When GIANTS Fall...

**UPDATED Feb. 21, 2017**

Giants...  What makes a person a giant?  Well, obviously it could be physical stature and size, and there truly are some physical giants in the world.  However, when I think of a Giant, I think of someone who is a HUGE part of my life... a person that I look up to, a person that leads, that does the right thing, even in the face of opposition.  There are a few people in my life out that really have stood tall above all others.  God has used these people to lead me, to teach me about life and ministry, and to be a way finding point when I feel lost and adrift at this sea of life.  These giants include people like Billy Graham, my wife Amy, my mom and dad (Larry & Bettye Cloud), my grandparents Alvis & Rozeltha Clark, my youth pastor Carey Vick, Jon Randles, Heath Peloquin, David Smith, Joe Ragen, Scott Prince, Ed Lowe, Nick Watts, Tom Rush, T.J. Cooper, Ron Moelleur, Josh Fee, Leighton Flowers, and the list continues.  I cannot begin to express my thanks and gratitude for these people in my life.  They have all invested in my life (even if I never met Billy Graham, his books, sermons, etc. have made a bit investment in who I am), picked me up when I was in the depths of depression, listened when I needed an ear, and have spoken wisdom into my life in so many ways.  All have been a gift from God, and have helped shape the man that I am today.

The issue that I have been struggling with lately is how to move on when one of these Giants falls.  I know that each of us will pass away someday, but what do we do when the spiritual Giants in our lives begin to leave us?  

My first Giant left when I was in 9th grade.  My grandfather found out he had cancer, and passed away just a few months later.  I saw him nearly every day of my life until that point, and his passing left a HUGE void in my life.  I then became even closer to my grandmother, as she was by herself.  We would have long conversations, sometimes for hours into the night when I would stay with her.  A naturally cheerful person, seeing "Meems" was always a highlight of my week.  She lived until 2007, and I was so thankful that I was one of the pastors of the church where she spent most of her life.  I even got to preach her funeral.  What a blessing it was to honor her life of servanthood to Jesus.

In the past 3 years, 4 of my giants have left this earth to be with the Lord... Billy Graham, Josh Fee, David Smith and Jon Randles.  All were very important to me in very different ways.  Rev. Graham had a profound impact on me growing up.  I remember writing his ministry to ask some questions with a small donation (a few coins in an envelope).  Their response was to send me books, add me to their mailing list, and invest in a young boy they did not know.  We even dropped by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association while in Charlotte, NC a couple of years ago.  They were so gracious, and took our family through the entire facility, and even into the photo vault to look at all of the pictures taken over the years.  It was an amazing time, and we are so thankful for the work they continue to do.  

Josh was a fellow warrior in the youth ministry trenches.  We met when he was still a baseball coach, and just getting started in church ministry.  His encouraging spirit, hard work, and friendship were so inspiring.  His loss was a tough one to understand.  That one is still fresh on my mind, as it only happened a couple of weeks ago.

David was my friend... he was my Barnabas, or my encourager.  He had a way of seeing right through any wall I tried to put up, and we became fast friends when we moved to Austin 7 years ago.  Lots of conversations over lunch, sitting by his pool, and an unforgettable trip to Thailand to do ministry work.  David believed in me... and I am so thankful for his influence in my life.  His family's friendship has been invaluable to the Cloud family, and continues to be!

Jon was a mentor to me.  No, we didn't see each other but a few times a year, but we talked on the phone often, and he would write letters of encouragement to me that I still have in my desk drawer.  His advice, counsel, and corny jokes helped me navigate some often uncertain and often turbulent waters in ministry.  His passion for seeing teenagers know Christ, and learn to be disciple makers is such an inspiration to my own ministry.  Jon left us just a few years ago.  Knowing that he is no longer out there driving his truck from ministry engagement to ministry engagement in the middle of the night is still hard to comprehend.  I saw his lifeless shell, attended his funeral, but it is still hard to believe he's gone.

I have pondered these things many times over the years since that day my grandfather died in 1989, but I often find myself wondering, "How are we supposed to go on without these Giants?"  We grow used to the sight of them, their voice in our lives, and their leadership.  Without them there, life can get confusing very quickly...  I think that is part of the healing process.  Sure, we felt more secure and happy with them around, but it is vitally important that we learn to live AFTER they are gone.

Each of us then have to take what our Giants have taught us, and let God use that to make us spiritual Giants for others in this world.  It's a grueling process, and often a process full of tears, doubt, and anxiety.  However, we know that the Bible tells in Romans 8:28 us that "that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."  None of us will ever be perfect, but we all need to strive to be that Giant that someone needs in order to find their way in life.  The only reason we can be a Giant is because of the life of Jesus Christ living inside each of us.  That is what the Giants in my life continually have taught me... that it's not about me, but about Jesus.  It is not about how many people attend the Bible studies we lead, but it's about how we invested in those that WERE there.  We are to be disciples, teaching others to be disciples of Christ, themselves.  At the end of it all, this is the important thing... teaching others to follow Jesus is what it is all about.

What are you doing with the wisdom that the Giants in your life have given you?  Have you taken up the baton and started running your leg of the race?  If not, I pray that you will!  We need you in the race!