"The first fruit of love is the musing of the mind on God. He who is in love, his thoughts are ever upon the object. He who loves God is ravished and transported with the contemplation of God. "When I awake, I am still with thee" (Psalm 139:18). The thoughts are as travelers in the mind. David's thoughts kept heaven-road. "I am still with Thee." God is the treasure, and where the treasure is, there is the heart. By this we may test our love to God. What are our thoughts most upon? Can we say we are ravished with delight when we think on God? Have our thoughts got wings? Are they fled aloft? Do we contemplate Christ and glory?... A sinner crowds God out of his thoughts. He never thinks of God, unless with horror, as the prisoner thinks of the judge." --Dallas WillardSometimes in life we have people we have never met who make an enormous impact on our lives. Think of how many kids wear number 23 in sports having never met Michael Jordan, having never even seen him play in person. For me, I actually got to meet my hero. In the winter of 2010, I was in seminary in Denver and took a class taught by Dallas Willard, distinguished philosophy professor at the University of Southern California. Dr. Willard wrote most of my favorite books in the world. The Divine Conspiracy, Renovation of the Heart, Hearing God, The Spirit of the Disciplines, and other books and papers of his have transformed my view of God, my relationship with Christ, and my life.
Dallas Willard went to be with Jesus yesterday at age 77. Cancer took him from this world and into the next, but it didn't win, because Dallas Willard finally received total communion with the God who he described so beautifully.
Other than direct relatives of mine, no one had a greater impact on my spiritual development than Willard. When I met him, I was craving a deeper relationship with the Lord, but had no idea how my philosophical, abstract thinking could fit into what I thought was the frigid, rigid world of modern theology. His class opened my mind further.
His last words on this earth were "Thank you." His humility, grace, and thankfulness even in death are envious. The way he lived his life and the way he wrote are equally envious. He showed me it was OK to think, and more than OK to think outside the box. In a world in which Christians are growing apart, building up defenses against one another, and bolstering theological arguments against perceived attacks on their "truth," Willard remained steadfast. He wrote from the heart. He ignored joining sides with petty arguments and instead continued to do what he did best: lead people like me into a deeper relationship with a forming and transforming God. He kept his head when everyone around him was losing theirs--a man Kipling would be proud of. He not only knew there was more to God than systematic theology could ever show, and he did the best to show HOW much more. He knew the difference between legalism and living a life guided by devotion to the Spirit, and he wrote extensively on the subject of the all-consuming Grace which he found so surprising.
He was my hero. We are worse off today because he isn't around. His God is, and the Savior he loved is still working in weirdos like me, making us see Jesus more clearly through the words of giants like Willard.