Monday, September 01, 2008


I remember being fresh out of college in a new role as youth pastor at my church. At the time, I thought the mere fact of my presence meant that I would have a steady stream of students coming to me looking for a listening ear, prayer, advice, counsel or some combination thereof. Well, it didn't (and probably doesn't) work that way. It takes time to establish relationships and trust.

Dan was the first student to confide in me. He was a senior in high school. We had lunch at McDonald's and he shared some struggles- doubts mostly, he was having with his faith. He had also been making some bad decisions that are not all that uncommon amongst teens. I left that conversation very concerned for Dan and wondering if and how God might intervene in his life.

Fast forward 11 years and a few months back. Dan, now married and the father of 3, and I have lunch at a small Mexican restaurant. We talk about our children, our wives and our faith. We talk about how our faith has grown over the years. We talk about books that have been helpful to us and agree that we ought to do a book exchange. I'm blown away by the contrast of the conversations and so pleased to see where Dan is at now.

The bill arrives and I take it and pull out my credit card. "Sorry, cash only." I have maybe $3 cash on me. Dan picks up the tab and I say, "Well, next time it's on me, and I'll make sure I bring cash." We go our separate ways.

I got a call a couple weeks ago on a Friday morning. Dan died, cause of death was unknown.

I guess you know it's always a possibility that you'll be doing a funeral for a student or former student, but it's certainly not something you expect to do. Inevitably a tragic situation like this raises a host of difficult questions. Most of them begin with "why," and, well, end there too.

Words always seem inadequate in a situation like this because they are. Hope is real though and I've continued to hang on to hope in the weeks since. At his funeral I shared about these two conversations and how they were a picture of God's faithfulness to Dan throughout his life- even, and perhaps especially, when Dan would have admitted that he himself had been less than faithful to God. God's presence in Dan's life was real and thus that presence in a reality in death as well.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39


Blogger Kristin Charles said...

Thanks for sharing this Brian. It was articulate, authentic, real, redemptive. We will continue to pray for his wife, children, family, friends.

10:40 PM  

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