Ed Chris Wright
This is a delightful book; as the blurb simply says: ‘Thirty five of John’s friends open their hearts and share memories of a unique man and a truly special friend. Many brush strokes, one portrait’. Published before his death, this is a fitting tribute to a man who has fought the good fight and finished the race. His life touched most of us.
It is fascinating to see the man’s character gradually emerge. He had a great sense of humour and at Rugby school was known as ‘the boy with the disappearing eyes’ when he laughed. As a Cambridge undergraduate he was a fine personal evangelist, but at times was ‘virtually in tears battling with liberal theology’.
As a single man, he was not a cold fish and a woman friend movingly describes a ‘deep and loving relationship of trust’. Many contributors speak of his deep affection and loving friendship. He loved children.
His humility is a recurring theme. One contributor found his shoes cleaned one morning. Said JS: ‘Today we do not wash feet … but I can clean your shoes’.
He passionately loved birds, ‘ornitheology’ as he called it. On one birding trip he was wrestling with a new commentary on Romans and when he joined his friends at 6.00am he had already spent a deeply satisfying hour revelling in the logic of the apostle Paul! But in 2006 it was heartbreaking to discover that he no longer watched birds because of his failing eyesight.
The last contributions are most moving. JS had asked for a frank and honest portrait, and his character had its sternest test in old age. After breaking his hip in 2006 he was occasionally overwhelmed by the implications of his severely weakened condition and was reduced to ‘blubbing’ as he called it. As someone with a lifelong razor-sharp intellect he found the memory lapses and occasional confusions of old age painful to bear. But he accepted it all with patience and good humour, saying: ‘like the apostle Paul, I am learning the secret of being content in every situation… not happy… but content.’
This book is an inspiring testimony to a Christ-like man. ‘John’s life with God was tangible when you were with him’. Like Paul, JS could have said: ‘Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ’ 1 Cor 11:1