I find it hard to write about my friend Ray. His sudden death at 52 last week rocked my soul. Other friends my age who have passed away died from cancer; you had weeks to prepare. Ray was walking through the church office two hours before he died.
Ray had a way of filling space with positivity. His response to the question, “How are you?” was always the same: “It’s the best day of my entire life.” No matter how many times you heard it, you had to smile.
Ray was a servant extraordinaire. If a need stirred his heart, he jumped in with both feet. Feed 1000 people for VBS? Sure. Lead a mission team to New York City? Tell me when. Teach a group on his second Sunday at ADBC because the teacher was in an accident? No problem. Talk to the awkward teenage male? Done.
Ray did have a clear idea of how things ought to be done. It was only half a joke when he said, “There’s the right way, the wrong way, and the Ray way.” This meant he could be stubborn and bullheaded. Behind his hardheadedness there was a heart of compassion that longed for people to connect to each other and to God.
He a vision and energy to make it reality. Let’s take that hill. Let’s get this project done. He loved to dream big for God’s Kingdom. As I said at his funeral, if I ever had to charge the gates of hell with a squirt gun, I would want Ray High beside me.
Ray was a 3 AM friend to me. He respected me as his pastor, but he also valued me as his friend. I thank God for putting Ray in my life.
Over the past week, I’ve had strange flashbacks of my father’s death, which was before my memory took shape. “This,” I thought, “must be what it was like when Daddy died.” Shock. Why? What can we do? A crowded church, with every man thinking “It could have been me.”
I do not pretend to know why people die before their time, but I have wrestled with that question my entire life. In fitful prayers I’ve given God one hundred reasons why Ray should not have died; but God has not reversed time. Ultimately, I believe God does not always offer us answers to “why.” Maybe our heads would explode if we knew. But I believe God offers us Himself. We trust Him when we do not know.
This is true faith, not just faith born in a moment of emotion. True faith is trusting God is good when there is hurt in your heart. True faith is extending your heart for God to lead you even when you do not have the answers you want.
In this time of grief, I choose to trust. I believe my God is for me, for us. The pain of today does not overshadow the grace of eternity. It is that eternal grace that Ray embraced – and made February 15, 2017, the day he saw Jesus, the best day of his entire life.