Lord has delivered me from all of that. Indeed, perhaps it is too easy to say it now, but the Gary Harrell of today is a far different creature from the one who sat at the table with his parents and his best friend on that fateful night.
I was asked once, what about that day changed me? Well, I guess the fullest answer is that it is not the magnitude of my sins, though they were enormous and troubling--nor is it the fact that those sins caught up to me, though that can usually be life-changing on its own. Rather, this change in my life is accredited to the remarkable love, patience, and forgiveness that I have gotten from the people in my life.
Sitting at the table that night, I watched quietly while the culmination of my sins crushed the hopes of my friend and tested the affection from my parents. I could say very little for myself, but then, on the next morning, the words came quickly and bluntly: What the hell have I done? Here were the best parents on the planet--the kind who would truck to Birmingham when I got sick, the kind who would stand by me from one mistake to another, and the kind (as I was about to learn) who were preparing to stand in the gap to keep me out of far more trouble. Also with them was the best friend a man could have--one who would forfeit his own transportation (while he voluntarily repaired mine), one who came running anytime I called, and one who (as I learned a few months ago) had a capacity to forgive far more immeasurable than anything I knew. Beyond that, what I had done shook the foundation of every relationship that I ever had on this planet, and when it was over, I was destined to lose more than this one friend or potentially my own parents.
Life, I discovered over time, has never been about perfection--but about excellence. It has never been about impressing the world; it is about finding serenity, comfort, and purpose. And then not in that order. For years I thought that I had to live fast and hard, almost oblivious to how it was affecting those around me. So long as Gary could smile, then Gary was happy...Well, on that day in November, I was not smiling.
My favorite saying nowadays is, God is in all things, and from all things come the order of His Will. Indeed, those words cannot be more prescient. I lost a lot on that November 28th; my whole world was never the same after that. But, had that day never happened, I cannot imagine the course of my life, other than the prospect that--due to vanity, excess and ignorance--it would have ended tragically and much sooner.
I lost a lot back then. There are A WHOLE LOT of relationships that never got reconciled, and I have to wonder if some will ever be. But what has come in the two years since has been truly a blessing from God. I have built a successful consultancy, and I have learned that, as Warren Buffet puts it, success is about doing what you love very well. The painstaking revisions on Dreyton are almost done, and the new year will see a finished product, hopefully a fast-moving and well-written book by Gary C. Harrell. And other projects, God willing, are certainly in the offing for what I plan to make the biggest and best of years in 2007!
But what's better than all of that, I have learned so much. The last two years have brought tremendous and inspiring lessons about patience, about humility, about God's purpose for our lives, and about charity. Furthermore, each day has brought a better understanding of what it means to be a servant leader. The Lord said that we should shine as a light, so that others can see the promise of God and glorify Him, and that has become more than a motto for me. In fact, as I proceed through this life, I will try to use every new achievement as a means to bring something beneficial to others. It's just that important for me to make it work now, knowing where I have been.
To those who have stuck by me through all of these changes, particularly my family and my dear friends, I thank you all for being such great lights in my life. Your unwavering patience and devotion mean the world to me, and it is truly because of you that I glorify God. I also personally thank Travis, rather succinctly, for July fourteenth of this year. (Dude, you should know that that day will never be forgotten, either.) And lastly I have to thank the people who are largely no longer a part of my life, squarely because of my own stupidity; please know that you guys have helped to shape me as a person, as well, and I am grateful for the times we shared.
In order to Lead Forward, a person has to see the need, accept the challenge, and deliver a spectacular product that is capable of making a difference. It seems hard at times because the struggle can be so great, but when I look back on my life, when I assess where I have been, I still smile. You see, I know thinks were bad once, but I also know that they already getting much better.
And so, thank You, Lord. Thank You for the day that initiated these changes, and thank You for the blessings have come since then. I am humbled by Your Grace, but I plan to make You proud. Indeed, this is a second chance that will never be squander, because the price paid to get here will never be forgotten.