I was excited to learn that one of my very best childhood friends, John Dudley, has been selected as the new Managing Director, Flight Operations for American Airlines … pretty impressive job!

I remember when John started flying as a 15 year old. He took me flying a number of times while we were young, taking off and landing in some cleared-off field that a friend allowed him to use. It was tons of fun and I always felt safe … not sure it was, but at least I felt that way! John continued his flying adventures at Auburn and graduated with a degree in Aviation Management. If I’m remembering correctly, he frequently flew the Auburn basketball team on trips back during the Charles Barkley days. I’m guessing it was the mid-80s when he landed his first commercial airline job and he obviously hasn’t looked back! While I don’t remember exactly which airline he started with (may have been Piedmont), it eventually merged with USAir. While working with USAir, John was instrumental in developing certain procedures and designs with some of the Airbus planes built in France, specifically the A330. In fact, he essentially lived in Toulouse, France for a time while these aircraft were being designed and built. More recently, he’s represented American Airlines during the design and development the A350. And now, he’ll be the Managing Director, Flight Operations for American Airlines. I’d say that’s a pretty impressive resume that indicates a successful career and life.

It’s caused me to reflect a bit on the meaning of success. We’ve probably all wrestled with this to a degree when someone we know reaches some new height, or accomplishes something spectacular, or receives some prestigious award while we labor on in our daily routine of relative obscurity and mediocrity. What exactly is success? What defines a successful life? Thankfully the Word of God addresses this, telling of Jesus’ disciples arguing among themselves about who is the greatest. (Mark 9) Jesus’ answer was to say that greatness is linked to service, humility, and child-like trust. What we consider to be worldly success doesn’t always mean success in God’s Kingdom.

Consider these wildly successful people. The man who sacrificed a lucrative career in order to better love his wife and raise his children in the Gospel … the woman coming out of the human trafficking industry who is now working hard in a meager job to provide for herself … the man who was bullied in school as a youngster but is now helping coach a Miracle League team … the single mom in Ethiopia who’s husband was murdered by terrorists but who is doing all she can to provide for her children … the student who leaves the lunch table with all her friends and goes over to sit with the new kid … the pastor of the small, rural church of 15 members who faithfully labors to care for his aging congregation … the young man who has assumed responsibility to care for a neighboring widow’s yard … the mom who daily cleans up her kid’s vomit and all other sorts of mess … the person wrestling with same-sex attraction but faithfully submits to the authority of the church and refrains from acting on those desires … the friend who washes and cleans another friend’s car so he’ll have a clean ride home from the hospital following surgery … the spouse who remains faithful to marriage vows despite the behavior of the other spouse … etc. You likely know many such success stories.

Please don’t think I’m trying to minimize the accomplishments of my friend, John. Just so happens he’s a brother in Christ and one of the most humble and servant-hearted people I’ve ever known! I’m really proud of him and hope we get the chance to meet up this summer while I’m in Dallas for General Assembly.