I have always loved the words of the chorus of Steve Green’s classic song Find Us Faithful. The chorus says, Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful. May the fire of our devotion light their way. May the footprints that we leave, lead them to believe. And the lives we live inspire them to obey. Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful. Tony Snow left faithful footprints and a fire of devotion that obviously lit the way for many of his colleagues.
I didn’t get word of Tony’s passing until almost 9:30am on Saturday morning. My first thought was the two brief encounters I had with him both in Washington at events sponsored by Family Research Council Action. I cherish those meetings because even though we spent very little time together I was encouraged by his infectious optimism and his natural ability to make me feel that while he was talking to me, I was the most important person in the room.
From the moment the Fox News Family and gradually all of America learned that Tony had lost his valiant and inspirational battle with colon cancer the accolades poured in from all people great and small. Brett Baer of Fox News couldn’t hide his emotion as he spoke of the time Tony welcomed him back to the White House pressroom after his newborn son had survived life threatening cardiac surgery. Even though Tony was enduring the rigors of chemotherapy he emailed Brett often to ask how his son was doing, offering words of encouragement and heartfelt prayer.
All of Washington, arguably the most powerful and power hungry place on earth gasped at the passing of this one, good man. People spoke of Snow in hushed reverence as if they were speaking of some saint of old. Four things kept rising to the surface as powerbroker after powerbroker remembered their now treasured moments Tony Snow. He was a man who loved God, his family, his country, and life itself. He never whined about his condition, complained about his circumstances, or cursed the fact that cancer was an enemy he could not outrun. In fact, he spoke of how having cancer blessed him by revealing the love of his friends and reminding him of just how precious the gift of a family can be.
How can we describe in Christian worldview terms how Tony Snow was able to leave such a huge, caring, fingerprint on so many lives and a size fifteen double E Christian footprint on the culture of Washington? The truth is we don’t have to describe it. The Apostle Paul describes if for us in 2 Corinthians 2:14, But thanks be to God, who always leads us in his triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of Him in every place. That is exactly what Tony Snow did….he allowed the sweet aroma of Christ to permeate, penetrate, and transform the people and therefore the places he poured himself into.
When Tony left the relative safety of his duties at Fox News and the proven success of his nationally syndicated radio show to step into the bear cage of being the President’s Press Secretary, people marveled at how he handled such an adversarial role with remarkable style and grace, The answer once again can be found in God’s Word. Tony simply let his life display the words of Paul to the church at Ephesus. Let no unwholesome thing word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear. No matter how raucous and filled with the poison of bitterness the question, Tony’s answer drained every ounce of venom from the questioner with an answer that focused on facts instead of emotions. His warm smile was the perfect stage for his sharp wit and forthright honesty. Tony had the rare ability to disarm the verbal missiles that were launched his way before they ever found their target.
Finally, the aroma of Christ was evident in how Tony dealt with the cruelty of his disease. Friends, family, and colleagues were amazed at how he never allowed the cancer to steal his smile nor soften his zest for life. How was this possible? Again, Tony lived out the words of Paul this time spoken to the Philippians. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Because Tony believed in prayer and the promise of life after death, he was able to live out the example of a life of peace that should have been a life in turmoil.
In a world that is increasingly concerned about the size of the “carbon footprint” we may leave behind it is good to know that there are still men who live in such a way that when they die they leave behind something much more meaningful than just a carbon footprint. They leave behind the aroma of Christ.
Dr. Tony Beam is Vice-President for Student Services and Director of the Christian Worldview Center at North Greenville University in Tigerville, South Carolina.