The Man With No Name

Prominent in the “Spaghetti Westerns” (so called because they were filmed in Italy rather than their purported locations) was the protagonist who no one seemed to know anything about.  Being a man of action, he spoke very little and always seemed to be operating just within the bounds of the law…barely.  The secrecy normally had to do with a painful past he was rectifying as judgment day had finally come.  His “ragged but right” approach made him the object of envy, desire and fear.  While mostly a shadowy figure of the screen, more praiseworthy icons manifested the same ethereal presence and principle.  As the Lone Ranger rode away, the relieved and rescued would wonder, “Who was that masked man?”  Came the reply, “I don’t know, but I meant to thank him.”  Unspoken words to an unknown entity.

The feeling runs deep in life that goodness should be requited.  Many of us have found, however, that this is not (always) so.  There may be several reasons for this, but one is surely that people tend to be self-centered.  We think more of the meal than the cooks even as we magnanimously praise the chefery.  Anyone who has kids relates to futile attempts at engendering gratitude where no understanding exists.  It has been said you can’t put in what God left out, and the elderly (ahem) will see this truth played thousands of times.  Ministers will attest to thousands of church dollars expended without thank yous.  It’s not that praise was the goal, but something would have been nice.  The same callous disregard met Jesus Himself when He fed thousands and healed multitudes, and the servant is not greater than his Lord.

Deeds are not less worthy when they are unpraised.  The thought comes to mind when I read the scriptural story of the poor man who wisely delivered his city only to be forgotten and remain in his station.  We can all be glad that altruistic souls labor in obscurity for causes greater than themselves.  Such need remember that, for most folks, their cause is themselves.  The limelight is easier to access if you’re already on the red carpet, and many people own the patents of other folks’ inventions.  Over time, actions will remain even as the actors fade.  In a brief span, it will seem as though the doers of deeds never existed.  This cruelty will be unjustified and ignored in the minds of the forward thinking as they consider a future day of reckoning and the fact that no one and no thing is unknown or undiscovered in the truest sense.

There can be times when the grateful heart has not words to speak.  I don’t want to give anyone a pass for silence, but I do understand that emotions are not formed in the mouth.  If I did not tell you, it does not mean that I do not love you, and it has been some comfort to me to realize that others think of me as their minds wander the backroads by the rivers of memory.  People get busy, and time is not their own.  We meant to stay in touch, but the waters came and carried us away.  Lack of participation is not always lack of sincerity.  We don’t always get to do what we want to do.  Oft-neglected individuals are not completely forgotten, and no one is a failure who has friends.  A joy in heaven will be the reunion of saints long separated on earth which may be a measure of cheer in eternity though the former things have passed away.

We who shepherd saints are poor examples of the great Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.  I can’t tell you the number of times I have forgotten an action or event that I and everybody else believes I should have remembered.  Reflecting thus reminds me that I, too, will be neglected unawares.  It is often speculated how much could be accomplished if no one cared who got the credit.  It is an honor to be involved in worthwhile pursuits that are greater and larger than us especially those with everlasting consequences and crowns.  While we should be more concerned with the consequences of our actions to self and others, we recognize the crowns as fitting in the sight of the lawful Judge and Ruler of all.  This righteous Divider of truth and falsehood keeps records against the day and knows all of His sheep by name.


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