A raw tribute.
A heartfelt “thank you”.
And a declaration of the person I still choose to be. I think one of the hardest things we as humans have to go through at some point in life, is to lose someone we are close to. To get a call one day and realize that just about everything you shared with that person is gone. That life has slipped away, sometimes all too suddenly. One moment they were here, the next… gone. No more chances.
I guess I never really quite understood what Jeremy Camp said in his song, “I Believe”, about scattered words and empty thoughts. That’s something you really only discover after losing someone. At first there’s shock. Then you’re okay, then you realize they’re not coming back.
On March 30th, I lost one of my best friends, Alex Romanov. I suppose I shouldn’t say “lost”. I know where he is. And I know I’ll see him again. But there are still times when I think about him and can’t believe he won’t pick up the phone if I call him. No more late night chats over IM, no more of him pushing me further in my walk with God. He won’t be there to tell me “You can do it”, when I feel discouraged. Who’s going to continually beat me in checkers, now? He was a young man with more passion and fire for God than I have seen in a lot of people even thrice his age. He had a passion for helping youth and a hunger for God.
I met him when I was 13; he was 14 – and I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be the same person I am today, if I hadn’t. God used him to teach me so much and make me grow.
About a year ago he got cancer for the second time, but he believed until the end that God would heal him. Though he struggled with understanding why it happened, he didn’t complain. He listened to everyone else and encouraged them even when he was in pain.
I miss him a lot. At the same time though I know all of this wasn’t in vain. I still believe and hold onto God and trust there’s a plan even in all this.
Alex was a spark that started a wildfire… until the end, his faith stood firm. It’s not that he was perfect, but he knew the One who is. Alex’s dedication and love for Jesus has given a lot of us a wakeup call, even in his death. The youth in his church united for one of the first times since he died, after being divided for so long. People who were timid followers are stepping out and becoming leaders. The pain is still raw, but in so many ways we know what we have to do now. Keep fighting the good fight.
I can’t bring Alex back, though God knows I would if I could. But, somehow this was all a part of His plan. God taught so many people so much through Alex’s life but, just because his story is over on earth, it’s not over for us. We all move on changed and strengthened. People who only spoke to him a handful of times tell me how much he influenced them and I know what they mean.
He would have gone on to do amazing things for God. He wanted to go to Yale, be an evangelist. He was even getting his license to be a pastor. But God had other plans. Maybe He sees how it would take something like this to shake us all awake, to realize that life is a gift, that we haven’t got “all the time in the world” - that could be taken from us in a split second. Maybe through this we’ve finally understood the verse in the Bible that talks about our treasure being in Heaven.
There’s nothing in this world, no achievement, no accolade or material item that truly matters in the light of eternity with God. We have nothing of true importance to gain from this life. We can’t take it with us! Alex got a beautiful Mercedes before he died and he was so happy because that’s what he always wanted. He couldn’t take that with him, although I don’t think it mattered much to him, because his treasure was and is Christ.
We have nothing to lose in this life, but eternity. What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul? What good are our lives to anyone or the Kingdom of God, if we live apologetically and never reach out to people with the love of Christ? What does it profit anyone to live a double life and standard, when our every act is going to be brought before God? Who we are on earth decides who we will be in Heaven, but we tend to think we have forever to make it right.
Folks, we don’t have forever.
We may not even have to the end of this day. God knew our names and the days of our lives before He even created the world. When this life is over, it’s over. No more chances. Still so many people live their lives in regret, complacency and intimidation. Why? Because so often we place our hearts on things of this earth. However when your focus is on Heaven, the way you live, the way you talk, everything changes. It’s no longer “I’ll tell them later”, ”I’ll forgive them later” or “I’ll apologize later”. You live with the knowledge that life is so temporary – so fragile and delicate – but my word, what a chance we‘ve been given! To love without fear, to live for the approval of God and not people. To reach out, to witness, to let our light shine before men so they will in turn glorify God!
If we can capture the wonder of what life is and moreover, the wonder of Heaven, everything will change. For those of you who’ve read the Chronicles of Narnia, you know what I’m saying when I say, we live in the shadowlands. This isn’t where the story ends, this life is only the epilogue. Alex’s life is over on earth, but the way he touched us will always be a part of who we are. The hurt is still there, but God is Faithful and day by day He heals.
So what do we do now? Where do we go from here? Well… there’s a phase each of us who has lost someone has to go through, sometimes it can take weeks, sometimes longer. But there’s a moment that comes when we come to the mountain of God. We close our eyes and remember: the laughter, the tears, the times they irritated you to kingdom come and the times where you couldn’t thank God enough for them. And you just stay there awhile. In the Presence of God, in that peace that passes all understanding. Then you smile and remember your loved one’s face one more time, and you say “Goodbye, dear friend”. I don’t know if I’m there yet. But by God’s Grace I know that someday, I will be. I praise God for how far He’s brought me and the people He placed in my life to bring me where I am.
C.S. Lewis once said, that while lovers are always pictured looking at each other, friends are standing side by side, looking forward. I’ve always pictured it as a long road where friends walk together. Push each other forward, keep them from going over the edge, to keep their eyes focused on the Light ahead. Alex was with me for a good portion of that journey. He pushed me, prodded me, sometimes irritated me, but, knew how to apologize so one could endlessly forgive. He always encouraged me and pointed me towards the Savior.
Now my journey with him has come to a close, not because of failure, but because he fulfilled the call God placed on his life to be a friend, encourager, and faithful follower of Jesus.
So I’ll keep going, keep running the race and fighting the good fight, praising God for the people He places in my life to walk with me, but thanking Him still, even when our journey together comes to a close.
With God, nothing is a failure. No life is wasted. He’s still using Alex’s life to reach people, even after he died. God used him to spark something in all of us. A passion and dedication for God, so deep that it won’t be shaken. And for that, I am forever grateful. It’s not goodbye, only goodnight. Joy comes in the morning, because we have a promise that one day there will be no more tears when we’re held in Jesus’ arms.
You know, the other part of that song “I believe” that I mentioned earlier goes on to say, “But it’s now that I feel Your Grace fall like rain, from every fingertip, washing away my pain. Because I still believe in Your Faithfulness. I still believe in Your Truth. I still believe in Your Holy Word. Even when I don’t see… I still believe.”
That is my prayer. God, I still believe. And You are worthy.
To You be all the glory, both in this life and the next.
Pilgrim's Progress: The Celestial City by DouglasRamsey
(featured with permission.)