It’s one of the first questions that comes up in interviews, conversations with old friends, new acquaintances, and random people I come across. However, it is noticeably absent from conversations with former youth group members. People that knew John have an unspoken understanding about the impact that he made on their lives. We tell stories of pranks, having our handwriting analyzed, deep moments of soul-searching conversation, and all of John’s idiosyncrasies, but we tend to fall short on words to describe exactly how much he impacted us. Understanding John’s love for us ends up being communicated through smiles and head-nods. Grins and chuckles. My best efforts have produced statements like, “I know exactly what you mean.”
This week has brought about a vast depth, and array of emotions that I am just now starting to process. At my very core I am jealous of John as I think of him in heaven with our Lord. I think of his ‘surprised’ face as he looks around and realizes that he did not wake up here, but in the beauty of being in God’s presence. Jealousy moves to excitement as I think about the day where we meet again and I hear the expression, “ I was JUST thinking about you” again. That joy turns to concern over conversations with friends who are struggling with their faith, and turns back again after a phone call from someone living out their faith. Frustration sets in every once in a while, because so many of us talked to John about his health. That frustration humbly changes to appreciation because John was so focused on being a servant. He truly embodied a life of putting others first, and I was one of those people. Which leads me to the final emotion, the one I choose to rest on, which is love. I know that John loved me. John loved all of us.
There has been a lot of talk this week about the legacy that John leaves behind. I’ve heard people talk about all kinds of tributes to John ranging from memorial tattoos to scholarships. While we each mourn and remember in our own way, I think the most fitting tribute to John is to honor what he so firmly believed in. Our tribute to John is to have a relationship with God that allows us to love others the way that He does.
In the mean time, I look forward to those conversations that include, “So why did you become a youth minister?” And I can smile and give my typical response, “Let me tell you about my youth minister.”