Saturday, April 7, 2012

Victory Is Sure

It's a bit blurry to me now, Wednesday night, but some things still stand out distinctly.

First there was silly dinnertime conversation. The usual things, of course, because it was just a Wednesday. There was something in there about races and fashions and hipsters, of course, because...just a Wednesday. Anticipation and boredom and innocuous things--Wednesday.

And then, very suddenly, it wasn't.

It started with a text, one that made the first to see it gasp and cover her mouth. She passed it to her friend as a hush fell over the table. Nobody dared speak. Somehow...somehow we all knew not to. Somehow we recognized the wrongness. The rip in the fabric of the world. The next words sealed it.

"Josh Larkin just died."

Things continue to blur from there. I remember us praying together and I remember looking up when it was done, and seeing a cafeteria full of people who didn't know yet...wondering how long their laughs would last.

Not long, it turned out.

In the space of an hour the news had covered campus. Everything planned for the night was cancelled. Smiles crumbled beneath the weight of knowing. Hollow-eyed students wandered aimlessly on the streets and sidewalks of Taylor University as everyone wondered a very old question.


At 10 p.m. that night we piled into the chapel to remember, to sing and pray. To gather next to each other, to share our hurts.

Perhaps...perhaps to begin to heal.

I didn't know Josh Larkin--not personally. I'd never spoken to him. I'd seen him, for Josh Larkin was a presence on campus. He had led worship before the entire student body with natural and infectious passion. He'd written opinionated articles in Taylor's newspaper. Even if you didn't know his name, you knew his face, or (more notably) his hair or (most recognizably) his big, big smile.

A friend of mine once mused that "you expect everyone to get a full story." Our natural expectation is that every born human deserves a real storyline, one with confrontation and growth and climax. To an extent, I think that we closet romantics believe that all lives operate like stories, and that Death doesn't come to us until our story has reached a natural conclusion--that, in fact, old Azrael waits for the most dramatic moment to take us away from the world.

This thought, apparently, is wrong.

Death does not abide by the Rule of Drama. Death is not fair, or kind, or right; it is not merciful or gracious. Death is the enemy. Death is wrong. Death should not happen.

But it does.

A life like Josh Larkin's didn't deserve to be cut short. Josh Larkin was meant for great things; he breathed passion, he exuded joy. Josh Larkin mattered.

And yet.

While we're reeling, while we're dizzy from the loss and the abrupt, senseless absence--that gaping hole where there used to be another human being whom we acknowledged, even admired, regardless of whether we knew him--hope prevails.

Josh Larkin's life does not end here.

Josh Larkin's story is not over, because we are not measured by how long we live. Death is not our final end.

Even in the midst of senseless, stupid, achingly real tragedy, hope marches on.

Josh Larkin is gone from us, for now, but don't you dare believe his time meant nothing.

As long as we who knew him remember, Josh lives on; and as long as we who know Christ persevere, we know in full confidence that we shall see him again.

O, soul, faint not. Our battle is not over, but our victory is sure.

For the last enemy to be destroyed is Death.