Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Reflections on Dr. E.W. Mince: September 12, 1925-December 24, 2011

Memorial Reflections
Dr. E.W. Mince
December 27, 2011


There is that well known passage in the Old Testament where the writer speaks of the seasons of life:

To everything there is a season,

A time for every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born,
And a time to die;
A time to plant,
And a time to harvest what is planted;
A time to make war,
And a time to heal from war;
A time to tear down,
And a time to build up;
A time to weep,
And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn,
And a time to celebrate;
A time to cast away stones,
And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace,
And a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to gain,
And a time to lose;
A time to keep,
And a time to throw away;
A time to pull apart,
And a time to sew together;
A time to keep silence,
And a time to speak;
A time to love,
And a time to not love;
A time of war,
And a time of peace.[1]

Dr. Mince understood and accepted the cycles of life. He was a seasonal man. He knew how to transition. He saw that life and people change. He allowed others the room to fail and to succeed, to coast and to grow, to remain and to explore.

Seasonal people follow the structure of things. They are comfortable with process. They are not rigid they bend. They do not oppose they negotiate. They do not separate they blend.

This is who I knew E.W. Mince to be. A seasonal man.

That would be a fitting title for his biography.

His story reads like the words in Ecclesiastes that I just read.

He knew all along he wanted to do something important with his life. He served his country. He got married. He went back to school. He raised his daughters. He followed a career path in education that took him from assistant dean, to dean, and finally to college president.

And along the way he moved through the seasons of life with courage and determination, with goodness and wisdom and perseverance.

Twenty-two years as president of Weatherford College working with students and faculty and parents and trustees and the community; and building a reputation of competence and hard work and leadership.

And what people discovered in working with Dr. Mince was that successful leadership is not about authority but about influence.

To reveal your soul in some gracious form; to let it touch the lives of others in some beneficial way; to express a temperament that is balanced and healthy, that is constructive and instructive and winsome—that was the philosophy of E. W. Mince. And it carried him through all the seasons of his good life.

In her book, The Interpreter, Suzanne Glass’s main character is woman of intelligence and integrity who in spite of corrupting influences around her and the pressure to betray the people who trust her, the people she interprets vital information for, she remains true to herself and to her values.

She is told by her trainers that as an interpreter, “Your vows are as solemn as the Hippocratic oath, as sacred as the nun’s marriage to Jesus.”

It is the kind of seriousness Dr. Mince took in his own career as a College president, as a community leader, as a church deacon, as an interpreter of values. He carried out his own solemn vows with amazing skill and control and influence.

In our day, many, both inside and outside the church, are consumed with those Old Testament passages of an angry God, vengeful and destructive, a God of judgment and wrath, a God galloping across the world demanding to be in control.

E.W. never got caught up in any of that. He was a true conservative. He was committed to solid, traditional Christian beliefs. But he remembered that the heart of God is defined by tenderness and by a love that will not be defeated.

He did not take as his example those Old Testament war stories or the thundering sermons of Paul or the apocalyptic nightmares of the book of Revelation.

Instead, he followed the life and the teachings of Jesus. He ordered his days by the one who said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29).

Dr. Mince chose gentleness over aggressiveness; quiet leadership over loud domination. He did not believe goals are won by force. And he proved that in all the seasons that come and go it is possible to achieve so much with reserve and dignity, with genuine calm and poise and humility.

In the winter of his life, when he lost his grandson Chandler, he provided an example of quiet strength and enduring faith.

While many of us at that time floundered spiritually, groping for a belief system that could make sense out of tragedy, Dr. Mince carried his wound with quiet dignity without losing hope in the fundamental trust of God’s nearness and love.

Martin Luther, the great German Reformer, said, “This life therefore is not righteousness, but growth in righteousness…not being but becoming…We are not yet what we shall be, but we are growing toward it, the process is not yet finished, but it is going on, this is not the end, but it is the road which takes us there.”

They are the words that describe a seasonal person. They describe E. W. Mince. A man who went through all that life brings knowing he wasn’t yet completed, knowing we are all, like the seasons of life, always in process.

One of the great poets wrote:

For winter’s rains and ruins are over
And all the seasons of snows and sins;
The day dividing lover and lover,
The light that loses, the night that wins;
And time remembered is grief forgotten,
And frosts are slain and flowers begotten,
And in green, under wood and cover,
Blossom by blossom the spring begins.[2]


This was E. W.’s hope. Let it be ours, too.

Amen.

1 Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
2 A.C. Swinburne, English poet/playwright

©2011 Timothy Moody

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