Two nights ago several of Jonathan's good friends, Tommy, Emily, Jacob, Andrew and Katelyn, showed us an incredible kindness by coming to the house for dinner. It was great to hear them all speak fondly of their memories of time spent with our son. Most of the stories we had heard before, but a few were new to us -- at least to me and Pam. At one time or another each of these young people has been a regular part of our lives, and having them all in the house felt familiar -- comfortable.
That day had been oddly peaceful -- or at least I felt more numb than in other recent days. In fact, at one point I even felt a little guilty that my pain was not greater. That is not a mistake I will make again, as the time since that night has been mostly agonizing.
The lone exception was last night when I returned to the church to teach for the first time since the horror of that Sunday. It is amazing, but every time I have been to the church since then has been a time of unbelievable peace. I am so grateful for my Wednesday night friends, and appreciate the grace they extended for what must have been a somewhat disorganized teaching.
Wednesday nights are about stripping the gospel bare -- bringing the message of Jesus back to its essence. It is about heart change that leads to following Jesus blindly. It is about learning to live a life that is focused on bringing glory to God, loving others and advancing the gospel. It is about learning to be selfless and loving even in the face of adversity and our own struggles in life. It is about being the salt and light that God calls us to be regardless of our circumstances.
Over this last week I have marveled at how my wife exemplifies the qualities of a true disciple of Christ. Not once has she been angry at God for allowing this to happen. Indeed, she is convinced that God's plan for Jonathan was better than ours, and she has repeatedly expressed her gratitude that God allowed us to be the parents of such a wonderful young man for twenty-seven years, seven months, and twenty-two days.
In the midst of the worst horror I can imagine, she has reminded me time and time again that through our trial and agony other people can come to see the value of an authentic relationship with Christ, the hope and peace that can only come from God, and the incredible blessing of being part of a loving and supportive church community. It is her great hope that God will yet use Jonathan's life to draw many people to an eternity with Jesus. She really is pretty amazing.
"The path of discipleship is narrow, and it is fatally easy to miss one's way and stray from the path, even after years of discipleship. And it is hard to find. On either side of the path deep chasms yawn. To be called to a life of extraordinary quality, to live up to it, and yet be unconscious of it is indeed a narrow way. To confess and testify to the truth of Jesus, and at the same time to love the enemies of that truth, his enemies and ours, and to love them with the infinite love of Jesus Christ, is indeed a narrow way. To believe the promise of Jesus that his followers shall possess the earth, and at the same time to face our enemies unarmed and defenseless, preferring to incur injustice rather than do wrong ourselves, is indeed a narrow way. To see the weakness and wrong in others, and at the same time refrain from judging them; to deliver the gospel message without casting pearls before swine, is indeed the narrow way. The way is unutterably hard, and at every moment we are in danger of straying from it. If we regard this way as one we follow in obedience to an external command, if we are afraid of ourselves all the time, it is indeed an impossible way. But if we behold Jesus Christ going on before step by step, we shall not go astray. But if we worry about the dangers that beset us, if we gaze at the road instead of at him who goes before, we are already straying from the path. For he himself is the way, the narrow way and the straight gate. He, and he alone, is our journey's end."
"The Cost of Discipleship"