Last week Jane and I drove to North Carolina for a family vacation. We were both born and raised in the “Tar Heel State.” We intended to visit family and many dear friends from high school and college days. One of the things I wanted to do was to visit my voice teacher from college. He was in poor health and I wanted to express my gratitude to him for all that he taught me.  Just before we were getting ready to leave I learned via Facebook that he had passed away. I was deeply saddened. We planned to be in North Carolina on Wednesday; however, the funeral was scheduled for Tuesday. So we changed our plans, drove hard and arrived just eight minutes before the memorial service was scheduled to begin.

Many former voice students were there, as well as many of my professors from the school of music.
One of those professors was my choral music mentor, Dr. Richard Cox. Dr. Cox was someone I held in very high regard. He has international credentials, received his Doctorate from the Paris Conservatory of Musicis, is fluent in several foreign languages and is an author.   When I saw him, I still had thoughts of my exit exams prior to getting my Master’s degree. He was head of my committee. Though I “passed” I felt that there was weakness in some of my responses. I still felt a little disappointed in myself when I saw him. After a very moving and beautiful service, I made a bee line for Dr. Cox.

I introduced myself again and when he spoke, he changed my perspective very quickly. He said, “Joe, please don’t call me Dr. Cox, I have asked you on several occasions to call me Richard. Today is a difficult day and we all need the comfort of dear friends from across the years.” He then began to weep and we embraced. I was deeply touched by this tender moment and by how he made himself vulnerable.

In my self conscious state, I had been concerned with performance and measuring up, while he was focussed on life, love and friendship. He is still my mentor, still sharing his wisdom, and in that moment I experienced an emotional healing. God used Richard to heal a wound that I had carried for years.

So is it about performance or relationship? Jesus spoke to that when Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and completely forgot about kitchen duty. When her sister Martha, complained to Jesus, here is how he answered her.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-43

I, like Martha, was worried about many things, but my Prof…….Richard had chosen the better thing, to focus on love.