I first met John Stott personally in his study in February 2006. I had seen him a couple of times before during my time at Wheaton College, but this time his last study assistant Chris Jones arranged for a few of us from Yale Divinity School to meet with him during our class trip. I remember walking through his bedroom to reach his study on the top floor. The simplicity of the room struck me. There wasn't any frivolous adornment. I can't think of anything that looked new, and everything in the room seemed like it came from the 80s at best.
And to divulge a little secret, in my excitement I plunged onto his bed. I wanted to see what John Stott's bed felt like! (I'm blushing a bit.) There was a surprise there. The mattress was so old, that it was curved in. The springs in the middle of the mattress had collapsed over many years of use. As I proceeded to go up to his study I wondered loudly in my mind how it could be that John Stott, one of Time magazine's 2005 100 most influential people, could sleep on a mattress that was falling apart.
Then I got to know him better, and it made perfect sense. He once wrote this about simple living: "Simplicity is the first cousin of contentment. Its motto is, 'We brought nothing into this world, and we can certainly carry nothing out.' It recognizes that we are pilgrims. It concentrates on what we need, and measures this by what we use. It rejoices in the good things of creation, but hates waste and greed and clutter. It knows how easily the seed of the Word is smothered by the 'cares and riches of this life.' It wants to be free of distraction, in order to love and serve God and others."
People around the world, evangelicals and non-evangelicals alike, will remember uncle John for many things. I will remember him as a person who lived to de-clutter his life from the richness of this world to enrich lives of many with His great name.
Thank you for your teaching, but also for the example of your life uncle John.