The only thing I never did that he told me to do was buy a kayak.
When my kids were born he suggested that I give up golf and spend the extra time with the children as they were young. It might be because I’m a bad golfer (which I am), but he said it was more about the irreplaceable early years with kids. He said there would be time for golf (and other time consuming hobbies) later when the kids were older and didn’t have as much time for me. So I gave up golf and several other hobbies. And he was right, I’ve had the privilege of being more involved in my kids lives than most other dads.
He told me to always have a vacation planned, even if it was a small one, so that I’d always have something to look forward to when work seemed overwhelming. He encouraged me to have it on the calendar as soon as I got back from a vacation so it would be ready as the next motivation. So I planned breaks just like he suggested. And it’s always worked the way he said it would.
He told me to be more careful in my social media posts and in my writing. I made a lot of hurtful mistakes early on. He stressed to me that written word is so much more forceful than spoken word and encouraged me to always go have a conversation with a person instead of writing them a letter or a Facebook post. And so I became more conscious of what I posted, and more committed to face-to-face discussion. And while I still make mistakes, my relationships are so much better because of his advice.
When I was wounded and mistreated by another leader I was supposed to follow, he cautioned me against bitterness and against rash decisions to leave. He advised me to work toward forgiveness and peace before deciding to move on, so as not to jump to something that wasn’t ideal just to get away from conflict. And so I stayed another year. I let God work on my heart. And finally made a move that was healthy in motive and opportunity.
He told me that a house costs more than just a mortgage payment. He told me roofs need replaced and furnaces go out and that I should set aside a capital items savings each month as part of what it costs to own a home. And now my roof needs replaced and my furnace is on its last legs and I’m glad I have a savings account.
When I wasn’t sure what I should be doing with my life anymore, he told me it didn’t matter as much what I did as who I surrounded myself with while doing it. He told me that a person could have fun doing anything if they were doing it with people they loved. And so I stopped looking for the right job and found joy and contentment with my teammates. And I started to love my job.
He even told me what to listen to on my iPod. He would often come home from a big conference all excited about some speaker that had taught him something new. He’d hand me a thumb drive with the talk loaded on it and tell me “just listen.” And reluctantly I would listen to it and discover it was just exactly what I needed at that moment.
But most importantly, when I was scared to take a big risk professionally, he told me to trust who God made me and lead out boldly. He himself had so much faith in me that I couldn’t help but take the risk to trust God’s work in me too. And it was scary, but it turned out to be the best risk I ever took.
Everything Rob Cizek ever told me to do was better than a good idea; it was great. It was wisdom.
I’ve had many bosses, mentors and friends in my life. But none who’s advice I respected more than Rob’s. And it was easy to accept his wisdom because I knew he genuinely cared for me.
It’s often been said that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. And Rob knew much more than most. But he also cared even more than that.
Every person who worked with or for Rob has the same story. We all trusted what he said because he showed us how much he cared. He always had our back. We’d rotate through his office and lunch meetings with our problems and frustrations, and he’d patiently listen and offer support. There had to be days that’s all he did. It must have been overwhelming at times. It’s amazing one man could handle all the burdens we laid on him.
And when those long days were done, he’d often head out of the office to Silver Lake. He’d put his kayak in the water, push out and relax. He told me it was his own place of reflection. It was where he found peace. He told me to buy a kayak, because everyone needs a spot like that.
Today, I know he’s in a real place of peace.
Rob, I’m going to miss you awfully. There’s so many things I still wanted to ask you and learn. So many things I still don’t know about being a dad, pastor, friend and human. I’m going to miss our lunches, texts, laughter and friendship. There’s a bit of peace missing now in me. Today, I could really use that spot on the lake.
So I think it’s time I do the one thing you told me to do that I never got around to. I’ll buy that kayak. And maybe I’ll push out into Silver Lake one day soon. And when I dip that oar in the water, I’ll think of you. And I’ll remember what you taught me and I’ll pray that somewhere over that water I’ll find the strength that made you such a remarkable man.
Rest in peace, my friend.
Great piece, Nick. Thank you.
Beautiful. Rob was my News Director years ago in Richmond, Virginia. Just heard about his passing. This is a lovely tribute.