I was standing on top of the Hoover Dam one day last year, marveling at just how far it was to the water below when my cellphone rang.
It was David Marlow, the director of missions for the Owen Association of Baptists in central Kentucky. He had been a great friend to me over the years, and he loved providing funny stories for this column.
“Hey, I’ve got a good one for you,” he said with a laugh. I knew it had to be good, because David was the master of dry wit. He could make you double over with laughter without so much as cracking a smile himself. So, for him to laugh before he even got started meant it had to be really, really good.
Here is the joke he told on that particular day:
A man was walking along a California beach deep in prayer when he asked the Lord to create a bridge to Hawaii so he could drive there anytime he wanted.
“Your request is very materialistic,” the Lord said. “Think of the enormous challenges for that kind of project. The supports would have to reach the bottom of the Pacific. It would take thousands of miles of steel and concrete. It would be hard for me to justify your desire for such a worldly thing. You need to ask for something else.”
The man thought for a bit and finally said: “Lord, allow me to understand women. I want to know what they are thinking when they give the silent treatment, why they cry for no apparent reason, what they want when they say nothing, and how to make a woman truly happy.”
The Lord replied: “Do you want that bridge to be two lanes or four?”
I thought back to that day on the Hoover Dam when word came last week that David had left this side of eternity. He had gotten critically ill some months ago and had grown progressively weaker. His funeral was Saturday.
David had been a pastor to pastors in central Kentucky for the past two decades, providing sage advice, helping them work through serious issues in their congregations, being a friend when they needed one most, and always providing needed levity when the seriousness of life weighed them down. Perhaps his greatest strength was his wit. He could make his pastors smile even when they felt like crying.
The past few months have been especially hard for David and his wife, Mary, and their daughters as they worked through the maze of medical clinics and hospitals. I know these recent days have been tearful ones for them and for all the many, many friends across Kentucky who loved David. But each one can take comfort from the words that he preached through a lifetime of ministry, that Christians do not sorrow as those who have no hope, because our hope is in Jesus Christ, the Giver of Eternal Life.
David preached that physical death brings only a temporary parting for Christians, because they will meet again at a joyful reunion in heaven, where there will be no more death, no more pain, no more sorrow, no more tears. A beautiful gospel song says, “All is peace for evermore on that happy golden shore.”
Oh, I can just see David up there surrounded by a group of pastors who are laughing because of one of his wisecracks.
If you don’t mind, I’ll close with one of his classics.
“Did you hear about the restaurant on the moon? The food is great but it has no atmosphere.”