Monday, May 23, 2011
"He Jogged Right Into Heaven"
This past Saturday, God called a well-known and much loved man from our church family home at the age of 52. A member has been severed, and the whole Body is feeling it deeply.
Dave was (it seems so strange writing about him in the past tense, knowing he is in heaven) a humble, unassuming servant of God who loved Christ deeply, and by extention, his family and church. Although I had only known him for a few years, he struck me as an unusually committed believer. The congregation's outpouring of grief over his unexpected departure indicates that all who knew him saw his humility and compassion.
Dave's life revolved around Christ. He wasn't the type of guy to bicker about dispensationalism or get involved in church politics. He preferred to go to Mississippi with the Youth Group to re-build after Hurricaine Katrina; serve on a mercy mission in Pakistan; and carry logs and mulch on "Church Clean-up Day". With a passionate desire to reach the lost, Dave served as the Chairman of the Missions Committee for several years, which is how I met him.
When saints die, there is a human tendency to canonize them. We don't need to do that. Each of us has a story; a memory; a touching moment that we each remember about the person who has passed on. The first time our paths crossed was during Sunday service, about three years ago, when Dave and I were both outside in the foyer instead of in the sanctuary like normal church-goers. I was emptying the nursery Diaper Genie. I have no idea what he was doing, but his exact words to me were, "Hey, can I talk to you for a sec after the service?" (I thought I was in trouble for something, but I couldn't remember doing anything particularly incriminating. Turned out he wanted to ask me to apply to join the Missions Committee, which I happily did.)
Now, "Missions Committee" may conjure up images of old men in suits, dryly analyzing the budget. We may have done that, (although none of us wear suits; nor are we old, or even necessarily men), but we generally had fun with the task at hand. That wasn't too hard, given Dave's laid-back sense of humor. He laughed at my jokes. A one-liner from a Monty Python movie would have him stifling guffaws, which was actually funnier than whatever was said, given that we were meeting in a tiny nursing mothers' room less than 30 feet away from the pastor's D-6 men's Bible study. "We're having way too much fun in here," Dave would say. "They're gonna wonder what we do at these meetings!"
Rabbit trails? We spent 15 minutes once on the spiritual implications of wearing shorts to church, and whether proper reverence demands getting spiffed up on Sunday. (I emphatically said yes.) My challenger asked for biblical support. Dave, ever the diplomat, offered: "I came to church dressed up once...and everybody laughed at me. So I never tried that again!"
Dave could see the humor in things, and was lighthearted. That levity, however, stopped at the threshold of his prayer life. As a small and closely-knit group, we had the priviledge of praying together quite a few times, and Dave approached God with the reverential awe and intimate adoration of a true disciple. He was, to use the cliche, a "prayer warrior". Interceding for others was as natural as breathing for Dave. More than anything else, this is what moved people and will be remembered about him. We simply have no way of knowing, at least in this life, the extent of Dave's impact for eternity.
My most vivid memory of Dave was from February 2009, at the memorial service of a high school boy who had succumbed to brain cancer. Dave had been particularly close to him and his family, and was there with him at the end. He shared with the grieving congregation how much he would miss him, but added (with a sheepish smile), "....At the same time, though, I'm so psyched for Steven right now!" That simple and true sentiment - rejoicing that his young friend was in the presence of the Lord they both loved so deeply, made a profound impact on all of us. Several times over this past weekend, the irony of that sincere statement has struck me. If it is not irreverent to think in terms of the Lord Jesus being "psyched", I imagine He is quite psyched to have His friend Dave home now, too. (Psalm 116:15)
Dave had previously led the congregation to kneel in intercession for this young man one Sunday, and later kept a 2-day prayer vigil by himself at the church for a woman battling cancer. Those aren't the sorts of things one does to attract the praise of man, or to climb the "church hierarchy". They are the sorts of spontaneous loving acts that spring forth, unbidden, from a heart overflowing with love and joy in one's Savior. Dave never seemed to get over his awe that Christ would redeem him. He never wanted to.
Yesterday, as we mourned his loss and prayed for the precious family he left behind, our pastor pointed out that Dave had passed from this life in much the same way he had lived - running. "Dave jogged right into heaven," he noted, which was an apt metaphor for someone who strove to live each day to glorify Christ. Granted, I'm one of those pesky sola-scriptura types not given to imaginative interpretations, but yesterday it was just so easy to imagine Dave on that beach, no doubt conversing with the Lord in his heart, as he so freely did. "You know what, Dave?" the Lord might have said to His treasured friend. "We're a lot closer to My house right now than yours. Let's go home, Dave."
And he did.
He jogged right into heaven.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)