Christian Viewpoint: Role models are gifts we can all aspire to emulate
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“What a heritage!” said Murray McChyene.
He was talking about the father whose name he shares, Robert Murray McCheyne who passed away in December.
“My dad had a massive influence on me.”
And the heritage stretches back further – Murray believes he is related to the hugely influential preacher and pastor with the same name, a minister in Dundee from 1835-43.
Murray, an Inverness-based lawyer, trustee of Blythswood Care, and community council chairman, told me about his upbringing in Banknock, the eldest of three sons.
His dad embodied the virtues of honesty, integrity, hard work and dependability. He loved his family deeply, relaxing with them, letting his hair down, laughing.
He could have been a little more open perhaps, and sometimes a little more encouraging, but says Murray “he was what he was” and thanks to both parents Murray’s childhood was “very, very happy.”
Church attendance was the norm for the family: Murray’s dad was session clerk at Haggs Parish Church. He was less vocal about his faith than some Christians, including the 19th-century Dundee McCheyne, a passionate preacher and evangelist, but he was, “No less sure about what he believed,” said Murray. “He was real. Genuine, sincere, alive.”
Murray was given the precious gift of space to grow into the Christian man he is, rather than feeling pressured to clone what he saw in others. His own faith journey began when he was 13 listening to a presentation of the gospel: it seemed as if “something within me stirred.”
The other major role model in Murray’s life also passed away last year – his wife Laura’s father, the Rev Stewart Jeffrey. He, says Stewart “was in every bit as important in the next chapter of my faith story as my father was in its foundation, a great church leader, preacher, very vocal about his Christian faith.”
It’s Murray’s conviction that such role models as his father and Stewart are gifts from God who “brings certain people into our lives at certain points for certain purposes.”
Role models past and present inspire us and show us what is possible, but it is futile to seek to replicate the past. Faith, says Murray, is a living thing; we will only be real when something within us stirs and we make the journey ourselves.
My guess is that to Murray’s own family, and to many outwith it, he will be as much a role model, an influence for good, a stirrer of hearts, as his dad and Stewart were to him. But we are all role models: our challenge is to live out before others those very same values which are so evident in the lives of Robert Murray McCheyne, father and son.