I woke up today thinking about grief and loss.
Yesterday another family in our small town buried their child.
More posters made, more flowers piling up.
More balloons released.
And more pain, sorrow, and tears.
Last night I saw someone who closely resembled one of the young men who passed last year. For a split second I thought he was still here, then reality hit me again. My heart started pounding and I had trouble catching my breath, instantly feeling like I was back at that terrible day.
I went to sleep with a heavy heart, and woke up feeling the same way.
In my quiet time this morning, I reflected on the passage where Jesus tells us to come to Him for rest. Then I read part of a devotional that invited me to live and love from a place of rest.
The devotional asked me a simple question: What is the state of your soul?
I started to think about it, but didn’t want to go there. And so I didn’t.
When I checked on Facebook this morning, i saw a prayer request for someone who was my dear friend during a pivotal time in my life. Eric had been in a surfing accident and was in critical condition.
I rallied my friends to pray, had my children pray, and reached out to some friends to see if they knew how he was doing.
About two hours later another dear friend from my youth sent me a simple message: Not sure if you heard, but Eric is with Jesus now.
My mind has been flooded with memories all day. I thought of the time where Eric pushed me around a room on a furniture dolly, effectively annoying everyone we came near. That was a whole lot of fun. I thought of the time he came to visit me at my conservative Christian college, and I had several girls come in and warn me to “be careful because some scruffy hippie-looking guy in a VW bus is asking about you.” I reassured them that that scruffy hippie-looking guy was probably the sweetest, kindest guy they’d ever meet. And that his bus was awesome.
I also thought of the time that I went with him to visit his dad, not long before his dad went to be with Jesus. Although it was around 20 years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday. Their hug, their smiles, and the love that emanated from them both.
But what I thought of most was a summer, 21 years ago this year. Eric and I were both serving on missions trips, on opposite sides of the world. I got to know him during the orientation and training for those trips. I mean, I knew him before that. His mom and my mom have been friends since they were teenagers and we were at all of the same church events growing up, so I knew him.
But not really.
But I got to know him during that time. And what I learned from him profoundly impacted my life.
See, at that time I didn’t know anyone who was totally sold-out for Jesus. I knew a lot of people who went to church. I knew a lot of people who said the right things, did the right things, and knew all the answers.
But passion? For Jesus?
I didn’t know what that looked like.
Eric showed me what it looked like.
He loved Jesus with all that he was. He didn’t care what other people thought. He didn’t care if it was awkward, or strange. He wasn’t ashamed to proclaim his love. He wasn’t afraid to seek the Lord, to sing His praises.
And he wasn’t afraid to love people.
He wasn’t afraid to love people, even if it hurt. He wasn’t afraid to give his guitar away, because as he said, “It’s just a guitar. I can replace it. It means my heart is with them.”
Eric was an advocate for social justice before being an advocate for social justice was something you talked about. He didn’t do it to be an advocate, he did it because that’s how Jesus lived and loved and he wanted to live and love like Jesus.
Eric lived in community, sacrificed for others, and truly invested in the lives of people he knew. He was a radical, before Shane Claiborne wrote a book and told us we all should be radicals. He didn’t do it to be a radical, he did it because that’s what Jesus did, and he wanted to be like Jesus.
And now he is with Jesus.
I hurt for his wife and their five children. I hurt for his mom, for his brother, for his extended family. I hurt for his friends. We are all better for having known him.
So now I am ready to answer the question from my journal.
How is my soul? Truthfully, my soul is sad.
My soul is weary.
My soul feels as if it cannot handle any more heartbreak.
And my soul longs for rest.
But thankfully I know where to go.
I will go to the One who my friend Eric helped me get to know better so many years ago.
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11: 28
See you soon.