His name is Bob.
He’s a successful lawyer whose main office is on Tom Sawyer Island at Disneyland. He’s the U.S. consulate to Uganda, he flies sea planes in Canada and world leaders have the key to his front door in San Diego. In the last six years, I’ve laughed and cried countless times over his incredible adventures and his wife Sweet Maria and his children Lindsey, Richard, and Adam have come to feel like family to me. For the minimal price of ten dollars on Amazon, I got to help him build a school in Africa and in return, he gave me his cell number (more on this later), appeared in a film about our lives, taught me how to love my wife and children better, but mostly... he showed me a glimpse of what being more like Christ really looks like.
Yes, you might say that I’ve known Bob Goff really well for a long time, ...even though I’d never met him.
It all started with an inspiring book I read in 2011 called A Million Miles In a Thousand Years by Donald Miller. It’s the story of how Don learned the difference between writing a great story and actually living one. And there’s a chapter in the book where he talks about meeting this guy named Bob who he describes as “the greatest real-life storyteller I will, perhaps, ever know, a person who has forever adjusted my moral compass and destroyed all the bridges leading back to a common life.” And from the moment this “Bob” guy showed up on the page, I began to be fascinated and inspired by him. A couple of years later, Bob had his own book out called Love Does, where he shared stories about his life and family and faith, and the unique way that he lives them all out. I read it cover-to-cover five times in the first month. Then I bought a dozen copies and gave them away to friends, then another dozen more that I gave away to strangers. The book was filled with Jesus, and yet Bob really didn’t speak that much about Him. He didn’t tell me how to love others, he mostly showed me how he and his family have lived. And by doing so, inspired me more than he could ever know. Joey too.
The best way to tell you about the joy that Bob brought in our lives is not to tell you, but to show you instead. This video is the full version of a smaller clip that I originally shared in the documentary To Joey, With Love. It was filmed with my iPhone exactly three years ago today... June 15th, 2015. I know that because it was mine and Joey’s anniversary – just like it is today. The moment in the clip was not long after Joey’s cancer had returned with a vengeance and although we had no idea that within a nine months she would be in Heaven, we knew that she hadn’t felt well in a long time, and that what she and we were facing was scary. Very scary. And yet, that morning, when I should’ve walked in the bedroom here at the farmhouse and found my wife’s eyes filled with tears and fears... instead, I found her laughing. Filled with nothing but joy, in a moment of great sadness. All because of this guy Bob, that neither Joey or I actually knew.
A year after Joey passed away I finally got the chance to meet Bob. I received an email out of the blue one morning that said "I’ve heard from a couple people that my book “Love Does” made an appearance in your movie... and you and I should meet – Bob,“ and so we did. He invited me to come to an event in Nashville where he was speaking and my cousin Aaron and I went. Afterwards we found ourselves at Don Miller’s house with Bob and their friends having dessert and visiting. It was so neat to get the chance to meet and thank Bob personally and learn that he was exactly the same wonderful man in person that I had imagined he’d be in my mind.
Since then, we’ve continued to keep in touch and this past April, Bob invited me to come be a part of a “Dream Big Framework” workshop that he was hosting, again in Nashville. We spent two incredible days together, just he and me and a couple dozen other folks, talking about and learning how to dream bigger and love more. It was amazing. At the end of the workshop, we all took a picture with Bob. I’m in the very back row, somewhere behind all the smiles and confetti…
The stories that Bob tells are as special as he is. I still remember where Joey and I were when I read the very first chapter of Love Does. We were driving down a country road near Ashland City, TN and I was reading out loud to Joey as she drove, when we got to the part where Randy brings Bob back home after traveling with him to the mountains, we had to pull over to the side of road, our tears were falling so hard. Forever changed by the phrase “I’m With You”.
That book, and Bob’s new one Everybody, Always have had a profound impact on me and my family. In time, I too would get the chance to write a book about my life (with HarperCollins, the same folks who published Bob and Don Miller’s books). And then another one. My new book comes out in just a few days. I got an email from Bob last week that simply said “Rory…I’m celebrating every big event in your life with you! – Bob.” And I know he is. He has a way of loving and celebrating who we are, wherever we are. And of helping us to discover our own ‘secretly incredible life, an an ordinary world,’ by showing us how he does it in his own.
Like with Bob’s first book Love Does for example. It’s sold over a million copies... and every cent that the book makes goes to build schools in Uganda and other places that desperately need them. That’s amazing in it’s own right, but to give you a better idea of the kind of man Bob is, let me share what he put in the back of his book…
“One of the things I’ve learned following Jesus is how much He enjoyed being with people. Except for time with His Father, there seemed to be nothing He loved more. He didn’t just love the idea of being with people either, He actually loved being with them. A lot of people in the world stop being available at some point. It’s subtle, because it happens a little at a time and it’s not malicious or anything—it happens though. But Jesus wasn’t that way. He seemed to have more time for people as time went on, not less. That’s one of the things which makes love so powerful; it leaves us a way to find it.
The same thing is true about people who have shaped my world view. I’ve found that the people in my life who have actually been the most influential have also been the ones who were the most available. If you ever want to talk about any of the ideas in this book that ping you, my phone number is (619) ****-****. Give me a call sometime if I can be helpful.”
Except that in the back of the book he gave his actual number!! That means that he’s shared his cell phone number with a million strangers who bought the book (including me). And believe it or not, he answers his phone when it rings. How does he do that? I barely have time for the small group of people who are around me now? But somehow Bob makes time. I’ve seen it happen. And so I’m working on being better at being more available too.
Bob has made me rethink everything that I thought I knew about what "love does" when it’s at its best. Our family has had some challenging moments to work through since Joey passed away, and Bob’s example has helped me to find courage that I didn’t think I had and a deeper love that I didn’t think was possible to give.
There’s something about Bob’s spirit that’s contagious too. This past Monday night we had a little unauthorized "love does" gathering in our barn. Just a bunch of people talking about Bob and his book and his amazing way of looking at love and turning it into action. More of a Bible "doing" than a Bible “study" as Bob would say.
What is it about Bob and people like Bob that inspire us so much? It’s hard to put my finger on, but I think it’s that we’re all trying to figure out this thing called life, and there’s no simple instruction manual to help us along. We have the Bible and the library, and Amazon, and the internet, and there are lots of answers there to be found. But there’s something special about seeing love come alive in a person’s actual life. Seeing it with your own eyes.
Thank you Bob for being a bright light in a what can be a cloudy world. I love you.