Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Good Confession - a tribute

A good man passed away this week. And in the midst of it all, I'm making an effort to say that God is good and to mean it, even though right now its not my natural inclination to do so. One, because that's what Ray would've wanted people to say. Two, because I know that's what I'm supposed to say. But mostly, because that's what Ray would've wanted people to say. How do I know? Because that was his good confession all throughout his ordeal. And it was his prerogative to have it that way. Besides, it was primarily his suffering, it was his cross to carry. It was his to bless and it was his to curse. I fumble over my words sometimes when I try to explain to others how he faithfully endured his suffering and remained true through it all. Nothing I say seems to fully convey what he was like. He was a walking miracle. The way he steadfastly testified to the goodness of God and how he worshipped ceaselessly in his suffering was simply unnatural. He would often open up the weekly prayer meetings at his home with a sweet psalm of praise to the Lord, and it was clear that it was coming directly from just an overflowing heart. Every time he opened his mouth to speak, a quiet hush would come over my soul as if to say, "watch and listen, and be amazed." And I was, every time. Nothing he said was trite, or generic, or disingenuous. He couldn't be. He was dying. The one certainty you can have with a man facing death is that he'll only say what he means, because he has no reason to say otherwise. Through the fire of his convictions, he brought back life to words that often times seem to me like empty phrases and worthless platitudes. Bless the Lord. Trust in Him. God is good. He purified these words through his suffering and returned to them the rich meaning and life it was meant to have when it was first breathed. He had the right to speak them because it was without hypocrisy. And so he had the right to be heard.

The good confession of a dying man demands a response. Even the most rebellious of souls cannot ignore it. It blew my mind. How could he be saying these things? How could he be praising the same God who was allowing his affliction with such ease? And what would my confession be if I were in his place? Its somewhat of a bewildering mystery to me and it challenges the sincerity of my own faith. And it will continue to do so until I can pass the same test that Ray endured.

Ray is alive and well. I am not deceived. His body has died, but he is more alive today than any of us could hope to be in this life, in a way that is more immaculate and joyous than we could ever imagine. Our most celebrated times of worship, our deepest moments of intimacy, our most joyful times of fellowship with God and man, are feeble attempts at what Ray is experiencing in fullness. He was already giving us a preview of what was to come for him, and for us one day. By his jubilant laughter and his unrelenting worship, even in his suffering and pain, Ray showed us what the kingdom of heaven is like. Ray brought a little of that kingdom to us on this earth and now he is experiencing it without measure, jealous for us all.

What is Ray's legacy? I can't speak to the whole of that because I’ve known him for only a few years, except to convey the impact he had on me. Had he lived, as we were hoping against all hope, my faith, no doubt, would have been renewed to a whole new level. But his death left an everlasting impression. It was like a crowning seal on everything he said, everything he confessed, and everything he taught me about suffering and who God could be for you in affliction. His passing shifted my sights to the eternal, and it made the temporal seem shamefully small. His final confession, one which was made both as a single, final breath and a culmination of all his acts of faithfulness, one which was made in silence but speaks an eternally better word, the one that ultimately gained primacy, was that God is good, not just now in the land of the living, but forever and ever.


At September 13, 2006 6:12 AM , Blogger Arielle said...


At September 19, 2006 9:26 AM , Blogger Burly said...


At September 25, 2006 5:19 PM , Blogger Katharine said...

David, you have captured the essence of Ray and Carol's incredible lives. Praying for them has been a priceless gift. How often I have wondered what it would be like to talk to Jesus when He was living in places like Nazareth and Bethsaida. Ray beckoned us into Jesus' presence in Siler City, of all places. It was real, not hype. I was trembling one night as we prayed; Ray had ushered us into the living room of an awesome God who did not fit into my neat little box of preconceived ideas. I had expected to go there with something to offer a dying man. Instead, I found a couple who were sitting with our Lord, soaking in His love, and freely pouring it out upon all of us who came. Jesus' presence was overwhelming. In the midst of his suffering, Ray comforted and encouraged all of us. What a gift to enter Ray and Carol's home, to see their love for each other, and most of all, to meet Jesus, their friend and lover. We were all changed because we spent time with Jesus and His dearest friends. I know that Jesus was overjoyed as we visited, experienced more of him, and delighted in His love for Ray and Carol. What a gift.


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