If the moving process from Louisville to Peoria has been anything, it’s been chaotic and unpredictable. It’s been everything you didn’t expect, at just about every turn, to the point where we began to expect things to go wrong. In the end things have worked out, but not without a giant heaping portion of angst at every stop before reaching our destination.
Put house on market, under contract in seven days. Meanwhile, desperately look for housing in Illinois, live in tent away from family for three weeks, eat baconators for dinner. Find apartment, take deep breath, put deposit down, two days before move watch fall through. One day prior to move get unexpected house siting, rent house on spot with 24 hours till move. Make the move, only to find gas leak in Louisville home. A thousand dollars later, gas leak fixed. Two days later people’s financing falls through, house back on market. You can’t make this stuff up.
I want to focus on just one scene in that drama, the point where our apartment had fallen through two days prior to the move to Peoria. I called the complex to make one last “are we still good to go” phone call, at which point the lady told me the current tenants had not even packed yet. Crappola. So I broke the news to my wife, who took it well (think devastated). We scavenged for a place on Craigslist, just as we had unsuccessfully for a month and a half, and ended up spotting just one house, maybe it would work.
At that point I was beyond discouraged, but we’d seen so much disappointment already that I just ignored it. One thing got me through that month-long period of crushing lows, and that was the conversation I had with Lauren—you just keep doing the next thing. God will give you strength as you look to Jesus, just keep moving forward.
My own personal way of dealing with stress, when it’s to the point of sinking me, is that I don’t allow myself to think about what’s going on, I don’t focus on how I feel because it won’t help me, I just keep moving forward. The only thing I allow myself to think about is what I have to do next. It’s what Les Stroud says you do when you’re in survival mode—you battle yourself, you fight your emotions, you press on. You survive. Later there are conversations with God, searching for answers, and even deep contemplation. But not in these moments.
So I got in my car, started it, and routed in my mind how to get there in this foreign city, doubt and fear clambering to grab hold of my mind. My phone buzzed in my pocket as the trusty Honda idled, my home on wheels/portable dumpster for the month, and I pulled it out to check it. An email. From Lauren. Davin’s journal from the year of his cancer. I drove on to make my appointment with a prospective landlord. I got there early and began reading the journal. This is what I read:
“July 27, 2011. Lately it has been easy for me to be frustrated and cynical toward my situation and God. ‘Of course I would be the one who struggles with adversity.’ It is easy to think I have gotten the short end of the stick. My cancer has not cleared up yet and I wonder if death is my lot. However, I have been encouraged with these two thoughts: First, I am a sinner and rebel towards God, and I don’t deserve to live, and yet God in his mercy has given me temporal and eternal joys in Christ… who am I to complain? I deserve hell and punishment, which Christ has taken for me. Second, in reality if I die from this cancer I have not really gotten the short end of the stick. I have gotten the long end! As Paul says, “to die is gain.””
I sat there in stunned silence, the words of a friend piercing as deeply as human words can, utterly wiping away any self-pity I may have been feeling. He too had felt that way, but oh, how convicting his thoughts following as he preached truth to himself, and to me. How can Davin continue to have such a profound, providential, and timely impact on my life? He died, and yet he still speaks. God is using his story, even his very words, to shape my life. As I reflect on that moment in the car and the immense weight of what it was I felt, I experience Davin’s friendship in 3D.
It’s the friendship his friends remember, how he’d lovingly confront but never wavered in loyalty. It’s as if, in God’s compassionate providence, he sent a friend in just the right moment to bring me back from the edge of despair. He’s still being the friend he always was for those who knew him best, even after he died. He’s still pointing us to Jesus, he’s still speaking the hard truths we need to hear, and he’s still there for you in that hour of harsh loneliness. It reminds me of what Jesus said when he left his disciples,
“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (John 14:18).