For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21

Phoebe sits on the stairs. The tears are literally running down her cheek as she cries. Her breakdown over shoes, while I sit here staring at the blog – wondering how to express my sadness? How is it so easy for her to shed tears?

My youth group would soon be much larger than Chandler. Because of this, though I was a regular attender, my youth minister could never quite remember my name. After eighth grade a new youth minister arrived, and I remember the second week walking down the hall. Joey came up to me and shouted out, “Hey Sean.” I was dumbfounded – in part because I did not even know his name…

It is funny. This moment – beyond all the messages and conversations – sticks in my mind. To be noticed and loved preaches the gospel so effectively.

A mass email brings the news we did not want to hear. The cancer, first in the kidneys, has now spread. They found it in a lung, ribs, backbone, adrenal glands… even the results I expected in my mind, are difficult to explain to the heart. 

Joey was irritated with us. But somehow we had to get Tenny’s jacket down from the roof. So Joey got a ladder. He stood on top and I climbed up his body, then used his hand as the final rungs up to the roof. Easy enough, but the way down proved more difficult. My foot missed his shoulder and like in the movies I grabbed the gutter – only to have it pull away from the building. As I swung out, soon to tumble, I felt Joey grab me. I am not sure how he righted me, but soon enough we were on the ground laughing…

At just the right moment we are saved. A hand reaches out and pulls us up from the fall. Then one day the hand does not arrive. We hope for it, search for it… but only fall.

The email quoted the doctor – words I could already sense. The illness was not curable. So here I sit. Typing. Wondering what should be my be prayer. Wondering why the world does not make sense. 

A few weeks ago I sat across the couch from Joey. Now both pastors, we often talk about my ministry, but this day our conversation pondered possible test results. Already he hinted at what lay ahead and the route he would take. The Sunday before he preached sitting from a stool (while the doctor ordered to rest). He talked about the church plant and the next steps. Soon he was mentoring me and even comforting…

For a moment we glimpse something more. A faith that will not waver. One that is not hindered by future concerns, only focused on the mission at hand. It is an example of Philippians one. To die is gain? In the life centered on mission we see the words are true.

 As I type a beautiful truth does not make the situation easier… Right now I would love for you to pray for Joey. For me I would love for our great God to bring a miracle. But I imagine this is not Joey’s prayer. He would rather see you driven on mission. That we will learn to love the least of this world. That we will reach out to grab them up into salvation. So that we too may prove the truth “to die is gain”.  

But I would still like your prayers for a miracle…

3 thoughts on “Gain

  1. Done. Death is always hard….especially when you face the prospect of losing someone you love that helped shape the person you become. I believe that people come and go in our lives for a purpose, and sometimes their leaving teaches us the most. It’s all about the love. We love you, Sean.

  2. Beautifully written, Sean. Praying for your entire family and Joey’s as well. He has touched so many lives.

  3. Thanks Linda and Tamara. You are right – the impact of loving relationships makes life beautiful. And also difficult. I value your prayers. Even more so, I am glad you are raising up Joey and his family.

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