So many emotions were mounting in my heart: fear, excitement, uncertainty, expectancy and joy. The anticipation was tremendous, but I had to lock in. As such, the only logical thing to do was to shut my phone off. I had to meet with Jesus in a real way before I spoke on His behalf and rallied college students to take up the mission to see their campuses changed with the Gospel. In my heart, I knew this day would be remembered forever… That was 9-15-2011. I relive it often.
It wasn’t long before people started piling into the sanctuary to help set up, sound check, or just hang. Among those people was my wife, who just so happened to get a hold of me and told me she was on her way…
She stood in my office and changed my life forever.
I don’t know what she said to comfort me, by that time hysteria had already set in and things seemed to be in an inescapable haze. I’ll never forget what she said that led to it…
Chijioke’s dead. They shot him in the head. I’m so sorry…
My little brother—21 years old—was murdered 9-14-2011, around the same time we were praying for him as a community. A more cynical person would call that irony. I’ve learned to call it design.
What I know:
I know that event will undeniably forever be linked to my relationship with Jesus. I already wrestled with the goodness of God (still do). I already wrestled with whether God was for me (still do). And I wrestled with could I trust God with the unknown (still do). I knew that my doubt just got some tremendous ammunition, and in truth I was scared, real scared.
A year later…
I reflected a lot last week as the undesired anniversary neared. In the midst of the myriad of emotions swelling in my heart and soul, here’s what I can say with 100% clarity and certainty: time doesn’t heal or forgive...Jesus does. Time is a tool at best. When you experience a tragedy, everyone (good intentions or not) has advice for you. On this grief journey, I’ve got plenty of it! The phrase I heard repetitively was, “Just know it will get better with time.” I’ve had over 8,760 hours or 365 days worth of time. And yes, things are better, but I would be foolish to thank time for that. Because there was a good chunk of that time spent in bed crying, trying to muster energy to smile for my daughter Serenity, and contemplating how I was going to will myself to lead people when I felt like I couldn’t even lead myself.
What else I know:
I know that part of me wanted to be made whole (only part); the other part didn’t want to come out of this season. Those things made up my will. God couldn't care less about my will at this point, because He stepped in and showed me He never left. God was infinitely more determined to show me peace and purpose than my heart was. Left to my heart and time, I don’t know where I would be. But God intervened and has used this time to mold my heart and posture into surrender.
Why I share this:
Pain is still here, but God’s presence is as well. Questions still abound, but God’s purpose soothes my anxiety. Apathy towards his murderers fluctuates; the Gospel wont let me be okay with that (continue to pray for me). But I share this because as I prayed and reflected last week, of the many conclusions and thoughts I had, one stood out. God, in His mercy, has seen fit to reveal to me the true extent of this phrase: my effectiveness is inseparable from my intimacy. People have said I was gifted, and my flesh has used that to rely on itself more times than I know...heck, I thought I was going to release a music album! (But I can’t even write anymore without crying, this time included.) NO MATTER HOW GIFTED YOU ARE OR ARE NOT, your heart is inclined towards idolatry and it’s deceitfulness! I would always say I want to change the world (still do and forever will), but somewhere on the journey, world change became the endgame whether I said it or not. Difference isn’t the endgame, and it’s a terrible god. The endgame is Jesus and people engaging in intimacy with Him. Before I start rambling, let me sign off saying over this last year my journey got a whole lot more interesting, but all of it is so that Philippians 3:10 is made real…”that I may know Him…”
Time, life, fill in the blank are all tools in the hand of a gracious God who wants me to know Him more than I do, so NOTHING is off-limits.