Yesterday I reviewed Miroslav Volf’s book “Allah: A Christian Response”. My friend Tommy was the first to tell me that Volf was planning a book on Allah. He’d heard crazy tales of Volf going “liberal” from other Christian students on his campus in Virginia. We agreed to read the book and discuss it when he came home in the summer.
Tommy died tragically in March. The pain of his passing is such that even having to write out his name brings me to tears. He loved God and he loved people. It’s an awful thing that some of the worst pain we feel in grief is for the things we actually never had. I knew Tommy since he was 12. I couldn’t wait for him to grow up so that we could go get a pint and discuss Miroslav Volf books and plan ministry. In the last months he had been considering whether God was calling him to follow his uncle’s path and spend his life in the Middle East.
The idea had the incongruity of God’s Kingdom written all over it.
The son of a global executive who left business behind to become a missionary. A tall, strapping white American Protestant with a “IV” at the end of his name and a charming, easy maturity; everything about him would have spelled privilege to those he met. But he was raised in a family where privilege was demoted by service. And so his focus was on the margins of the world. I have heard his peers comment often that he was the kind of guy they could imagine becoming hugely successful in politics. His potential may have been for power but his intention was for the powerless.
Grief continues to blindside you long after you think you’ve gotten over the worst of it. The stupidest things rupture the fragile dams we erect against it. Which is fitting because at base, death is stupid.
And like a nerdy coward for Jesus, I’ll defer falling utterly to pieces for another day by finding wise counsel among the saints. David Bentley Hart writes:
Yes, certainly, there is nothing, not even suffering or death, that cannot be providentially turned toward God’s good ends. But the New Testament also teaches us that, in another and ultimate sense, suffering and death – considered in themselves – have no true meaning or purpose at all; and this is in a very real sense the most liberating and joyous wisdom that the Gospel imparts.
Your Correspondent, Knows now that everyone can master a grief but he that has it