Dallas Willard was the most wonderful person I have ever known. I was privileged to have him as my teacher both as an undergraduate and as a graduate student, and to have him as my mentor, friend, and – in the truest sense of the word – my pastor, the shepherd of my soul, over the last two decades. Here is my very inadequate attempt to describe what Dallas was like in these roles. Of course it is somewhat misleading to call these “roles”. In reality, they were all expressions of the brilliant, patient, caring, nurturing person Dallas was (and is!), a person who united great intelligence and great virtue in the substance of his own being so powerfully as to palpably manifest the goodness of God like no one else I have ever encountered.
The full-text of Preston’s reflection offers insights into Willard’s own character and his ability to shape the lives of others – and not just their “spiritual life” or their “professional life” – beyond the public eye. Consider this final anecdote in Aaron Preston’s reflection:
On one occasion I was suffering from a rather severe depressive episode related to my spiritual angst. Dallas spent an hour or more praying over me after which the depression was simply and entirely gone, and it has never come back. Life has not been a bed of roses ever since – that’s the stuff of fairy tales – but since that moment I’ve always been able to find the strength to cope with life, often by remembering his prayer and invoking it over myself again.
… Dallas was not just my teacher and my dissertation supervisor. He was my beloved Rabboni. I am grateful for his life. I will miss him for the rest of mine.