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The Drowota Legacy: Character and Values

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Nashville and our church lost a judicial and spiritual giant with the recent passing of Justice Frank F. Drowota III.

Drowota moved to Nashville with his family when he was only five years old so his father could serve as the founding minister of Woodmont. He was first elected to the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1980 as the youngest justice to ever hold that position. He served as Chief Justice of the Court two different times and retired in 2005 as the second-longest serving justice in Tennessee history.

Drowota’s judicial accomplishments are well documented and his fingerprints are all over the law, but even more impressive than that are the personal and spiritual values he exhibited throughout his life. He was a man of faith, integrity, and learned about humility from his father. Humility does not mean weakness, it is quiet strength. Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is simply thinking of yourself less. Humility seems to be in short supply in a world of arrogance and superficiality. Christ was humble.

Drowota was less interested in talking the talk and much more interested in walking the walk. The Bible Belt is full of people who are good at “talking Christian.” He understood what St. Francis meant when he said, “Preach the gospel, and use words only when necessary.”

Drowota was a true moderate and did not believe that any one side had a monopoly on the truth. He had the maturity to hear opposing viewpoints and not feel threatened. The bitter partisanship and lack of civility in our culture troubled him, especially in recent years.

Drowota kept his values in place: he loved his family, his friends, his church, and the community in which he lived. For him, sitting on the bench was an honor and privilege. He lived graciously, generously, and believed with all his heart that mercy always trumps judgment. He thought that Jesus’ question was a good one to ask: “Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye but fail to recognize the log in your own eye?” He exemplified every fruit of the spirit that the Apostle Paul refers to in Galatians 5 – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Drowota always treated others the way he wanted to be treated. He knew that when it came to the spiritual life, there is no destination, only a life long journey that is full of ups and downs, victories and defeats. Inner work is required and self-reflection is essential.

Beware of those who feel they have arrived. Beware of those who felt like they have all the answers because life is not that simple. There are nuanced positions that only emotionally mature people are able to sustain. Our society and world have many challenges, and we need more leaders like Judge Drowota. Harvard professor Clayton Christiansen asks the question, “How Will You Measure Your Life?” For Drowota, it was simple: faith, family, service, humility, friendship, loyalty, mercy, and civility. If we can strive to live this way, we will look back with very few regrets.

Posted by Clay Stauffer with