Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Life Well Lived

When I opened my blogger dashboard on Friday night, I recieved an unpleasant surprise. There seemed to be a theme among many of the blogs I follow- there were at least three posts, all from different people, about one young man. One man, and how his life impacted them.

That young man's name was Joshua Eddy. He was a nineteen year old, on fire for God and in love with life. But on May 5, one misstep proved fatal and the river became his coffin.

Now, his family and friends grieve. They pray. They question. But even with the tears comes joy...for Josh ministered to thousands more people after his death than I'm sure he could ever have imagined.


I never met Josh Eddy. I came into the league one year after he left and never heard his name until Friday night. But Josh's testimony has touched me in a way that nothing else of yet has.

In the middle of April, Josh wrote a blog post entitled, "To die well..." There, he documented for the eyes of his 60-some followers thoughts that were going through his head in the early morning hours. They were thoughts about death.

"But now, having grown beyond childish fantasy and realized the reality of my duty as a man… the thought of giving my life for something… what would it be? A day rarely passes that I don’t think about it.

Will I die in an explosion saving a woman and her child from a car engulfed in flames? Will I throw myself in front of a truck to save a child playing in the street? Will I die protecting my family from an intruder in my home? Will I take a bullet to the head while standing between a sick thug and the woman he intended to rape? Will I give away the last parachute or life ring? The last piece of bread? The last ounce of water? Will I freeze to death having given away my last piece of warm clothing?

Will I sing songs of praise as I am burned alive for refusing to deny the One who endured far worse for me…….?

Do these questions scare me? No. I would give anything to die like that… To die so that someone else might live… the thought shakes me and sends tears streaming down my face. But more than that, so much more than that, I want to die a martyr. To die for the overwhelming love of Christ, and the honor of bearing His Name and image; to be counted “among whom the world was not worthy”… I can’t even imagine… That would be dying well."
Josh, you did die well- you set an example for us not only through your life but also through your death. You didn't die exactly how you hoped you would. You died doing what you loved- capturing life through the lens of a camera.
But your death had an even bigger effect on those around you than did your life, if that's possible. You did die so that others might live- so that we could see what a good and holy death is. So that we could experience the grief of a role model gone, and grow closer to God through the pain. So that we could muse on how we want our deaths to be...and arrive at the realization that to have a holy death, we must live a holy life.
Your blog, The Bright and Hopeful Unknown, went up 7 thousand views in 2 days after your death. Hundreds of those visiting probably never knew you, like me. But you ministered to them too. You were a role model for us through your life and also through your death.
You're the first. Over the years, there will be more tragedies, more people we know and love who will leave our lives forever. There will be more tears, more grief, more stories that end far before they should have.
But we're learning. I'm learning. Learning how to say, "The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord." We're all asking why. "Why did you take him just when his life was starting to begin? Why didn't you let him stay here, let us learn from him longer?"
We begin to cry the words that Louisa May Alcott wrote in Little Women, "The good and dear ones always die."
And it's true.
But maybe it's because God has smiled on them and said, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the eternal happiness of Heaven!"
We don't always like God's timing. We think we know better. I wish that I'd been able to meet Josh Eddy in person...but I might never have known about him if not for his tragic, young death.  Those 7 thousand viewers on his blog may never have known him if he hadn't died.
Thank you, Josh, for being a shining example of a holy death through living well. Your passion for life and bravery until the end is an inspiration that only God could have planned.

"To surrender a precious dream is a fearful thing, but to pursue anything but the full measure of the glory of God’s love is a wasted life." ~Joshua Eddy

Friday, May 25, 2012

An Ordinary Sanity

Over the past year, I've developed something of a passion for GK Chesterton, who could very well be the most significant writer of the 20th century. I have a section of my library dedicated to him, which although small now, I am actively trying to increase. Interestingly-and sadly-enough, for all of his amazing works (The Man Who Was Thursday, The Ball and the Cross...), Chesterton has been called the "master without a masterpiece."

I have to say, I really think that's a misguided perception of Chesterton. First off, you could debate that Chesterton never really had a masterpiece, but it could totally be argued logically on either side. And secondly, if you're looking for a masterpiece, you're going to miss the richness of Chesterton's work. You're just going to keep looking for the best, the grandest of his achievements.

But that's not really what this blog post is supposed to be about. What it's really supposed to be about is what I - and many, many others- believe Chesterton's magnum opus to be. That is, Orthodoxy. Oh yes, the title may seem harsh and uninviting. But all you have to do is open the book to the first page and you're already engrossed.

There's so much to say about this book that it's not going to all fit into one post. To be perfectly honest, I'm probably going to be posting about sections of Orthodoxy for a long time. But this post is on just one part of the book...that of sanity and lack thereof.

I've never really thought much about insane people- it's not exactly a thought that pops into my mind all that often. =P But apparently, Chesterton thought about it a whole bunch, seeing as he has a whole chapter dedicated to it. And there, he makes a really insightful point.

"The man who begins to think without the proper first principles goes mad; he begins to think at the wrong end. And for the rest of these pages we have to try and discover what is the right end. But we may ask in conclusion, if this be what drives men mad, what is it that keeps them sane...For this moment it is possible in the same solely practical manner to give a general answer touching what in actual human history keeps men sane.

Mysticism keeps men sane. As long as you have mystery you have health; when you destroy mystery you created morbidity. The ordinary man has always been sane because the ordinary man has always been a mystic. He has permitted the twilight. He has always had one foot in earth and the other in fairyland. He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but (unlike the agnostic of today) free also to believe in them."

Mystery isn't often regarded as an aid to sanity. Actually, it's thought of as quite the opposite. After all, when I first think of mystery, a crime searching for criminal and thereby justice comes to mind. A mad search for the wanted.

But what I think Chesterton is trying to say is that human intellect desires, needs, mystery. When you think you have all the answers, you start to become your own god. And while we're on the subject  of gods, there's one sentence in that quote that really leapt out at me. "He has always left himself free to doubt his gods; but free also to believe in them."

There comes a time in every person's life where they begin to doubt God. Maybe it's after a tragedy, maybe it's because they think they have it all figured out. Regardless, that period of doubting God and his soverignty will come. And I think it's ordinary, healthy, and can be strengthening...as long as you don't let it end there. Doubt is not an end-it's just a step along the path.

When doubt comes, the rational and responsible person will want to find answers. They'll want to analyze and find out if this God whom they have worshipped all their lives is really true. And as they do that, they'll move along their path of doubt and eventually a realization, a change will come.

It might be easy and soft. It may be as loud as thunder. But the realization will come that somewhere along the line, that doubt disappeared and was replaced instead with a childlike trust. A trust that invites the real, ordinary, sane man to search deeper for the Truth. And maybe that will turn into what it did for Chesterton the man.

Not Chesterton the writer. Not Chesterton the playwright. Not Chesterton the poet. Chesterton the man.

Maybe it will turn into what it did for him- namely, orthodoxy.

"This is the thrilling romance of orthodoxy. People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There was never anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy. It was sanity- and to be sane is more dramatic than to be mad."
~GK Chesterton