Sunday, March 30, 2003

What Will You Leave Behind?

“Stick your fist into a bucket of water, pull it out and look to see the hole that is left,” Vern said to us. “Next time you begin to think you are irreplaceable remember that is about what you leave behind.”

A good lesson, I thought at the time. Probably true in organizations. A good way to stay humble, to maintain some perspective.

Problem is that it doesn’t translate well, not in friendships. Especially the deep ones. Those heart to heart relationships that have been formed over years of laughing, crying, working, learning, talking, encouraging, praying, confessing, arguing, forgiving, verbally jousting, putting down, building up and just being together. Those friendships welded together in transparency, being vulnerable enough to let yourselves into each other’s souls. Those friendships that you carry with you even when the other is not physically there. Those friendships that cause you to ask, “I wonder what Jim would do in this situation?” Those friendships that can be picked up right where you left them after being apart for a month or a year. Those friendships that are not deteriorated by living on opposite sides of the country.

Those are the friendships that leave a hole. Those people stick their hands into the bucket of your heart and when they pull out the water never, ever, ever fills it again.

I know. Last month I lost one of the best friends I will ever have when Jim Harvey died of a heart attack. He was a “closer than a brother” brother, my confidant, my mentor, my priest, my prayer partner, the other soldier in my foxhole. I have many, many other friends, but a very few times in life does one come along who shares the same heart and soul in nearly every way.

Frankly, I’m ticked. He was only 54 years old. I’d assumed we had at least another 15 years together. We were discussing ways to do some ministry together. We were dreaming together. We had plans to be together in Colorado in May. The day before he died I’d made a mental note to call Jim to get together a day early to hike. Boy, did he ruin that! The last time he turned me down on a hiking offer was because he and Betsy had just gotten married. I can cut him slack for that, but not this one. I WANT that hike with him in May, doggone it! Not for the hike, but for the incredible value he always added to my life.

I’m also a bit jealous. Like one of my kids… “Why does HE get to enjoy heaven and we have to stay here and fight the battles? That’s NOT FAIR!”

Jim’s death has caused me to feel exposed. Like a platoon of soldiers who depended on the point man to lead the way forward and alert them to danger, I depended on Jim. Now that he’s gone, I feel unprotected. You can’t believe how many times I find myself thinking, “I’ll call Jim and ask him about… I’ll call Jim and ask him to pray about that… ” only to realize he’s not there.

I’m not alone. Jim touched so many lives along the trail that the tally will only be revealed in heaven.

Along with the sadness, Jim’s death thrust upon us the reality of our mortality. I’m one of the old guys now. How did that happen? I’m closer to the front of the platoon and must shoulder the responsibility of leading and protecting.

I’m not sure of the theology of this, but I wonder if God didn’t take Jim so he could pray for us from heaven. The Bible says that Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, constantly interceding for us. Perhaps, (forgive me if I’m completely off base here), but just perhaps, Jim is doing the same.

The loss also challenges me. What will I leave behind when it’s my time to ride the Harley into the sunset? I’m going to leave a hole. So are you. Question is what kind, how big and for how many? Would you commit along with me to live so that the hole is huge? Not because of who we are, but because we allow Christ in us to touch everyone along our appointed trail.

Betsy recalls words Jim spoke often to others who lost a loved one, “It will never be the same, but it will be good again.” We can take comfort from those words. As usual, one more time, Jim’s wisdom provides just what we need, at just the time we need it.

Jim showed us…

"In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness" Titus 2:7 (NIV)

How Jim would encourage us…

"Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us." Romans 8:34 (NIV)

"Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. 14 We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him." 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (NIV)

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