I remember coming home from college on a 1972 weekend to find my mom standing at the ironing board riveted to the Watergate scandal hearings on TV. To those of us “of a certain age” the cast of characters lingers in our memories as if they are carved on a stone wall: H. R. Haldeman, John Erlichman, John Dean, Chuck Colson, John Mitchell and Jeb Stuart Magruder being some of those that stand out.
Jeb Magruder recently died and as I read his story I thought, “Another example of glory and ruin.” Glory and ruin. It’s a phrase I often use to describe what lies in the hearts of men– the capacity for enormous heroism and selfless action on behalf of others, along with the horrific capacity to cause destruction and pain for others, often for those they love. I see it in every headline that tells of another mass murder committed by the next lost male soul. I see it in every story of a firefighter, soldier, Good Samaritan and dad, who demonstrates extraordinary courage and selflessness to protect or save the lives of a loved one—and often someone they don’t even know.
I see glory and ruin in so many men I know. I see it in the mirror. I’m compelled to live out, and call out, the glory.
Magruder, President Richard Nixon’s deputy campaign manager, was a man who knew Glory—the heights of power very few will ever know; and Ruin—the stunning fall to conviction as a felon and imprisonment. “Somewhere between my ambition and my ideals I lost my ethical compass,” he admitted.
But that’s just the start of the story. Like fellow prison mate Chuck Colson, Magruder came into a spiritual transformation as a result of his encounter with his own ruin. Thank God, his story is one of redemption; he came to see that in God’s eyes he was a work of glory, he became a Presbyterian minister, and even led a city commission on ethics and values.
“It’s a characteristic in American life that there is redemption,” he’d say to those who doubted the sincerity of the dramatic change in trajectory his life took. Redemption; what a great word. God takes that which is clearly broken, selfish and destructive—Ruin—and transforms it into Glory—filled with hope, grace and blessing for others.
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Ro. 8:18) Those words are true for all of us who are Christ-followers. Yes, there remains in us a capacity to choose ruin that causes unnecessary suffering, but the deeper truth is the one Magruder eventually encountered, there is glory that is revealed because we have the power of the Spirit living and acting through us.
Magruder walked in ruin for many years. God redeemed his story and now he knows Glory beyond description. God can redeem ours, too.
My greatest joy in life is my family. I know, that sounds like the comment you’re supposed to make as a man and father. All I can say is I literally shake my head in wonder at the family I have: my wife Beryl; my daughter Barclay and son-in-law Vince, their four daughters, Bella, Brynn, Brooke and Blake; my son Alec, my son Conor and daughter-in-law Bonnie, their daughter Gemma and son Calvin. Every one of them is a genuine gift. Beyond that, I have a calling that I live out through Peregrine Ministries. It is to help men: Understand their identity in Christ, Embrace their role as men, and Live out their God-given calling in life. Bottom line is I’m convinced men matter and I want to help them live life on purpose.