Rueben P. Job, a longtime United Methodist bishop who I’d dare say was one of the most grace-filled and spiritually productive bishops in the history of Methodist bishops, died the other day at age 86.
He faced even the dying process with that amazing grace for which he was so admired. As a prolific and gifted spiritual writer, he noted in his 2006 book Living Fully, Dying Well that he had no fear of death.
“I have no anxiety about my own death,” he wrote. “I just had a stent put in, and for a person of my age — with a third of my heart function remaining — it’s a risky venture. But I went into that operating room with the same confidence that I lie down in my bed every night. Had I awakened in another world, I don’t believe I would have been surprised or afraid.”
Did I mention that he was a man of amazing grace?
I had the great pleasure in my time as a church journalist to meet Bishop Job a few times, but I’ve been mourning his loss as if he was a close friend. That’s a testament to the power of his writings and his influence in my beloved United Methodist Church.
For sure, a lot of people who were touched by the bish are feeling the same way.
Here’s an excerpt from another of his books, Life Stories:
My life on our [North Dakota] family farm was good. We were incredibly poor, but so was everyone else. I wore my brother’s hand-me-down shoes, shirts, and pants as did everyone else who had an older brother. We had no nearby neighbors and seldom saw other children, so school was a wonderful experience. The school was two and a half miles away if we followed the best road, though a much shorter walk if we cut across the fields.
We usually rode a horse to school, as did the other children who attended. The barn on the school ground was filled with hay every fall and our horses were inside eating while we were in school. Of course, we had no ponies, only plow horses, so in the springtime when my father and, later, my older brother needed the horses in the field, my brother next to me in age and I walked to and from school.
School was dismissed at four in the afternoon and I would walk the short way home, unless there was too much water from melting snow, in which case I would follow the road. But either way, I would approach our farmstead from a small hill. When I got to the top of the hill, I could see our house about three blocks away.
I would begin running down that hill, unbuttoning my jacket, and, if it was warm, my shirt. Bursting into the kitchen, I would always find it filled with the aroma of fresh bread or cookies prepared by my mother, just waiting for my arrival.
I loved school, the excitement of learning, and the fun of being with other children, but there was no place like home and the loving welcome for me there. So I ran the last few blocks, slipping off my ‘school clothes’ in preparation for putting on my ‘home clothes.’
One day you will hear Reuben has died. Let there be no sorrow, but instead celebration as you remind each other, “He just slipped out of his school clothes and put on his home clothes. He is at home now” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).