Monday, April 26, 2010

Lessons From The Life And Death of Brandon Pyles

Jasper Speaks:

So, as many of you know, last week a former student of mine took his own life. We were all sent reeling as he was such a joyful, good hearted spirit. It very much just came out of nowhere. It was a long week as I grappled with what it all meant. I think I have realized that in many ways I will not know soon exactly what to make of it all. In fact, this side of Heaven, I probably will never know.

I process a lot of my thoughts through writing. So as I sit to put thoughts to page today I want to convey some things that I am learning in the midst of all this. I am reflecting on Brandon’s life and death and how God is teaching me things as a result. I know I did not know Brandon nearly as well as some but he was always a student who stood out to me. He made me laugh. He made teaching a bit more fun. I have said a lot over the past week that many times when someone dies we romanticize them. I try not to do that. With Brandon, the many things I have read that people have said about him were truth not romance. He really was a great encourager and a person who nearly always brought joy to people’s life. I know he did to mine.  I think that makes all of this harder. I have asked so many times, “How Lord, did He get to this point”? We have all asked, “Why” more times than we could count.

As I sat in a pew surrounded by former students at Brandon’s funeral, I could feel God starting to mend our hearts. I think there was great wisdom in what Pastor Dave Greiner shared with us that day. Although we will never have the answers to all of our questions it comes down to Brandon taking his eyes off hope. He knew where real hope lies but something caused him to look away from that.

As I grapple with my own emotions about this tragedy, I lean on that hope. You see, many years ago I made a choice to follow Christ with all I have. I realized that I was a sinner and that by doing things that were against God’s perfect plan, I was separated from Him. I believed that Jesus came as God on Earth and lived and died so that I could know God and be forgiven of those sins. I knew I needed to confess those sins to him and say that I would do my best to not do those things again. I knew I needed to let Him become the boss of my life. I did all of those things kneeling by my parent’s bed. I was overcome and brought to the point of tears when I first REALLY felt the hope of Christ come over me.

But the part that is greatest to me now is the way God continues to give me hope. It wasn’t one big dose at that moment and that was all. God continues to give me hope that things will be okay. I have had a lot of difficult times since that day but somewhere inside me, I have felt the hope I have in Christ telling me that there is so much more TO this life. I felt the hope telling me that there is so much more THAN this life. I pray that we who loved Brandon will honor his memory by embracing Christ, our only real hope.

On Friday, as Brandon’s casket passed by the pew where I was sitting, my first instinct was to think, Lord, what a waste! Almost immediately I felt something in me squash that thought. I felt hope creeping back up from where it had been buried since Nick emailed me on Monday night with the news of Brandon’s death. At that moment, looking at the quilt covered casket of one of my favorite students, I know God told me that He is doing something incredible. Even through the tragedy and grief God is at work. I absolutely believe that God’s promise in Romans 8:28 is TRUE as it says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose”.

The passing of Brandon Pyles brings unexplainable grief. I get that. However, I also believe that God wants to do great things in the lives of those Brandon touched. Brandon taught me this week that God has a plan that is greater than we can imagine. The hard stuff works for our good just as much as the joyful things. I pray that we will all seek Christ and His love to not only give us hope in this difficult time but to give us hope for all that life will bring. I hope to have many conversations sharing what God has taught me through the life and death of Brandon Pyles.