There are some things that I’m really surprised about concerning this blog. One of them is that I’ve only mentioned Hughie Lawrence once before. I struggle to believe that in all that I’ve written in well over 500 posts I’ve only mentioned him once when he’s been fairly pivotal to the Christopher Dryden Story over the last 10 years at least. Not that he’d mind I’m sure. He’s not really one to draw attention to himself as in look to get people to think of him. He’s relatively self-deprecating in that sense (key word – relatively), but that shouldn’t stop me from writing about the guy.
Sure the last time I did write about the guy it was a fulsome blog of thanks for all the good that he has done for me, but he still has continued to be quite a force in my life. Indeed over the last year or so he has been the source of much of my personal issues. What has remained outstanding about this guy is that he really gets me thinking about that question the Bee Gees asked – How Deep Is Your Love?
The other day, Hughie paid me one of the highest compliments I’ve heard another human being give me – and that includes my wife (probably … oh hold on she’s reminding me who holds the purse strings, so I’ll retract that immediately). He mentioned that I’ve been one of the greatest blessings in his life. Now I’m not usually good with compliments anyway, but it took all the 18-year home training at dead-pan poses to maintain an unruffled outer visage at that. Inside, meanwhile, I was in turmoil as I’ve never really seen myself that way … at all.
Then I got thinking. You see Hughie isn’t a Machiavellian author of spin and manipulation, but he’s no slouch when it comes to saying something multi-layered either. So in a real sense I can see where he’s coming from, because from my perspective I can see where I’ve blessed him in developing a closer walk with Christ. We’ve been working particularly closely together for almost 10 years now and in that time I have continued to be a pain for one reason or another. Whether it was the level of immaturity and inconsistency in the first few years, or the inevitable challenges of the changes that come after married life in the middle years or the restless growing pain issues of recent years, I have stuck around to be a persistent thorn in his side. In all my errors he has on most occasions channelled the love of Christ in dealing with me and that’s definitely not been about the arm round the shoulder bit, but saying the right words or giving space where needed.
I know for sure that I’ve changed in that ten years and without exercising false humility I can recognise areas of growth. Despite being his underling and junior brother, I can say that I have likewise seen changes in him as a man, leader and brother. When I first came across him he was very much predisposed to being a closed book rarely willing to give up a point of view or concede a position he held. I definitely knew that he was unlikely to reveal much about himself. Yet especially recently perhaps over the last year or so, he has been more vulnerable and transparent with his church family. He has let people into his inner sanctum to some extent and opened up about the challenges and his need for prayer and help in general. That level of openness is immediately encouraging and sometimes I’ve felt he’s almost preached as if he’s about to die.
His commitment to the Kingdom and what he believes God is telling him has pushed him harder than ever before as he believes God for things that would make a lesser man withdraw with haste. He is still one of the most charismatic communicators I’ve seen in action and his failings only reinforce his openness to the leading of the Lord. His leadership qualities are evident in the achievements he has led others to bring about. He still manages to get people to do things they don’t want to do to help them discover what God has for them. He has faith that helps people move beyond their previous position to a closer one with God.
Things are changing between Hughie and I as they must as people get older and things change. Things are changing here in Stoke-on-Trent and we must change with them. That change, as I’m learning, does not mean that the love for each other recedes. It definitely does not mean that the level of respect diminishes. On the contrary as I look back at the privilege I’ve had in witnessing this man of God in action in good times and bad over the last 10 years I recognise what an honour it is to see God at work mightily in the life of His son. That respect, that admiration and that honour for a man is burnt deep into my psyche and wherever we go and whatever changes by the grace of God that connection will remain.
Today he celebrated another birthday and I’m sure he got what he needed for it. Of far greater importance is that reward that awaits him as he remains faithful to the call God has made on his life. I pray that God keeps him and continues to mould him to be a vessel of honour. I pray that God will allow him to be further refined to be an even more fruitful branch attached to the True Vine. I pray that his heart’s desires are realised as they merge with kingdom plans. He deserves so much for the level of sacrifice he’s given over the years. I remain humbled to know Hughie Lawrence – may he go from strength to strength as he follows the paths of righteousness and grows in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour.
For His Name's Sake