The edges of life are deeply spiritual.
When faced with how fragile and finite we are, everyone lifts their eyes. We may not know who we are looking for, who we are saying thank you to, or who we are asking for help, but at birth and death, all eyes go up.
I was reminded of that last week, when my friend Ryan died of cancer. Or should I say went on to life. He left behind a wife, three kids, and a legacy of godliness.
His funeral was heartbreaking and somehow healing. We celebrated his life in a room with 600 chairs, all of them were filled, and people crowded against the back wall.
As we took the stage I thought, “Standing room only at your funeral. Well done Ryan, well done.”
If “Love God, love people” is the greatest command, then his service showed evidence of impact on both fronts. He loved God, everyone knew it, and he loved them, everyone knew it.
His wife spoke boldly about her hope in Christ and trust that God is good and for her good.
She read from Jeremiah 17:
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.”
His youngest daughter made a video called, “The story of the best dad ever.”
Our pastor stood up and spoke of our hope, Ryan’s hope, and the truth that death doesn’t have the final say. Jesus promised a resurrection, and He never fails to keep a promise.
We sang hymns and laughed and cried.
The greatest thing about the funeral is that no one had to stand up and lie about Ryan’s life. It’s very difficult to speak ill of those who are no longer with us. Thankfully Ryan left no stories that needed fabricating. Who he was was worth celebrating, because who he was, was a disciple of Jesus. He lived and loved and worked hard and played hard. And now he’s home, eternally home.
It’s always a good idea to reflect on life, at the edges of life. In light of reflecting, here are a few ways Ryan’s life impacted me.
THREE THINGS RYAN TAUGHT ME:
1. RELENTLESSLY PRAY — EVEN IF IT DOESN’T SEEM TO BE WORKING
Unfortunately, “I’ll pray for you” is tossed around with very little weight. But when it came to Ryan, “Pray for me”, “Thanks for praying”, “Can we get together to pray”, was the go-to action for 5 years of this process. If you asked Ryan if you could help he’d say, “Please pray.” And he meant it. He really, truly, actually believed the most helpful thing you could do was pray.
Both Ryan and Harmony (his wife) prayed. They beat on the door of heaven, and invited everyone they knew to join with them. I think this was the single most significant thing they did in the whole process.
Prayer rooted them in God’s heart and gave them no regret when death came. Prayer strengthened their faith, fought back their fears, and ultimately kept them unified with their Heavenly Father and with each other.
2. ENTHUSIASM, JOY, AND HUMOR — ARE UNBELIEVABLY UNDERRATED.
Life and death are serious, but it doesn’t mean we have to be.
Ryan didn’t take himself too seriously. He was willing to laugh and joke and bring joy to the hardest situations imaginable. Ryan was never making light of the situation; he fully understood the gravity of everything going on. It’s precisely because he understood the weight of it all that he was willing to make light of it all.
This wasn’t a cheap humor. It was a joy unspeakable in his bones that radiated through this life into those around him. He wanted to comfort you even though he needed the comfort.
He brought enthusiasm to life. He was positive. He was happy. He understood the importance of being foolish. I’m far too serious and far too joyless. I need a lesson in joy, and he taught me with his life.
3. INVITE WOMEN WHO LOVE JESUS — TO SHOW MY DAUGHTER THE LOVE OF JESUS.
My friend Sammi babysits our daughter Harper. She also spends tons of time with Ryan’s two daughters. Sammi told me the last text she got from Ryan said something to the effect of, "Sammi, thanks for loving my girls. Promise me you’ll stay in their lives and continue to show them the love of Jesus."
The text didn’t say comfort them or give them hope or be courageous, it said show them the love of Jesus.
Asking other women to point your kids to Jesus is powerful. Taking responsibility for your kids' walk with Christ is powerful. Of course his wife will lead and love his kids, but Ryan recruited help, and invited younger godly women into his daughters' story. I'm sure he's done the same for his son, making sure provision is there for a continual godly example of manhood.
My daughter is 2, and her mom is amazing, but there will come a day when I initiate and invite other young godly women to take my daughter to get frozen yogurt and talk about Jesus. I can’t wait for the day, and am thankful Ryan reminded me of that.
It was an honor to be a part of the great cloud of witnesses on Friday, celebrating Ryan Davis’s life, and for those of us who know the Jesus Ryan knew, it was a greater honor knowing that Ryan was now joining the greater cloud of witnesses in the greater land of the living.
On the edges of life, may we lift our eyes and know the one who helps and heals even in the midst of heartbreak.
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills —
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
Here’s the link to a slideshow of Ryan's family.
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