Three weeks ago we attended a service to honor the life of a friend who had passed away, after a two year battle with cancer. For three weeks I have been trying to put into words what we experienced there. It was the most tangible encounter of the Lord I believe we have ever been a part of. How does one describe that moment when God is just there?
We met Ryan the first summer Jeff and I worked at camp. He was the boys counselor at the ranch, the one where we would spend countless hours pouring into the lives of young campers, where we learned about being intentional and what it means to lean on the Lord when you have nothing left to give. Jeff and Ryan clicked immediately as they both possessed an innate desire for adventure and confrontation. Many nights they were up late talking about God and relationships. The wisdom that poured out of such a young yet level-headed man still astounds me today. He is deeply ingrained in the story of “us”, since it was that summer Jeff and I decided life was better when we were with one another.
Ryan was one of those people we just always felt close to, even from afar. The journey his family has been on dealing with cancer and learning what it looks like to see life through an eternal lens has been inspiring and humbling. We love him dearly and it was sad to see him taken from this world. But the joy that we feel knowing our friend is now sitting at the feet of Jesus changes our perspective on death, and life.
That brief trip to Michigan was equal parts heavy and wonderful. Ryan’s death brought together a group of friends who have a connection that can only be understood by those who have done the camp thing. Something magical happens when you spend three months living day in and day out with other people. You learn everything there is to know about them. You learn how to encourage them in their strengths and how to confront them lovingly in their faults. It’s a bond that could allow us to see folks we have rarely spoken to in the past nine years, yet gather and commune like no time has passed.
What I most readily held onto as we shared memories of camp, of Ryan, and talked about what God has been doing, is the reminder that the battle is won. God has won. He always wins. It was evident there, in that service. It was evident in the hearts of the people who came to show their love and support. Those who celebrated Ryan’s life with joy and gave thanks to the Lord for the things He has done. Something that Satan tried to use to crush the souls of many people, God made it for good. God used this heart-wrenching tragedy to bring life to others.
The Lord is unpredictable and wild, yet merciful beyond compare. Never before have I seen such truth revealed. Through the life and death of a man, God showed His glory. Thanks be to God.
The videos of the memorial service are posted on their blog. I challenge you to take the time to watch. And to allow yourself to be changed.
How do you trust a wild, untamed, merciful God? That’s how.