Today marks seven years since the passing of my youth minister, John Austin Smith. It’s a bittersweet day for those of us who knew him, because the memories of joy, deep conversation and massive bear hugs associated with him are in stark contrast to the feelings of sadness that comes from missing our dear friend. I suppose as always the best place to find peace is in the comfort of knowing that he is in the full presence of our Lord, whom he served so openly, and with complete abandon.
When people ask why I got into youth ministry, I often joke that its part of a penance program for what I did to my old youth minister. The truth is, John called all of us into ministry in different ways. He serves as a constant reminder of what it looks like when we completely give our hearts over to Christ, and look for ways to constantly and creatively love our neighbors in a powerful way.
Today, that’s what I’m missing most about John Austin, I miss deep conversations about things that matter to the soul. I miss hearing him laugh, and I miss the way that he would articulate Godly wisdom in a way that provide the push that we needed to hear.
I wish that my current youth ministry could meet him, and hear his crazy stories. I wish that the young man at our church who is named after John Austin could meet the man behind the stories. I wish that he could have met my wife, and bless her with the kind words I grew up with. As with so many of our fallen friends, I wish that we could have that one more conversation.
So tonight, a group of us will gather in his honor. We’ll catch up, share stories, pictures and jokes from back in the day. We’ll spend most of our time laughing, and enjoying being in the presence of friends, because that’s how we want to remember our John Austin Smith. My prayer is that we also search our hearts for the presence of Christ, and fully embrace living from that place where he lived, in a way that he lived, and for whom he lived.
One love, one heart.