But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law – Galatians 5:22-23
My father-in-law was one of my greatest supporters and mentors in life and business matters.
I have always seen Jesus in those who choose to shore up and encourage people weaker than themselves in a particular area. My father-in-law grew to be a man of such character and showed me I could be such a person as well one day with Christ as my pattern. I am far from being there, but closer to the goal for having known someone who could show me how in person.
James McEwen had the gift of encouragement and offered wisdom mostly when asked, and humbly asked before offering unsolicited advice. He was a very forgiving and giving man.
When John and I hosted family gatherings involving his father, one of the first things Jim McEwen would do was come into the kitchen and say, “What can I do to help”? I don’t know how many salads we put together and counters we cleaned, but one thing I recall, he was involved.
His opinion meant something when I had opportunity to listen. Sometimes I wouldn’t know what question to ask to gain wisdom, but he quietly let me work through my thoughts before offering his. He didn’t react or correct me. He just listened for what was going on deeper in my soul.
During one particular season when I was having trouble finding work, my father-in-law said a few words that continue to encourage me until this day. He could have quoted scripture and my spirit would have been built up for sure. But what my mind needed in that moment was a practical perspective. He focused on my abilities, and the good ones at that.
“Someone will be blessed to have you working for them,” he started, then proceeded to tell me where my strengths lay. I couldn’t see it for myself for my own reasons; maybe it was humility, maybe it was not hearing enough encouragement in my areas of strength, maybe it was that I was immature and blind. But rather than puff me up or reprimand me on any score, he instead chose to be a good friend and build me up.
And it worked.
And I was thankful and empowered to move into that next season.
My father-in-law understood that neither fluff nor fault-finding is a fruit of the Spirit. He was an engineer by profession and became the sort of leader that others flocked to for professional and practical advice. He grew wiser with age, and more tender-hearted. John and I were the beneficiaries of his humble spiritual growth.
I could always be myself around my father-in-law, and that included sometimes a less mature version of myself than I care to admit. Yet, with his patience, along with my own good upbringing, I am a better person for having had my father-in-law in my life.
Knowing Jim McEwen influenced the way I treat others who think and behave differently than I do, but who are not necessarily committing an obvious sin. They’re just being themselves; sometimes a better version of themselves needing to be commended and sometimes a worse version of themselves needing more grace.
The amazing thing about my father-in-law was his quiet battle with Type 1 diabetes. Few people knew, for he chose to live as normally as possible. He hiked the mountains of New England, rode his bike, walked and sailed several sailboats he owned.
One of my goals in life was to learn to sail. With the patient coaching of James McEwen, I learned the basics of sailing the family’s 19’ Daysailer into and with the wind.
Thank you God that I was honored to have James McEwen as a father-in-law and the lessons he taught me with his calm and graceful spirit.