I didn't know Steve very well. He was the guy who use to bring my brother home on weekends from Bible College. His home was a small city about forty-five kilometres north of us. He had stopped in a couple times, when he came to pick up my brother. He seemed like a nice guy. Steve loved the original Star Trek which put him in my good books immediately. He was finishing Bible College just as I was beginning.
I never had a conversation with Steve about his dreams and aspirations. He was at Bible College and I always thought that he was there because he had a desire to live for God and to proclaim the gospel to some part of the world. I don't know if he was contemplating pastoral ministry. I think, but I don't remember for sure, that he graduated with a Bachelors of Religious Education.
He was a nominal connection, so I let that relationship slip away.
That is where our road divides. It was in the days before social media. So, if you wanted to remain connected it had to be intentionally. He was a nominal connection, so I let that relationship slip away.
With the onset of social media. I received a Facebook friend request from Steve. I had to go deep in to the vault of my memories to recall him. It had been almost 30 years since my last interaction with him. I even wondered if maybe the request had been intended for my brother. But I'm not choosy or selective and I knew who it was, so I accepted. People have differing philosophies about friends on social media. If I know you or if we have a friend in common, I generally think that you are a friend of mine.
He was new to Facebook and his posts were gut-wrenchingly honest.
Steve posted on January 29, 2013
“Good I was a little lonesome at verse and over the past 7 years I have had terminal cirrohsis of the liver and spleen and in need of a transplant which has been put off since i could not maintain sobriety for eve six months too get on the transplant list but since i have been clean and sober for 3 months I feel pretty good despite i have been thru and all i have been thru. I was suppose too die in 3 too 6 mos but “I AM STILL HERE” AND HAVE RENEWED MY COMMITTMENT TOO GOD AND JESUS CHRIST AND HIS HOLY SPIRIT. Spiritually WOWed.”
Later the same day he posted this:
“Good I am at Southridge Community Church's shelter in St.Catharines. Ont as I was discharged from Wayside House over two weeks for being late by minutes and seconds too one check-in, one exercise period and one in house committee meeting bu i now like it better at the shelter and have seen God use me again in a differant setting too help lead others too Jesus. Really Cool.”
Two things struck me as I read these posts. First, is that Steve's life had tanked since he had left college. His marriage had failed. He was a recovering alcoholic, he had been kicked out of a men's shelter and was living in another. He was very sick.
The second was that he had come back to faith. God was doing something in his life.
Fast-forward to 2018.
Facebook reminds you when it is someones birthday and it let me know in my notifications that it was Steve's birthday. I hadn't seen any post or activity from Steve on Facebook. I was about to type in a generic birthday message, when I felt led to click on his wall. There was nothing of significance there, another friend from Bible College had posted, “Happy Birthday Buddy!” But beyond that pretty much silence. A scattering of birthday messages spread over five years. I began to think that maybe something was wrong. I went on google and typed his name and reluctantly included the word “Obituary” in the search. My heart sank as the search very quickly revealed that Steve had passed away in October of 2013 at the age of 53. He is survived by four children and two grandchildren.
I paused for a moment and reflected. He had been a young man, just like me going off to Bible College, head in the clouds, full of passion and visions of changing the world. Yet, his journey seemed to be crooked, twisted, and full of turmoil. Promise that turned into addictions. Potential dashed in the storms of life.
I am thankful that in his last year of life, he discovered again the grace of God. God seemed to keep him alive so that he could once again know His power and healing. God had “Wowed” him and to quote Psalm 40 “lifted him out of the pit”. I don't know why God didn't continue to restore Steve, so that others could know of God's great work in his life. Maybe in God's mercy, He took Steve home to remove him from the things and temptations that had reeked so much havoc in his life.
I am deeply grieved in my heart. I am not sure why. He was a fringe person in my life. One of the many people who come and go on this journey. I am reminded of how many people's time lines have crossed with mine. These threads intersect like a giant spider's web in my life. Many times, like Steve's, for a brief period of time and then they are gone. I wonder if maybe in this busy world, I let these connections break too easily. God purposed these moments and junctures. Maybe I should live life more fully aware and conscious of these opportunities. It was Henry David Thoreau who said that most people' “Lead lives of quiet desperation.” It sounds like Steve did and for whatever reason, I didn't see it. Maybe that it is why Jesus told us to have “eyes to see and ears to hear what the Spirit is saying.” The people who cross my path are not just random happenings, they are God-ordained opportunities. God help me to see them and to seize these moments.
The people who cross my path are not just random happenings, they are God-ordained opportunities.
I posted Steve's obituary on his wall on Facebook. I felt it was like a book that had been left open and needed to be closed. Like when you see in a movie when someone dies in their arms and they gently close their eyes. The final act of closure.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” John 5:24
Till we meet again Steve.