Can we ever be prepared for losing someone we love? No matter how long in advance we know that it’s coming, expectation never diminishes its sting. On Monday, we lost a dear, dear friend to cancer. He was the dad of my best friend, and like a second dad to me. He was our mentor in worship leading and a teacher in life and parenting. Above all, he was an incredible example to us.
As I thought about Evan, I wanted to write down all that he taught and helped to teach me as I grew up, by words and by actions. I was shy as a kid. So shy, in fact, that I used to whisper into Amy’s ear and have her say out loud the things I needed to say to her parents. It was too much for me to even ask for a glass of water. But just because I didn’t actually talk to Evan for the first, oh, 12 years of my life doesn’t mean I didn’t glean from him. On the contrary, as I thought of everything I could say, it became more than I could possibly fit into a blog post.
So, here are just a few of the beautiful things Evan’s life and relationship with Jesus taught me:
We will struggle, but God is still good. This one is so fresh on my mind that I tear thinking about it. I don’t know if he tried to do this, but Evan’s life and actions spoke this over and over throughout his battle with cancer. God didn’t keep him from getting cancer, but His goodness carried him through it. Evan consistently pointed to the cross – no, there was not an explanation for why he got sick, but that wasn’t the point. The point was Jesus came to save us from sin so we could have relationship with Him. That is goodness. That is our focus. Jesus showed His goodness and mercy to us on the cross, and He showed it to Evan every day of his struggle, even in the day He took him home.
The act of worship is worth it. Evan loved and mentored me through so many stages of worship leading, from the shy to the proud to the self righteous to the (continual process of being) humble. I remember so clearly one Sunday morning practice when he was still the volunteer worship pastor and he was working a full time job, he said, “I am so thankful for the opportunity to lead worship. God knows I need it too.” It showed me a new perspective on worship: the wear and tear of the week isn’t worth losing the opportunity to come before The Lord with full abandon and praise Him for what He has done. We are more fulfilled in declaring His glory than in being too tired, distracted, or grumpy to enter fully into His presence. Being worship leaders wasn’t about sounding good or having everything together. It was about being the welcome mat for the church to the throne room of God. It was about holding the door open for others to enter in.
When the going gets tough, laugh. Evan was cracking jokes up until the day he went home. I can’t even count the number of memories that I have of him laughing so hard he couldn’t talk. More than half of my childhood memories of him involve us all at the dinner table laughing so hard we were crying. And one of my favorites is when our church was undergoing a transition to a new pastor and there was stress over people complaining about sound levels, Evan and Davy decided to stop practice one day and ran down the church aisles like monkeys. Complete with monkey sounds. I think we all collapsed from laughter.
Godly men highly esteem their wives. I’ve watched Evan and Jill my whole life. Believe me when I say this, I only ever remember Evan honoring Jill with his words and actions. Evan encouraged, loved, and valued Jill publicly. In our society, examples like that are ones we should cling to.
Children and parenting are one of God’s best gifts. I’ll never forget watching from across the sanctuary as big Pastor Evan knelt down on the ground with the biggest wide open arms as a little girl without a daddy at home ran full speed into his bear hug. The joy on both of their faces was incomparable. We took a parenting class from Evan and Jill one summer, and again, the joy on his face as he recounted story after story after story of his children growing up – of how he bonded with and cultivated relationship with each one individually – was inspiring. He laughed as he shared about the games he would play after work, when he was so tired but wanted to engage his energetic kids. About the conversation topics he would bring up over the dinner table, and how sometimes he would start laughing for no reason, just to see how long he could keep his family laughing with him. He shared how he and Jill cultivated their children’s hearts for The Lord and prayed for each child. Watching Evan as I grew up and then on the other side as a parent, it’s obvious that he saw children as a joy and never a burden. He treasured them, starting with his own. Even until the last week he was here, he cherished the sound of my own two littles playing (rather loudly) in his living room. He inspired Davy to be fully present with our kids, no matter how tired he is. His parenting example reminds us never to take our kids for granted.
How I could go on! My heart is full of memories. I hurt with and for Jill, Amy, Dustin, and Kaitlin. But I rejoice knowing the Evan is now free. And I rejoice to think of that moment, when Jesus finally took his hand to walk him through the door to eternity, when they finally saw each other face to face. Oh, what great laughter there must have been, as two old friends beginning the most joyful and long-awaited reunion!