I went back this week to where it all began for me. I went back to San Antonio, Texas to celebrate the 75th birthday of the man who changed everything for me, my spiritual father, Malcolm Smith.
It has been 22 years since I left San Antonio (1991), the ministry headquarters of Malcolm Smith Ministries (MSM). I have caught up with Malcolm in various places throughout the years, but never in San Antonio.
In 1989 my wife and 6 month old baby, Whitney, left everything for a once in a lifetime opportunity, for me to travel with Malcolm on ministry tours all across the country. For the next two years I spent five days a week with Malcolm in churches, conferences, airports, hotels, and restaurants. We spent time together talking about life, theology, ministry and time with some of the biggest ministries around the country.
In May of 1989 I stepped through the magic wardrobe and into my Narnia. Throughout my two year adventures in Narnia with “the Professor” (Malcolm) I experienced the grace of God cutting down the religious barbed wire around my heart. My angry, proud, loathsome self-image was re-deemed and given worth because of an endless fountain of unconditional love. My theology was radically transformed by entering into the reality of a God who makes and keeps his covenant Word. I would never be the same because of my time in Narnia-San Antonio…
I returned to Des Moines, Iowa in 1991 to plant a new church because I felt Malcolm’s heart yearn for the days when he was a pastor in England, Ireland and Brooklyn. I followed Malcolm a few years later into a new branch of historical, sacramental faith and later became a priest and served as the canon to the bishop. The anchor to the next two decades of my ministry life was being faithful to teach others what I had learned from the message of the man who taught me Christ. Two years ago (2011) when we moved to Denver, Colorado part of our decision was due to the time I had spent there during my travels with Malcolm.
My wife’s time in San Antonio was a fire storm. Nearly every week that I was traveling Diana was spending it in the hospital with our daughter who was having asthmatic attacks. At some point we both want to return and complete the circle, but for now it was just me.
I did not anticipate going back to San Antonio would be very emotional for me, but it was. A lot changes in 22 years and hopefully I would find some of those changes to be evident in me. I revisited the apartment where we lived and the ministry headquarters where I worked. I shared stories with co-workers I hadn’t seen in 22 years and a few of us stayed up until five in the morning talking.
Visiting those places provided a momentary sensation of time travel. It was very sobering…to think of how much time has passed, how deeply Diana sacrificed for me, and how everything from that place in time has influenced our lives and ministry. As I was reminiscing back across time I was flooded with memories, questions, doubts, and hopes for dreams not yet fulfilled as I felt the moisture of the vapor of my life well up within my eyes.
The return trip to Narnia is not the same as the first time through the enchanted land. The lamp-post is now covered over with ivy; the sacred places and treasures of Narnia are buried deep underground or hidden behind secret passages. It takes work to re-awaken the dream that is Narnia and to live in the unsolved mysteries of the land that forever changed my life.
Thanks Professor Malcolm for the adventures through the Wardrobe. Now that I have been back I hope that I never grow too old for Narnia and can make many more trips through portals of faith and imagination into the land of amazing grace and covenant love.
Looking for Aslan