Lasting impressions

Tales from the front pew

I’ve been thinking about impressions lately.

According to an online dictionary, impression is defined as “producing a strong effect on one. This phrase is often qualified with an adjective such as good, bad, strong and the like.”

As we go through life, there are people who will inevitably make an impression on us. Some are folks we’ve known for years; some might be people who only passed through our atmosphere for a very short while. And, as noted in the above definition of “impression,” some are pleasant and some, decidedly, are not.

Take my sixth grade math teacher, for example. Mrs. Riggleman was tall, thin, wore horn-rimmed glasses and sported a platinum blonde beehive that wobbled precariously when she shook her head in annoyance. I make this observation with authority, because, more often than not, I was the recipient of said annoyance.

At the risk of sounding immodest, I was a pretty good student — polite, well-behaved and fairly bright in classes like social studies, English, art and spelling.

That being said, I had one academic weakness: math. And Mrs. Riggleman managed to sniff out that weakness with the diabolical skill a snake might employ to sniff out a mouse.

It wasn’t pretty. The truly sad part was the fact that I tried to grasp the tenets of the subject. “You can do this,” I told myself on a daily basis. “Look around you, the boy in the front row who hasn’t managed to tie both shoes since September is sailing right through mixed fractions. It can’t be that hard!” Alas, but it was.

To this day, decades later, I can vividly recall standing in front of a blackboard, useless chalk in hand, trying to solve an equation while good old Mrs. Riggleman sharply and sarcastically mocked me in front of my fellow students.

In fact, I’m relatively certain that her harsh treatment was instrumental in laying the groundwork for my ongoing dislike of math. Yep, Mrs. R. left quite an impression on me.

Fortunately, if words and attitude can hurt, they can also heal.

God has blessed me many times over by bringing people into my life who leave a positive impression. One such person joined our hospital pastoral care team last year as a chaplain. His gentle spirit, soft-spoken demeanor, and deep faith touched his colleagues. He was a true “team player,” always willing to step in when there was a need.

Serving the Lord together builds a sense of comradery, of family. Because of this, we feel the loss of a family member deeply. Our brother in Christ, Chaplain Rev. Chuck Riley, left us last month to enter into the eternal presence of his Savior. He will be greatly missed, but we have the assurance that one day we’ll be reunited. Yes, Chaplain Riley made quite an impression on each of us.

You know, Jesus left an impression on everyone he met — tax collectors, harlots, thieves, adulterers, fishermen, centurions, physicians, peasants, and kings. When He touched a person, that person was forever changed.

What about you? Have you let Him make an impression in your life yet?