It's altogether too uncommon a thing to meet a follower of Christ who truly, truly gets it, you know?
Someone who truly understands that it has always been and will always be about love.
When we moved here two and a half years ago, we decided at the last minute to take a Financial Peace University class at one of the Baptist churches in town. The class leaders, Mark and Becky, made us feel welcome and wanted from the start. Those were hard days for us. We felt so lost and lonely. They invited us in.
We joined that church, and Mark and Becky always greeted us with hugs and smiles. Eventually, Kyle and I served alongside them in Sunday School leadership, and our friendship with them continued to grow.
In a community where literally almost every single one of our friends has either parents or in-laws or grandparents in town, we couldn't help but to feel a little unanchored. Mark and Becky kind of adopted us and the girls, loving on us, feeding us, checking on us all the time. It's hard to receive love that like when you aren't used to it, aren't used to needing it. I'm sure at times we were a little stand-off-ish, but they never relented in pursuing us.
Life had dealt some heartbreaks to each of them. Both were wounded deeply by divorce when they met each other. Somehow, God brought them together and brought them through any lingering pain that might have crippled a second marriage. You've rarely seen two people more in love. Holding hands, arms around each other, "my honey," they were the picture of the warmth and richness and passion and joy that a marriage grounded in the love of Christ should be.
We loved how they practiced hospitality so easily and willingly. Their offered their home to be used for anything and everything. Our girls have spent so much time there that they know exactly where all of the toys for grandchildren and other little ones are hidden away. They both loved people in a way that was completely free of prejudice. I have to believe it was because of the rough spots in the past that they had a particular heart for those who were lonely, hurting, and on the fringe. Love, love, love. That's what they did. They loved Christ and they loved people.
It's because of Mark and Becky that Kyle and I were able to go on the Walk to Emmaus retreat last fall. They both have loved and served in that community for a long time. They stayed after us for more than a year to go on a Walk, and when we finally confided that we just didn't have the money for the registration fee, they quietly and happily paid our way. They sponsored our Emmaus experiences in every sense of the word.
Just yesterday, I was at an Emmaus event. As always, Mark wrapped all of us up in his giant teddy bear hug. He played with the girls and, as always, they basked in the glow of his attention. Later in the evening as I was about to leave to drive home by myself, he grabbed me to hug me again, telling me that he loved me and to drive safely.
This morning, we received the crushing news that Mark was killed in a car accident on his way to work.
It's always a shock, isn't it? There are times when it's expected, and even then it unhinges us. When it's unexpected . . .To have just been touched by someone's warmth, to hear the familiar cadence of voice, to share the same patch of air to breathe, and not even twelve hours later . . . gone.
Kyle has been doing what sensing-thinking types do: he sprang into action, planning to deliver a meal to the family tonight and organizing an hour of prayer for the family tomorrow morning. He's already planning how we as the Body of Christ will minister to Becky in the days to come. I have been doing what intuitive-feeling types do: laying in bed or staring out the window and crying.
I'll still announce the Gadnke winner tomorrow, but then things will probably be quiet for while as we process and grieve. In the meantime, go hug somebody you love.