My heart is so broken right now. Yes, for the loss of my friend, but really for the loss of your friend. You guys should not have to feel this pain. It’s a reminder that all is not right in this world. That sin has ruined everything. My heart breaks when I think of the Jonny-shaped hole that has been left in your group. It’s a hole that no one else will ever be able to fill, and I’m sorry it’s there. It’s not right.
I can only imagine what each of you is thinking and feeling right now, so let’s talk about it for a minute, ok? There are some things I want you to know…
- It’s ok to be sad. It should go without saying, but there will be those who will try to tell you that because Jonny is with Jesus, you should be happy for him, and you should be happy that you’ll see him again. While this is true, in the meantime, go ahead and be sad. It’s ok.
- It’s ok to be angry. Someday soon, you’re going to wake up and you’re going to be really angry. Angry at Jonny for being somewhere he shouldn’t have been. Angry at God for ordaining that particular day in his life, and really, in all of our lives. Anger isn’t a sin. If we’re not careful, it can lead to sin as we saw sometimes in Jonny’s own life, but in and of itself, it’s ok to be angry.
- It’s ok to doubt. Part of growing up in our faith is that flipside of doubt. For some of you, what happened this week will make you doubt God’s love, God’s faithfulness, God’s kindness, God’s care and compassion for you. It’s ok to doubt, but talk about it together. Don’t hold it in and let it fester. “It’s not doubt that’s toxic, it’s unexpressed doubt that’s toxic.” ~ Cari Powell So if you have doubts, talk about them, work them out. It’s ok.
- It’s ok to laugh. This weekend, we’re going to tell our stories, probably around a fire in the Rowley’s back yard. And let’s be honest, with Jonny as the main character, those stories are going to be hilarious! So in the midst of our grief, we’ll laugh, probably a lot, and it will be perfectly ok.
I can’t wait to be with you this weekend. To listen to you, to love on you, to hug you (sorry, Riley, it’s going to happen…), to cry with you. But more than anything, I can’t wait to worship with you. Worship was Jonny’s heartbeat, and it’s going to be awesome! The first time I laid eyes on any of you, that’s exactly what you were doing, and in all the time I’ve known you, it’s what you’ve always done, in spite of some interesting odds.
You guys really are something special. I’ve never seen a group of high school and college “kids” who love Jesus the way you do,
who worship Jesus the way you do, and who love each other the way you do. Seriously, I’m in absolute awe of you.
Josh, JD and Nick, you guys have been the public face of our private grief this week, and I am so proud of you. The maturity and composure you’ve shown, but even more, the way you’ve pointed people to Jesus, is a testimony of the faith you’ve all cultivated together over these last few years. Thank you for doing the hard things, thank you for working out your salvation and for helping the next generation at Bethlehem see what that really looks like.
To the rest of you, the things you’ve written on Facebook this week have been so powerful and beautiful. They reveal your hearts for Jonny, yes, but also for God. Every last one of you has made sure that in honoring your friend, you pointed people straight at the Gospel. Jonny spent the last year of his life doing that – thank you for carrying on his legacy.
So with all of that said, I will see you soon. It’s going to be an incredibly hard weekend, but it’s going to be a weekend none of us will ever forget. There will be Chick-fil-A, and fires, and 4th Meals, and Arizonas and of course, Wiffleball in a stadium I strongly suspect will be rechristened with a new name. It will be hard, but it will be good. Jonny will be honored and Christ will be glorified – exactly the way it should be! Love you all!