Adrenaline rushed as I peered straight down past my socked feet at the trampoline far below. I told him I did not want to be double-bounced, but ignoring my pleas he placed all his weight on his size 13 foot and stretched the canvas taut. There’s no stopping physics, I thought.
This week, the double-bounce came to mind in the most unexpected way. You see, we have spent 191 days praying for, rooting for, and grieving for Kenneth Brown – my brother-in-law – who was taken from us recently by brain cancer. Ken was 61. He went before us and he went too soon.
We all grieve for different reasons because our connections to Ken are different. However, one common trait will be missed by all – his encouragement. If you had the privilege of reading posts on the Rallyhood site that Patti established, you have seen that he encouraged everyone, not just his brother-in-law.
I grieve also because I have no answers to the why questions.
I’m a professor and a Christian Apologist with Ratio Christi. I’m supposed to have answers. I don’t.
But I do have some “what ifs…”
What if there were really two problems with death and suffering? What if we were able to separate the logical from the emotional?
We might be able to accept the logical probability that God would have morally sufficient reasons for his inscrutable will. Just as the new mother has morally sufficient reasons to allow sweet nurses in cartoony scrubs to jab three long needles into her 1-month-old newborn baby in order to protect that baby from hepatitis, pertussis, polio, pneumococcus, rotavirus, diphtheria, and tetanus. The cold and calculating logic of the mom, the nurses, and the doctor is inscrutable to the newborn.
The newborn is seeing mom, sweet nurses, and a brightly colored room. Then POW in both thighs, and POW again in one thigh. Ow, ow, OWWW! This sensation has NEVER been felt before. What has happened? WHAT has happened! Why am I hurting?
There are no answers to the infant’s emotional and physical pain. Only the comfort of loved ones over time will help.
As I consider my own thoughts on the loss of Ken, I am hesitant. I despise answers that do more harm than good. I don’t want to give thoughtlessly chosen Bible verses, that treat internal bleeding with a Band Aid. Rather, I am digging deeply for my own sake, hoping what helps me will help others.
We want our lives to be significant. As followers of Christ, we want God to use us to His glory by empowering us to love our neighbors as ourselves. We want God to use our lives to impact others.
There is evidence from the Rallyhood that God DID use Ken’s life to impact others. There’s evidence from my family, my high school days, college days, and the many days afterward that God has used Patti’s life to beautifully impact others. Even I have been told by some students that God has used me in their lives. So, mission accomplished. Right?
Not so fast.
We had such great plans. A few years ago, Patti had chosen to give back to the future generation of business students by teaching accounting at The University. Just last year, Ken joined her and taught at UT for the full academic year. It was time to pour his international tax and business strategy knowledge into the next generation. What a God-glorifying thing to do, to step down from a long career with EY to teach.
The reason a double-bounce is so frightful is because the trampoline canvas is pre-stretched by someone much heavier than you. When you land, they release their weight, and the springs shoot you up much higher than you could ever go with just your own weight. You feel the intense pressure on your legs as you began to rocket upwards. Your hang time is epic and this gives you your first hint of excitement. The view from the high point is only available because of the double-bounce, and it blossoms into a full-blown thrill.
It is clear from the Bible that Jesus wants to use our LIVES to serve others. “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.”, Jesus said. And in addition to loving God, he says we should, “Love our neighbors as ourselves.” (Mat 25:32, 22:39) But what if he wants also to use our death?
It is the most painful question that can be asked. But it is a valid “what if”.
Lazarus (Jn 11:1ff), the widow’s son at Nain (Lu 7:11ff), Stephen (Acts 22:20), and Jesus himself (Rom 10:6-9) had meaningful deaths in addition to meaningful lives.
It appears to have been just as painful then as it is now. Many wept over their deaths, and even Jesus cried out for another way. He knew his death was required. He BEGGED for another way. Mat 26:36-44)
And just like us, he was told, “No” through silence.
What if, like the double-bounce, Ken stretched the canvas tight by going first. What if the weight of his influence and his POTENTIAL to impact the lives of future students and others is now placed in the canvas waiting for us to land?
- Will we feel the rush of purpose that he gives us as we launch out of this pit that we are in?
- Will we have a longer hang-time and a greater influence as we carry his encouragement skills with us?
- Will the height that we achieve, launched so frightfully by his death, give us a higher perspective than our own weight would have given?
I think so.
Let us comfort each other as we experience the intense pressure of grief.
And let us encourage each other as we launch higher than we thought possible.
By God’s grace,
For those visual persons here is a Video Version of this Blog Post.
My summary thoughts on Ken’s passing: Time, Distance, Shielding
Trampoline Tricks: https://youtu.be/XG9tjRNvd0s (< an amazing athlete)
Double Bouncing: https://youtu.be/C75Uk4F5OyU?t=3m9s (< Image credit)
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