I went to the funeral of an old friend today. A much too young friend, actually.
I did not know Devin in recent years. Honestly, the last time I talked with him was at his high school graduation in 2006. I think I said something appropriate and polite like “Congratulations” and “It’s been a long time… so good to see you.” I think he said something that made me laugh. Not unusual. :)
I met Devin when he was a month shy of his twelfth birthday. It was the very first year we did Backyard Bible Clubs at Greenleaf. I was 14 and I remember being initially frustrated that Devin and my brother (also 11) were allowed to participate. They’re just kids, right? How could they be involved in children’s ministry? How ridiculous… we’re going to have to babysit them all week long. Over the course of that week, my perspective changed. By the second day, Devin had gained the respect…and laughter…of everyone in the group. He had unbelievable wit. I’ve never met another kid who was so fast on his feet. My favorite story from that week was a moment when Devin was pretending to cram an entire piece of chocolate cake into his mouth and Christy snapped a picture of it. “We’re going to show that to your fiancee someday before she walks down the aisle. We’ll ask her, ‘do you really want to marry this guy?'” Without missing a beat, Devin replied, “What if I marry you?”
But Devin also had a spiritual maturity even at such a young age. I remember standing outside a house with him, praying for the kids inside before we went to the door to invite them to the club.
Several years later, Devin reached out to a young boy in my neighborhood. Eli was extremely withdrawn. His parents were divorcing and his life was very unstable. He wouldn’t come to the Bible club at first and when he did he wouldn’t talk to anyone… except Devin. Eli thought he was the coolest guy on earth.
I’m sure everyone who knew Devin at all has stories like these and many more. I heard some of them today at his funeral… and it made me glad that I knew Devin, even if it was only a little and for a little while.
Devin knew pain and heartache as well as laughter. Devin also knew Jesus and that gave him strength. Stephanie quoted him today, so beautifully, saying, “trust in God, and keep breathing.”
I cried when I heard about Devin’s death and I cried today. Not for him (I know he’s celebrating with all of heaven right now), but for his family and his beautiful girlfriend and everyone who loved him. Devin, you are and will be so missed.
I thought about all the friends who have walked in and out of my life. Every human being who crosses our paths changes us in some way…adds richness to our lives. Some add laughter and some make us think. Some hold us close and show us what love means. Some inspire us and some teach us and some point us to God.
I think of the famous quote from “Our Town” when Emily says, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?”
Do any of us human beings realize other human beings while we live with them? Do we understand the gift we have been given every time we meet someone else bearing the image of God? Every handshake, hug, word, tear, laugh… means so much more than we know.
“Our Town” was never my favorite play, structurally… but the words…wow.
“We all know that something is eternal. And it ain’t houses and it ain’t names, and it ain’t earth, and it ain’t even the stars . . . everybody knows in their bones that something is eternal, and that something has to do with human beings. All the greatest people ever lived have been telling us that for five thousand years and yet you’d be surprised how people are always losing hold of it. There’s something way down deep that’s eternal about every human being.”
Devin knew this. I’m starting to learn it.
It makes me want to call up old friends and hug my family a little tighter. I want to laugh a little louder and longer. And I want to love people much, much better.
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.”