1 Samuel 16:7 But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
I’ve heard it said, “Life is caught more than taught.” Since college, I have caught a lot from Neal Gooch – often in random places. One time at a drive-thru, the woman at the window undercharged us. I thought, “Bonus!” Neal looked at the receipt and let the lady know she gave him back too much change. The woman quizzically looked as if to say, “Who does that?”
As we pulled away from the restaurant, Neal looked at me and said, “My integrity isn’t worth $2.48.” Without 3 points and a poem, Neal taught me what integrity was all about.
I picked up a few more life maxims on Saturdays doing house projects with Neal. He often invited a few other guys and me over for what he called “quality time.” I think it meant he got quality work done without much quantity pay. As poor college students, he knew precisely how to bribe us. Enticed by bacon and eggs, pastries, or pizza, my buddies and I left the comforts of our dorm room and found Saturdays filled with spreading mulch, cleaning out a basement, or painting walls.
The food was the hook, the brotherhood was a bonus, but the real prize was watching a husband love a wife and a dad play with his kids in between the chores. So often, after hauling boxes and cracking jokes, we heard how Neal spoke kindly to his wife, watched him kiss his eldest son on the forehead, and saw him dust off his youngest after a fall and say, “You’re ok, dude. Brush it off.”
As a young college guy who didn’t grow up with a dad, I caught what a dad at home looked like from him. Neal and Jennifer Gooch and their four sons live in Johannesburg, South Africa. My wife and I traveled there recently to spend a few days with their family. Once again, I found myself catching Neal, showing me what it is to be a husband and dad ~ integrity in leadership.
Watching him interact with the family, especially his teenage sons, gave me a glimpse of what I aspire to become. Over the next several years, I realized what went into becoming that kind of man. First, I wanted to become a Godly man that loved his wife and family as God loves us. Second, I wanted to be a leader who invested in people and reflected Jesus.
This goal would become a lifelong pursuit for me as it should be for us all. Not to be like Neal, but rather become like Christ Jesus. Because while I was watching Neal, Neal was watching Jesus. It may have looked like Neal told the lady about overpaying us; he was obedient to God. But, while I was there for that moment, God was there for them all.
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