For the last year or so my wife and I have followed closely former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. My wife was very active in the former Governor’s bid for the White House and got involved on a level as she never had before in politics. But a week ago we had the opportunity to hear Governor Huckbee speak at a presidential lecture series hosted by Iona College in New Rochelle, New York. It was a dream come true for Donna-Jean and so we braved the brutal traffic and headed to the event. We borrowed a GPS for the journey, a move that may be the only reason we are not still driving in circles out there.
We arrived there absurdly early, hoping to get a good seat. That paid off as we nabbed two chairs on the aisle in the fifth row. Rows one through four were reserved for school royalty and those who funded the event. Because we had some excess time on our hands, I wandered outside while DJ talked to a couple that she knew via the internet from the campaign.
It was a beautiful spring night and so I just stood on the sidewalk watching students go about their typical business. I snapped a picture or two of some surrounding buildings just to re-acquaint myself with my wife’s camera in case a photo op came my way. Fortunately, that opportunity would come just seconds later. Unfortunately, I had turned the camera back off and was not ready. This is where it gets interesting.
Around 7:00 PM I sensed some movement to my left. When I glanced in that direction I saw Mike Huckabee coming right towards me and perhaps just ten feet away. He had the typical crowd of supporters, some school officials and security all around him. It was right then that I revealed my great poise, agility, and photography skills. I scrambled to get the still unfamiliar camera back on, but instead dropped some printed materials from my hands – one of which was a college newspaper with the Governor’s face on the front cover. As he approached this now rather embarrassed fan, he ignored everyone else and stopped the ranks of followers in their tracks. He then bent over, picked up the paper, and handed it back to me along with an outstretched hand and a huge smile. My reaction was to take his hand and make the best of this rare moment to speak to a gifted and respected leader. The profound words that just instantly flowed from my gifted tongue were this. “Oh, thanks and I’m very sorry for dropping your face on the sidewalk”. (Was that clever or what? He must have know then for sure that my ‘issues’ were both physical and mental!) But he did chuckle before moving along to address the media just before proceeding to the anxious crowd numbering about a thousand or so.
But it gets even better. Huckabee, along with assorted school brass, walked down the center aisle to begin the program. As he passed our position, he glanced over and apparently recognized the “klutz/stalker” he had encountered outside just moments earlier. He instantly broke into a large grin followed by an obvious wink as if to say, “Don’t worry about how foolish you looked outside when you almost caused me to step on my own face on the pavement.” At that precise ‘precious moment’ my wife snapped a shot over my shoulder, freezing our growing bond together – or so I thought. The only problem was that I was not in the picture. He could have been looking at anyone - meaning there was no conclusive evidence of any significant interaction between us!
But now it gets even better. After the meeting ended (which included Mike Huckabee speaking articulately for fifty minutes without a single note), we were able to make our way to the Governor. I eventually took two great pictures of him with my wife – one candid and the other posed. She will treasure those brief moments always.
I was also able to have him sign the paper he had graciously rescued for me a few hours earlier. But for some reason, in all the excitement, we never thought of getting my picture taken with him despite all that had happened to that point. We had only the one shot of him smiling and winking at ‘somebody’ in the crowd. It was a fine photo but fully useless for substantiating our great new ‘relationship’. But that unfortunate aspect was all about to unexpectedly change.The next morning DJ called out to me, asked me to sit down, and to get ready for a shock. My immediate response was to think, “Oh no. Who died?”
Apparently that night, someone that she also knew from the campaign was sitting on the other side of the aisle directly across from us. He, too, was snapping shots as Huckabee and company went past and had forwarded one of his pictures to us via e-mail. The photo showed the Governor offering a huge grin and looking at ‘someone’ in the crowd. Guess who? There it was - a true “Kodak Moment” showing me locking eyes and exchanging smiles with the man who had earlier helped me regain some of my damaged dignity outside. As a Christian, I don’t place much stock in the “odds” of anything happening or not happening. But I freely admit that it crossed my mind on this one.As if all of this was not enough, there was one last ingredient to the night. While Governor Huckabee was signing my infamous newspaper cover, I gently touched the former Baptist Pastor’s shoulder as a curious security guard looked on. Perhaps he recalled my earlier ‘performance’ as well. But as the governor wrote his name, I slowly leaned in and whispered in his ear, “I’m a pastor too and I may just use what you did outside for me as a message illustration someday.” There was that instant awareness of our special Christian bond along with a unique understanding of what I meant from his former pastoral perspective. We shook hands again, our third connection of the night, and watched as he was guided away to some reception.
Yes, it was a night to remember, but not because of all the fun and photos. It was because we got to hear and meet a man whose life and priorities are outwardly based on his relationship with Jesus Christ. He does not run from it. He embraces and is proud of it. And openly defends it in an hour when many, particularly in his circles, keep the subject on a surface level. After all, people think, one’s personal faith is just so, well so - personal. To Mike Huckabee, and by my logic, that is simply camouflaged language. It serves only to hide the reality that one’s ‘personal faith’ has little influence one’s thought process, actions, or on the way he or she would govern.
I’m well aware that it is not right to set up any mere mortal as an idol, although I have flirted on occasion with changing my name from Bill to Huckabill. But the Bible indicates its allowance for believers to pattern their lives after those who are rightly related to Christ, who are mature in the faith, and whose priorities are truly guided by Scriptural principles. Hebrews 13:7 refers to this concept and reads, “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct.” This same concept is also echoed in 2 Thessalonians 3:7. Then, too, in 1 Corinthians 11:1, Paul rather concisely and boldly declares, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.”
As far as any message illustrations from that amazing night, there were too many to recall. But the obvious one was from that brief and memorable few seconds when a very important man revealed the heart of a humble servant to a nameless unimportant stranger on a college campus sidewalk. It was, for me, a simple reminder of how the ultimate servant described His own life’s purpose in Matthew 20:27-28. “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave - just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
No, Mike Huckabee is not some earthly version or equivalent of Jesus Christ, nor is he to be worshipped in any way. He fully recognizes his own sin nature and his need of the Savior.
But with that said, he is a role model. He is worthy to be patterned after in that he unashamedly follows, proclaims and worships his Lord and lives out his Christian faith without disguising its presence and influence through a maze of political jargon. His refreshing and winsome behavior in a hostile public realm is also well worth emulating. But he is worth looking up to most in the way that his words and actions reflect an active and sincere faith in Jesus Christ - a faith that remains the priority far beyond any future political ambitions or success.